Not many americans have been able to watch the World Chamionships, and those actually at the race might not get to see the entire race since they are out on the course. So I wrote up a summary of what I saw on TV.
Of all the exciting relays of the past decade, the men's 4x10km relay today at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme Italy probably tops them all.
The story of the first leg was once again American Kris Freeman. By 1.6 km, Freeman had moved to the front of the group. At 4 km came a surprisingly bold move by Switzerland resulted in a 12 second lead entering the stadium at the halfway point. However, the main field decided to act, and Freeman led the chase. The group thinned as many nations failed to keep up with the new pace. Freeman eventually opened a gap of over 20 seconds on the main contenders and over 45 seconds on Anders Auklund of Norway, the race favorite. Despite a relatively disappointing result at the end of the race by the US compared to their record 5th place at last year's Olympics, the great results so far at these Championships have definitely sent shockwaves through the ski world.
Second place at the exchange was another surprise, Switzerland, followed by strong contenders Germany and Sweden. Favorite Norway was in a disastrous 10th place, 45 seconds behind the US and over 20 seconds behind Germany and Sweden. With Norway struggling, Mathius Fredricksson of Sweden led an attack to widen the gap between himself and the defending Olympic and World Champions. Switzerland, Germany, Russia, United States and Estonia struggled to keep up. Fredrickson increases his speed with 2 km to go and pulled ahead of the others. However, Switzerland counterattacked and took the lead away on the long downhill to the finish. In the meantime, Frode Estil managed to pull Norway from 10th to 3rd but did not gain any extra time on the accelerating Swedish and Swiss skiers. The gap had in fact increase from 20 to 25 seconds after the first exchange.
Fredrickson tagged off to the World Champion from two days ago, Per Elofson who seems to be in top form despite a rough training year plagued by a three month long viral infection. His goal now is to create as large of a time cushion as possible for their anchor leg Jorgen Brink. As for Norway and Germany, their goal is to make up as much time as possible. Russia makes its big move up the second to last climb, moving to within 10 seconds of Sweden. The gap for Norway and Germany stays at 23 seconds at the 3rd exchange.
Sweden's anchor leg, Jorgen Brink now has a dilemma. With 10 km remaining, the gap is only 10 seconds with Russia and only 20 seconds with Norway and Germany. Should he give a 100% effort to keep this lead and run away with the victory? Or should he conserve some energy in case it comes down to a sprint with Alsgard? Both options seem equally possible. The plan is to ski hard and see what happens.
Through 5km Sweden has kept the 20-second lead; a good sign but not a comfort to Brink with Alsgard and Teichman still in striking range. With three big climbs still remaining,
Brink continues to wait-and-see, looking behind every few minutes to check. At 7km the lead is still 23 seconds. With only 3km remaining, his coaches yell at him to give it everything he's got. Once he makes it over the last hill, it's a downhill to the finish, and Sweden's first major relay gold since the era of Thomas Wassberg, Jan Ottosson, Torgny Mogren, and Gunde Svan. Brink is now looking much more confident, charging the seconds uphill with powerful technique. Literally three seconds later Alsgard lets loose, doubling his pace. With 2km left, the gap is down to 12 seconds, but surely Alsgard has waited too long. Brink is already half way up the final hill when the Norwegian and German reach the base. Once Brink is over the top, there is no way to make up 12 seconds on the downhill into the stadium. But Alsgard is now in an all out sprint with Teichman on his heals.
Then, suddenly, Brink gives up! With 40 meters of uphill left, he has nothing left and slows his pace to a near stop. He suffers to make it to the top as Alsgard and Teichman fly past. The 20 seconds lead was cut to 12 seconds in one kilometer, and the 12 seconds are gone in a matter of moments. Unbelievable!
The two giants, Alsgard and Teichman are stride for stride to the finish, but Alsgard yet again takes relay gold for Norway. Brink trudges to the finish just ahead of Russia to take a rather disappointing bronze.
Relay Gold brings out the Big Headlines in Norwegian Newspapers:
By Torbjorn Karlsen
Aftenposten Newspaper: Norwegian Relay Joy, Swedish Blow-up.
Sweden’s largest newspaper had to stop their plans about a celebration issue after it for a long time looked like sure Swedish relay gold.
Sweden’s Aftonbladet said:
No, we had the World Championship Gold!
Comments from the last leg;
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Brink is still looking very good — great.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â There will be a good fight for the silver medal.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Brink is looking in control.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â No, brink is tired — he has hit the wall
– Alsgaard and Brinkman is blowing by!
Alsgaard saved the gold!Â
A fantastic last leg by Alsgaard and a â€œblow-upâ€ bySweden’s Jorgen Brink produced the relay gold for Norway in Val di Fiemme.With 3k to go Alsgaard started his incredible finish sprint while Brink parked.
It looked like the Swede stood still when Alsgaard passed him. Axel Teichmann from Germany kept up with Thomas until the finish sprint — but Alsgaard was in full control and saved the Gold by a good margin.
â€œI tried to ski fast in the beginning of the leg but Brink was skiing well. I hoped he was skiing too hard and would blow up, and when I was told that I suddenly was gaining a lot over a short distance, I realized that he had hit the wallâ€Â
VG Newspaper: Thomas sprinted to gold
Thomas Alsgaard made up an ocean of time deficit on Sweden on the last leg and sprinted Norway to relay gold ahead of Germany.
â€œI was pushing around my max effort, and normally Axel Teichman and I are stronger than Brink in a 10k. I hoped he would slow down and he didâ€
Â Brink: I was glad I made it to the finish.
Jorgen Brink was devastated after crossing the finish line. — I totally blacked out and it feels like a nightmare especially since my team -mates had skied great.
Swedish team doctor Mats Carlen:
The blow-up can be related to psychological circumstances since the pressure on Jorgen was enormous and he has never been in a similar situation. The lactate hit him like club in the last uphill
Everything happened over a very short time frame. I felt fine and didn’t push abnormally hard. Suddenly my eye sight started to black out. I wasn’t standing still but it felt like it.
It’s not the end of the World for him — he’ll get other chances. This is how it is in sport. Some succeeds — others don’t. It’s only a ski race. Life goes on.