Justyna Kowalczyk, Paal Golberg land atop World Cup cross country ski podium
Alex Harvey top finisher for Canada
Paal Golberg of Norway earned his first cross-country World Cup victory Saturday by winning a men's 15-kilometre classical race, while Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland secured her 28th by dominating the women's 10K.
The 23-year-old Golberg finished in exactly 35 minutes to beat Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan by 14.2 seconds at the competition in Lillehammer, Norway. Another Norwegian, Didrik Tonseth, was 15.5 seconds back in third.
Golberg was in tears after his last rivals had finished the interval-start race without matching his time.
"I'm a bit shaken right now," Golberg said. "It feels unreal."
Alex Harvey of St.-Ferreol, Que., was top Canadian in 16th place.
"This is heavy racing right now being an Olympic year," Canadian head coach Justin Wadsworth said in a press release. "Many of the Norwegians, Swedes and Russians are all fighting for spots at the Games so are skiing extremely fast. Right now there is no Olympic pressure on us so we need to keep calm and stay focused on the process because you don’t want to be going this hard this early in the game."
Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., was 35th, Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., finished 56th, and young Jesse Cockney of Yellowknife ended up in 68th.
"Obviously we are hoping for a bit better, but it is coming slowly," said Wadsworth. "This is all normal where nobody is feeling very good coming off such a high volume of training. It is just the way it is and we have to be patient."
Kowalczyk led from start to finish in a dominating performance to win the women's 10K race in 24 minutes, 59.4 seconds to finish 12.4 seconds ahead of Charlotte Kalla of Sweden.
More impressively, Kowalczyk beat triple Olympic champion Marit Bjoergen of Norway by 25.6 seconds to send an early message ahead of the Sochi Games.
Bjoergen finished third ahead of fellow Norwegian Therese Johaug.
Kowalczyk has now won 13 of the last 19 classical-style distance races on the World Cup.
"My skis were perfect today and I was really good," the Polishskier said. "It's a really good feeling."