Brandsdal leads Norwegian charge to break cross-country duck in Drammen
Eirik Brandsdal secured his first cross country victory since 2015 after taking top spot at the World Cup in Drammen – the same location as his last success two years ago.
The Norwegian skier put in an impressive display on home snow in the 1.2km sprint classic, crossing the line in a time of 2:39.35 minutes ahead of compatriot Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo who took silver.
Sergey Ustiugov of Russia took third place, with the top three separated by just over three seconds in an absorbing contest, prior to the World Cup moving up the road to Oslo for the Holmenkollen weekend.
It's a meeting the home fans can certainly look forward to, with Northug Petter Jr coming in fourth place as five of the top six performers in the race hailed from Norway.
"That was hard. I was so stiff at the end. I think this is my first win since here in Drammen two years ago. It feels good to be back on top of the podium again," said Brandsdal.
A second-place finish for Klaebo takes him atop the sprint World Cup standings by 38 points, with his 369-point haul leaving him ahead of Federico Pellegrino from Italy.
Should he hold on to that advantage, Klaebo would be the youngest overall sprint winner by three years, with the 20-year-old looking to oust Teodor Peterson from the honour.
He said: "I will travel now to Quebec and won't race Holmenkollen this weekend. I just got the sprint leaders red bib and I will fight to keep it in Quebec and take the crystal globe."
The women's race was won by Sweden's Stin Nilsson in this, the 14th edition of the Drammen sprints.
Nilsson's time of 3:07.57 was just 0.42 seconds ahead of Finnish skier Krista Parmakoski, while Hanna Falk of Sweden rounded off a Scandinavian top three.
More significantly for Parmakoski came a first World Cup sprint podium, though it wasn't enough to stop Nilsson from taking an eighth victory of the season.
Nilsson now trails Falla by 46 points in sprint standings with 50 points remaining in final sprint in Quebec.
"It was a hard race. I had to fight to the end," said the Swede. "I thought I could win and this feels really great.
"I was sure Maiken would win the sprint globe today. I don't think it's possible still to win it but there is still a chance and I will travel to Quebec and try my best."