Unfortunately, it’s that time of the year where I say goodbye. I’m off on another round of traveling and I’m publishung this post from an uncomfortably hot internet café in downtown Bangkok. I alluded to it last year when I stepped away from the blog for the first time and said if I’m not in Canada and able to sit down at a computer with a good internet connection, then it’s simply too much work and rather stressful to try to download/stream the races and get posts out in a timely fashion.
Above, I’ve created a splash images to redirect you to the respective ski and biathlon torrent pages since those will stay active thanks to JunglyBoy’s tireless capping efforts, which think it’s safe to say has been one of the biggest contributions to the North American armchair ski fan community since he began a couple of years ago! So massive thank-you to him! I will try to keep those organized as much as possible whenever I get internet access. I’ll also be posting on the Twitter account sporadically as well as continuing to play WhoWins. So I’ll still be here, just more in spirit rather than body.
I’m not sure when I return home, but when I do you can expect the race reports and musings start-up again when I do. So far this year, it’s been the most successful year for the blog with new daily hits and traffic records including the first 750+ page hit day during the opening weekend of races, so I truly thank you for that and I’m glad some of you are taking an interest in what I write and think about one of the greatest sports on Earth. I hope all of you continue to enjoy the rest of season and I bet the Tour de Ski is going to be the best ones to date!
Til Next Time…
Judging by the highlights of the semi-finals, saying the heats were chaotic was an understatement. The women’s teams had to go around the tracks six times in total, or three times each, while the men went twice that distance.
With 10 teams in the final it was bound to be a frantic and messy affair much like the semi-finals and sure enough, within the first 100 meters the first athlete fell as Sweden II’s Somskar as her tip was skied over by American Bjornson. Mia Eriksson of Sweden I led the pack round the loop into the exchange as Sweden I, Norway I and Switzerland had a slight gap on the others. The pace being set by Sweden I was hurting the athletes early on and the field was already spreading out. Like Eriksson, Brodin of Sweden I led the pack for the second lap.
At the second exchange, there was a three-second gap between the top seven and Sweden II, Germany I and USA. Sweden I continued to stave off the other athletes as the battles for second and third were tight and very competitive behind the Swede.
There was another crash, but this time it was the exchangers that crash between Russia and Norway II, but the good news was that they had already tagged off to their partners.
Again Sweden I led the charge for the fourth loop and once again coming into the exchange their was carnage as Norway I’s Eide stabbed her teammates binding which cause her to fall and caused a ripple effect.
On the fifth lap, Sweden finally relinquished the lead to Finland I’s Kylloenen as the Fin led the charge into the final exchange.
On the final lap, Sarasoja-Lilja led the charge and going over the bump, her ski pole was stepped on by Matveeva which opened the door for Falla to take the lead and Falla didn’t look back. The fight for second became intense and it was eight teams fighting for the final two podiums, but it was Randall’s quality showing through as she was the best for the dash for the finish with Russia in third.
1. Norway I (Eide, Falla)
2. USA (Bjornson, Randall)
3. Russia (Korosteleva, Matveeva)
It was a very casual start with Strandvall of Finland I taking the lead and slowed the pace down so the athletes were two abreast going around the first lap. Coming through the lap it was Golberg who took the lead for Norway I and continued to lead to the first exchange and handed off to Hattestad.
The second run was again very pedestrian with no real pace to the race as Hattestad led for the first 1.5 laps then Peterson of Sweden I took over before the second exchange and exchanged to Modin. Amazingly, the pace got even slower as the big Swede controlled the pace and nobody seemed to mind the slower pace. In the lap, it was Golberg to take the lead and inject a little bit of speed into the race.
With half the race gone, it was a very boring sprint with the pace extremely slow and no crashes and it continued to be the case for the fourth lap.
The pace finally picked up as the first leg skiers went out for their final lap as the race was led by Sweden I and Sweden II. Coming through the lap, Modin took the lead as Golberg hunted him closely and overtook him on the back straight as the Norwegian and Swede pulled away from the other athletes. Coming into the tight right-hander, Golberg and Modin had a 15 meter gap on the other athletes.
At the exchange, Golberg and Modin were side-by-side as they tagged off to Hattestad and Peterson. Hattestad took the lead and decided to slow the pace down which meant all the teams were able to recoil back into a 10 man pack. Petukhov came through the crowd and took the lead on the back straight and coming through the lap, Petukhov, Hattestad and Peterson were three wide trying to gain the lead but it was the Russian to take the lead. Petukhov made his move early and as soon as they left the finish area, he increased the pace and only Peterson was able to maintain contact as Hattestad and Pentsinen were in a fight for third. In the home straight, Petukhov and Peterson were side by side and Petukhov’s technique began to fail him while Peterson remained strong and Sweden took the win as Hattestad was able to hold off Pentsinen for third.
1. Sweden I (Modin & Peterson)
2. Russia (Kriukov & Petukhov)
3. Norway (Golberg & Hattestad)
It’s amazing how one course can produce to very different races. In the women’s it was one of the most exciting races I’ve seen this year. It was a dog-fight from line to line with no one giving an inch. With 2nd to 9th place separated by 1.8 seconds, it was anyone’s race right to the finish line. On the other hand, the men’s race was a completely snoozefest until the final lap when Petukhov made his moved and ripped the field a new one. Unfortunately, it was a move we’re seen Petukhov make before and like before, Petukhov ran out of gas just before the finish which opened the door for Peterson to come through and take the win. Petukhov’s tactics are admirable and almost the opposite of Northug’s. Perhaps the Russian will find the fine line where he will be able to make his attack in a sprint but keep the pace right until the finish instead of dying just short and losing positions.
Perhaps for next year, the race committee should seriously think about dropping the men’s sprint relay down to only one lap like the women. The pro’s and con’s are pretty straight forward; drop it to one lap and you instantly have a much more exciting race. It also means better snow conditions since the men will be skiing half the distance. It’s a win-win in my eyes.
As for Peterson, this guy seems like the real deal. There must be such a good feeling for the Swedish sprinters right now with Jonsson, Peterson and Modin all on top of their game and Ingemarsdotter, Brodin, Falk and Kalla all medal threats for the women.
Once again, we saw a glimpse of Randall’s quality USA were off the pace by as much as five seconds at points of the final but managed to claw it all back and win. I believe Randall sat in 9th at the start of the final lap and moved up to the silver medal position. Quite impressive considering how tough all the skiers were today and how tight the course is.
Staying with the women, I was really happy to Norway I with Eide and Falla. It just goes to show that even with their big guns not racing, Norway have the quality to win with their “secondary” skiers. I really haven’t heard much about Eide before this year and according to her rap sheet she’s still very raw with only five World Cup starts. She had a decent U23 last year finishing 6th, but looks to be one of those fringe skiers constantly fighting to keep their spot on the Norwegian World Cup team.
I’ll be back in a few days with some news about the site for the rest of the year.
There were thrills and there were spills, it was rainy and with 4000m3 of artificial snow trucked in, it was another round of Düsseldorf sprints. Action picked up with the men’s quarter final, so unfortunately, I can’t comment on any of the women’s quarter-final heats…
HEAT 2: (Tomas) Northug, Eisenlauer, Newell, Petukhov, Gløersen, Huen
Newell was the fastest out of the gates, but it was Huen to take the righter-hander first. Gløersen took a fall as he got caught tangled in poles as Petukhov took the lead. The carnage continued as Newell snapped a pole, but luckily for Gløersen and Newell Petukhov didn’t look behind him and slowed the pace so Newell was able to remain in the heat and Gløersen was able to ski into the back of the pack. Coming through the lap, Newell did well to re-assert himself I the heat and moved from 5th to 2nd place and slotted in behind Petukhov. Coming into the finish, Northug moved alongside Newell and both were side-by-side and at the line and Northug lunged enough to beat Newell by a toe.
HEAT 3; Bogdanov, Pellegrino, Peterson, Kriukov, Kershaw, Bryntesson
It was the Swede’s who tactically took the front as they were two wide going around the first corner before Peterson took the lead ahead. The tactics were full on and the pace was a crawl as the athletes went through the back-end. Kershaw tried to move up from the back but was blocked by Bryntesson and as the athletes came through the lap, the pace picked up immediately as the Swede’s tried to maintain their two-man lead, but Bryntesson was overtaken by Bogdanov and Kriukov. Peterson continued to lead and at the finish did enough. On the home stretch, Kershaw free-skated desperately and took the long road and lunged for the line with Pellegrino and Kriukov, but the Italian did enough to take the second qualifying spot.
HEAT 4: Devjatiarov, Dahl, Lindblad, Kjølstad, Jaeger, Tambornino
Devjiatarov led the race and once again the pace was quite slow on the first lap as the atheltes skied leisurely in single file. Coming through the lap, Tambornino went by the Russian to take the lead. Tambornino’s increase in the pace stretched the heat and the Swiss man did well to stay out of the congestion and his teammate Jaeger was able to beat Kjølstad and Devjiatarov to earn the second qualifying spot.
Qualifying: Tambornino & Jaeger
HEAT 5: Tscharnke, Wenzl, Kindschi, Jylhae, Pentsinen, Darragon
Kindschi took the lead early on, but it was Pentsinen to take the lead at the back part of the course and Pentsinen pushed the right to the finish and took the heat win while Kindschi did very well to hold of Jylhae to qualify second. Unfortunately, for Darragon, the ice track got the better of him and he lost an edge and slid across the finish in last place.
Qualifiers: Pentsinen and Kindschi
HEAT 1: Sarasoja-Lilja, Randall, Brodin, Crawford, Eriksson, Eide
Broding had a very powerful start and took the lead as Crawford and Randall bumped in behind the Swede. Brodin continued to hammer, but was met up front with Randall and the American took the lead over the little bump on the back straight. All the athletes made it clean through the difficult right hander and on the home stretch Randall and Brodin pulled away to qualify by right while Crawford was third and would have to see if she was fast enough to grab a lucky loser spot.
Qualify: Brodin, Randall
HEAT 2: Østberg, Kolb, Falla, Ostenberg, Matveeva, Malvaleto
Right off the start, Kolb caught a ski tip or pole and went head over heels. Matveeva took the lead from the start and led the head all the way to the home stretch when van der Graaf slung+shot herself from behind Matveeva to take the heat win while Malvalehto and Falla had a photo finish for third.
Qualify: van der Graaf, Matveeva
Lucky Losers: Crawford, Sarasoja-Lilja
HEAT 1: Northug, Brandsdal, Pellegrino, Petukhov, Golberg, Hattestad
It was the fastest qualifier Golberg who was the first to lead the heat with Pellegrino in right behind. That athletes remained single file until the lap when Hattestad and Petukhov moved out and looked to move up the pack and both did successfully. Hatetstad move into the lead and Petukhov moved to third before the track got skinnier again. Petukhov was having a good ski and passed Golberg to move into second on the back stretch. On the home straight, Hattestad was out in front while Petukhov and Golberg lunged for the finish.
Qualify: Golberg, Pellegrino
HEAT 2: Strandvall, Kindschi, Peterson, Pentsinen, Jaeger, Tambornino
Right from the start Jaeger tripped on his pole and ate snow and broke his pole in the process. In the front, Pentsinen was the skier to lead with Peterson right on his tails. Like his quarter-final, Pentsinen didn’t relinquish his lead going through the lap and the other athletes were stuck behind him. Going over the hump on the back straight, Peterson was able to go past the Finn. However, on the home stretch, both Pentsinen and Strandvall went wide and all three were in a photo finish with Pentsinen taking the win and Peterson doing enough to deny Strandvall a trip to the finals.
Qualify: Pentsinen, Peterson
LL: Golberg, Pellegrino
Brodin, Falk, Crawford, Randall, Sarasoja-Lilja, van der Graaf, Matveeva
The start was no the cleanest of the day with the athletes all going full-bore and lots of bumping and elbows. Going around the first corner, the pushing and bumping continued and van der Graaf almost fell after being squeezed on the inside by Crawford but recovered well to stay on her feet. Sarasoja-Lilja lost balanced after Brodin’s ski tip hit her boot and went to ground on that same corner and was out of the race. On the back straight, the frantic nature continued as Matveeva lead as Crawford and Randall fought side-by-side for second place. Going over the bump, Randall tried to overtake the Russian but was pushed back to second. Coming into the finish, Randall free-skated right by the Russian to take the win while van der Graaf was able to beat Crawford in the final meters to take the bronze medal.
1. Kikkan Randall
2. Natalia Matveeva
3. Laurien van der Graaf
Golberg, Peterson, Petukhov, Pellegrino, Pentsinen, Hattestad
Peterson and Hattestad led the athletes into the first corner, but Petukhov came the long way around to take the lead going into the back-straight. Once Petukhov got the lead and went over the bump, he slowed it down slightly. The slowdown was lucky for Peterson as he broke a pole but was able to keep contact with the others and get a new pole rather quickly. No one was able to pass Petukhov coming through the lap as Petukhov increased the pace. The positions stayed the same until the home stretch when Petukhov, Hattestad and Golberg were three wide and Petukhov just ran out of steam and Hattestad was able to Russian, but Golberg was reserved for third after a lunge at the line with Petukhov.
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad
2. Alexei Petukhov
3. Pål Golberg
Today was one of the greatest sprint days for Switzerland. Even without Dario Cologna, they had three men in the semi-finals and then van der Graaf who won Switzerland’s first ever female sprint medal. Before today van der Graaf had only qualified for the top 30 three times in 13 tries. Truly a great result and one that will give her and the rest of the team a boat load of confidence for the rest of the season.
That’s has got to be the scrappiest women’s final I’ve ever watched, I couldn’t believe how much pushing and shoving there was, but it made for a great race, just showed that no one was willing to step down. It was unfortunate for Sarasoja-Lilja who was the fastest qualifier to fall in the final. Her 6th place today tied her personal best which was a 6th place from 2009 in Lahti. I’ve never thought of her as a sprinter before, but it seems like she has the chops for it now.
Crawford was so close to the medals and I think she would’ve had it over van der Graaf if she hadn’t lost balance in the last 20 meters and went back on her heels which meant she couldn’t pole right to the line. Regradless, it’s great to see the former Olympic sprint champ back in good form and while this type of course profile is perfect for her, hopefully we’ll see more of her as the season progresses.
As for Randall, it was really no doubt for anyone that the American would take the victory if she stayed on her feet and she did exactly that.
For the men, it was another day where we saw perhaps the new sprint stars of the sport take the stage. Pentsinen and Peterson showed that Kuusamo weren’t freak results and were once again in the finals. I’m becoming a fan of Pentsinen. While his tactics may not be the smartest in the sense that he goes hard from the gun and tries to control his heat, it’s certainly admirable and much more exciting to witness that type of race rather than the heats where athletes slow the pace and toy with the other athletes.
It was another strong day for the Norwegian men who had two men on the podium. This is the second race in a row in which Golberg has medalled. His last sprint race was last year in Lahti where he placed third too. With results like that, it should be more than enough reason to get his name on the sprint team for regular World Cup appearances. It was good to see Hattestad in top form too. I thought his 20th place last weekend was sub-par for an athlete of his calibre, but in the post-race interview he said that his form’s been great this season. Regardless, I’m glad to see the big man back on top.
Some odds and ends:
- Kershaw’s new FIS pic is pretty nasty. That fu manchu is pretty damn riciulous.
- How big were Kindschi’s poles today, must have been just as tall as him. When he went to pole his hands were probably a foot above his head.
For you European readers, I’ll be back Monday morning with the team sprint wrap and for North Americans, it might be out before you go to bed on Sunday, but I’m making no promises.
Til Next Time.
This weekend marks the 10th edition of the Düsseldorf sprints on the Rhine. It’s one of the more exciting weekends on the World Cup schedule with the sprint with numerous thrill and spills in the individual freestyle sprint and the team sprint. There are some big names taking the week off including the current World Cup leaders Marit Bjørgen and Petter Northug. Norway will also be resting Skofterud, Johaug and Jacobsen this weekend. Sweden has also opted to not send Charlotte Kalla and Kowalczyk will also take a break, last year it was the only race she didn’t take part.
Last year, the now retired Arianna Follis and Emil Jönsson were crowned the king and queen of Düsseldorf with the Italian women and Norwegian men winning the team relays. There are no new adjustments to the course from last year and the women will be skiing the 830 meter loop once while the men will go around twice.
On Saturday, it’s the individual freestyle sprint and on the women’s side it’s a rather weak field as Bjørgen, Skofterud, Johaug, Jacobsen, Kalla and Kowalczyk are all out. Bjørgen, Kalla and Skofterud were the three athletes that were on the podium in last weekend’s sprint. For this weekend, Randall is the odds-on favourite to take the victory. Last year she was runner-up in this race and it’s a course suits her to a tee as the American is a much better freestyle skier than classic. In addition, the course rather flat which means she’ll be able to showcase her impressive power. I really have a hard time seeing anyone beating Randall with the current form she’s been in this year.
Other athletes that should be in the mix are Fabjan who finished third last year as well as Falla who was the victim of bad luck last weekend and crashed out of her heat. I’ll be interested to see how well Matveeva does and Crawford should have an outside chance at a top six finish tomorrow. Like Randall, this course suits her as she is powerful and prefers skating.
The Swede’s are expecting to have at least one athlete on the podium this weekend with Brodin, Ingemarsdotter and Falk all racing this weekend. Last year Falk and Brodin finished 5th and 6th respectively and the year before Falk burst onto the scene and won her first every sprint.
For the men, Northug will be the main name not racing this weekend and will be continuing his preparations for the Tour de Ski.
Emil Jönsson will be making his season debut and will look to repeat last year’s result. Norway will be bringing Hattestad, Pettersen, Brandsdal, Kjølstad, Gløersen and youngster Tomas Northug and Pål Golberg, all who have a very realistic chance of making the finals. Russia has also brought their A-team led by Petukhov who prefers freestyle sprints and has won in Düsseldorf in the past.
UPDATE: Jönsson announced he will not be racing this weekend on his Twitter account.
I’ll be interested in Newell who traditionally qualifies very strong in Düsseldorf; 3rd, 3rd and 1st in the previous three years, but he fail to do much in the heats. Continuing with the North Americans, Valjas should also have a very strong weekend and will be looking to continue his good run of form after his 5th place last weekend.
On Sunday is the sprint relay and on the women’s side, it should be a tight race between the Finns, Norwegians and Swede’s. The Slovenians will have a good chance too if they have the Fabjan/Visnar working at full speed. Last year, it looked like Slovenia were on their way to the win until Fabjan put her pole between her legs and crashed inside the final 100 meters and finished in 8th place.
For the men, Norway, Sweden and Russia will probably be putting in two world-class teams each which will make the field one of the most competitive all season long. I have a good feeling for Canada in the team relay and the Canadians have the option of Valjas, Harvey and Kershaw to choose from which bodes very well for a chance on the podium.
That’s it for me, talk to you on Saturday. Stayed tuned to the Twitter machine for updates as news pours in as the weekend nears.
Well in certain ways, the races went as expected, Northug won the mini-tour while those athletes behind him fought tooth and nail for every position and that resulted in some unexpected results in terms of the athletes who had the fastest times on the day.
The gap from Northug to Cologna was 12 seconds and a distance which Cologna was very capable of closing. Further back, Legkov was the start of the big group and was 42 seconds behind at the start.
At 1.4km, Cologna had closed five seconds on Northug’s lead and Legkov had already taken nine seconds out. It was pretty clear that Northug had a rather conservative start compared to the others. The biggest mover early on was the Russian Belov who had reduced his deficit by an impressive 12 seconds.
After the first 2.5km, Cologna had caught Northug and the Norwegian immediately moved to the side and insisted on Cologna to take the lead. The stadium also allowed the chasers including Legkov to have a visual aid of how far behind they were of the lead two. A group of five including Manificat, Olsson, Belov, Hellner and Clara had formed and were 40 seconds behind the leaders. The five-some chasing down Legkov dropped Clara and cut the deficit a further six seconds at 3.9km as Hellner continued to keep the pace strong.
Out in the lead, Northug took the lead for a bit and let Cologna draft for a bit and it appeared that they were getting word that the chasers were gaining on them. As they came into the stadium for 5km, the chaser’s times began to stabilize as Legkov continued to ski in no-man’s land ahead of Hellner, Olsson, Manificat and Belov. Further back, Vylegzhanin and Harvey were doing well and moving up the field and had taken out almost 30 seconds out of the lead after 5km.
At 6.4km, the top 20 athletes had splintered into four group. The first, Cologna and Northug in the lead, the second was Legkov who was 24 seconds down, the third was Manificat, Belov, Olsson, Vylegzhanin and Hellner 37 seconds back, then a big group consisting of Rønning, Sedov, Poltoranin, Chebotko, Bauer, Harvey, Angerer and Halfvarsson who were 49 seconds down.
All of Vylegzhanin’s hard work had be nullified as he fell on one of the downhill and went from 5th to 17th. However, the two big chase group has bridged the gap and became one big group of 13-15 athletes at the halfway point of the race.
Northug and Cologna were working well and trading off the lead to maintain the gap on Legkov and the others. Olsson was the athlete to take the lead of the chasers and keep the push on to catch Legkov and his attack was breaking the athletes behind him and a slight gap began to open up.
With 5km left, Legkov started to go backwards and sat 32 seconds behind the lead. Olsson was only six seconds down on the Russian with the other chasers (Belov, Poltoranin, Rønning, Manificat, Sedov and Hellner) a further three seconds behind.
Olsson’s pace was nothing short of impressive and just before 11.4km caught Legkov and took a further six seconds from the lead and was 32 seconds behind, just as Legkov was at 10km. The athletes that were trying to follow Olsson were losing contact with the Swede the longer the race went on. However, coming up the big-hill into the stadium, Rønning’s skis were skiing extremely well and was able to bridge the gap with Poltoranin and Hellner to Olsson and Legkov to make fight for third up to five athletes.
On the final 2.5km lap, Cologna was leading Northug, but the Norwegian wasn’t going anywhere while the fight for third was becoming a test of willpower as Olsson was relentless with the pace as all those athletes continued to race.
The games for Northug began earlier than expected as Northug moved up alongside Cologna at around 13.5km and put in a few powerful double-poles to move ahead of the Swiss man, only to stop poling, basically slow down until Cologna skied past him until and then hoped in behind him and let Cologna continue to lead.
At 13.9km, the pace that Olsson was injecting was apparent as the chasers closed the gap to 24 seconds.
Coming up the final hill, Northug made his move and quickly opened a gap on Cologna to take the Ruka Triple. The battle for third had Rønning make a decisive move and move in front of Olsson as did Poltoranin as the Norwegian and Kazakh athletes came across the line in third and fourth as Olsson and Hellner finished 5th and 6th.
1. Alexey Poltoranin
2. Eldar Rønning
3. Daniel Rickardsson
1. Petter Northug
2. Dario Cologna
3. Eldar Rønning
To be honest, I was impressed with how much of the work Northug did today. I’d say the split was 60/40 Cologna/Northug. Even though Northug moved to the front mainly because he had faster skis than Cologna, but he also led up the big hill coming into the stadium too. It was another good result for Northug and he’s the male equivalent of Bjørgen at this point.
I was interested to see what Cologna would do to try to shake Northug off, but it became apparent that Northug was going nowhere. It’ll be very interesting to see if this pattern of racing continues when the Tour de Ski starts. I really hope to see the other big all-rounders like Hellner and Harvey get into the mix too. Unfortunately, those two were a little too far off the pace when the final race started today.
The real story of the day for me was the action behind the leaders. We got to an amazing performance from Olsson who led the charge for the chasers for much of the second half of the race but just didn’t have enough mustard at the last portion of the race.
A great finish from Rønning who continues his great run of form in classic distance races. I think it’s been over a year now since the last time Rønning finished outside the top 10 in a distance classic race.
Poltoranin also had a great race today and posted the top time. He looked super fluid today compared to the other athletes; it was actually impressive how well he kept his technique together throughout the race. It looked like he was out for a Sunday ski with his long glide and smooth poling. At this time last year, Poltoranin had a great run of form and he won the Davos 15km classic. It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue this form through to the Tour de Ski.
I feel bad for Vylegzhanin today as he was having such a good race until he fell at 6km and it completely took the wind out of his sails. After that he just moved backwards and was unable to regain great form that saw him move up from 23rd to 5th in the first 5km.
Also, Legkov was stuck in between a rock and hard place today. He was probably the only athlete on course today that had no one to ski with for the first 10km. He was doing quite well for the first bit, but it turned out to be a little too much as he started to fade in the final 5km and finished off the podium today in 7th place. I believe that if he had at least one athlete to help him try and close the gap to the lead, he would’ve finished a little higher in the Ruka Triple standings.
Finally, the big movers of the day were Poltoranin who started the day in 25th and finished 4th, whil Hofer tumbled down the standing and went from 10th to 39th.
I’ll be back in a couple days with some random thoughts on mini-tours.
It was another day for the Norwegian’s as the swept the women’s podium in exciting fashion. There was no doubt where Bjørgen would finish the day, but the excitement came in behind as Johaug skied an incredible race to overtake both Kalla and Skofterud enroute to the runner-up spot for this year’s Ruka Triple.
The action began 2.5km into the race and Bjørgen had already increased her lead on Skofterud by three seconds at 2.5km. Skofterud was doing extremely well early on and was increasing her lead on Kalla. In between 2.5km and 3.9km, Skofterud increased the gap by eight seconds.
Johaug had a big task at hand and began the day hunting down Kalla for third place and had a 22 secon deficit to overcome. Impressively, at 5km Johaug had caught the Swede and moved right pasted her and set her sights on Skofterud. Further behind, Haag was doing quite well and had moved up from 17th to 8th at the halfway point.
Johaug’s tempo was extremely impressive and with every stride, Johaug was catching her teammate and at 7.5km, Johaug and Skofterud were together. Further behind, both Kalla and Kowalczyk’s fast pace early on in an attempt to close the gaps in front of them, started to backfire as they began to lose big amounts of time compared to those around them.
Johaug and Skofterud skied together for about a kilometer on the flats out of the stadium, but at the first big hill of the loop, Johaug opened up a 10 meter gap on her teammate and with 1100m left, Johaug had a 3.1 second gap. Further back, Kalla was no over a minute back, while Kowalczyk appeared to continue to go backwards as she was 1:30 behind.
With the big downhill, her bigger body compared to Johaug was a massive advantage as she was able to glide back into contention and actually overtake Johaug coming into the big uphill into the stadium. The two athletes were side-by-side and red-lining. Coming into the finishing straight, Johaug had a slight lead on Skofterud and Skofterud tried to pull along side Johaug but didn’t have enough gas in the take and slipped back into the tracks behind Johaug for third place.
1. Therese Johaug
2. Marit Bjørgen
3. Vibeke Skofterud
1. Marit Bjørgen
2. Therese Johaug
3. Vibeke Skofterud
Another brilliant day for Norway, and the result of the day for me was Johaug. Not only was she able to move up from 4th to 2nd on the day, she also was the fastest female on skis today by nine seconds over Bjørgen. Like Goldstrom pointed out on the British Eurosport broadcast, for the Norwegian courses, this is the best worst-case scenario they could be put in. With all their athletes in top of the world right now, you just have to encourage all the them equally. This was no more apparent when both Johaug and Skofterud were going up the big-hill into the stadium the final time. What to the coaches say to the athletes?
Norway Coach #1: “Go Therese! You can beat Vibeke!”
Norway Coach #2: “Go Vibeke! You can beat Therese!”
The Norwegians are in a class of their own and that’s all that I’m going to say about that.
I was really happy to see Saarinen have a great race today. She posted the 4th fastest time of the day behind the three Norwegians which move her from 18th to 7th. It’d be nice to Saarinen return to the form she was in three years ago when her and Kuitunen ruled the women’s field. Here’s hoping…
It was another disappointing day for Kowalczyk. I was expecting a lot from her today, this type of race is and should be her bread and butter. The hunting style pursuit fits her race tactics and judging by the second half of her race today, I have to think that she let off the gas as the time gaps that opened up between her and the Norwegians were abnormally large.
It was also a poor race from Jacobsen today after such a strong showing yesterday when she finished 6th place. She posted the 45th fastest time today which bumped her down from 20th to 32nd place.
Biggest mover of the day was Russian newcomer Alevtina Tanygina who posted the 15th fastest time of the day which moved her from 72nd to 33rd in the Ruka Triple standings. She had a very good U23 last year and picked up a couple 4th places in the distance races and an 8th in the sprint. With performance like the ones she showed this weekend, I expect her to maintain her place on the Russian team for the rest of the World Cup.
Another Russian with the name of Polina Medvedeva had a very good race and had the 10th fastest time of the day. The 22-year old is still very raw and has only five World Cup starts to her name. Some good news for the Russian women who are starting to look more and more the part every race they enter.
That’s it for me, back early tomorrow with the men’s wrap.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch today’s race due to an insanely busy schedule on this end, so here’s what I gathered from scanning the results from today’s race…
Today could be a real insight into the rest of the World Cup season. We witnessed Northug win his first individual start World Cup race which was the only title missing from his resume. Now that Northug has done this, critics can no longer make the point that he only gets it done in the mass starts. This also means that the Norwegian no longer has any holes in his game. The win was a substantial margin too as he was 23.8 seconds ahead of Clara. With this current form, I think it can be safe to start comparing Bjørgen’s domination in the women’s field to that of Northug’s in the men’s field. It’s a great time to be a Norwegian ski fan.
1. Petter Northug
2. Roland Clara
3. Maurice Manificat
Going into tomorrow’s race, only Cologna has a realistic chance of catching him as the Swiss man starts 12 seconds behind. After Cologna is Legkov a further 30 seconds back. I believe the real battles to watch tomorrow will be Cologna trying to catch Northug or Legkov trying to hold off the likes of Clara, Manificat, Olsson and Hellner who start 6-12 seconds behind the Russian.
On today’s race, I’m really happy to see Clara skiing as well as he is since his decorated Italian teammates like di Centa and Piller-Cottrer are having awful starts to the season. Piller-Cottrer was 70th today and for someone of his quality, it’s a little worrying. I have to also mention Hofer, who like Clara is having a phenomenal start to the season.
Other highlights on the day was Jespersen in 5th and is making a strong case to be on the team for future World Cups and Babikov who was 16th and had one of his best races in recent memory that isn’t the final leg of the Tour de Ski up the Alpe Cermis.
Again, sorry about the extremely short review, but this is all I could get out before the races tomorrow.