– It would be very exciting to race this leg at the Olympics, says Eldar Ronning after skiing an excellent first leg on the Norwegian 4 x 10 k relay team at Beitostolen. Keeping that spot will be a big challenge.
Only five skiers were together in the leadpack at the first tag-off in Sunday’s 4 x 10 World Cup relay. Ronning and Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset (on the Norwegian second team) had pushed the pace.
— This is giving me hope of skiing more relay first legs for Norway and most of all in the Olympics, but I’m afraid that one of the â€œoldâ€ skiers gets that leg, says Ronning.
He has usually done a good job doing the start leg for the Norwegian second team and would have skied on the second team again on Sunday if it hadn’t been for biathlon skier Lars Berger not being able to ski the third leg on the first team.
This opened up for Ronning being moved in to ski the first leg for the first team, while Saturday’s classic 15-kilometer winner, Tor Arne Hetland had to trade in his classic skis for skate skis and race the third leg on the first team.
More than a sprinter
Ronning has so far in his racing career done better in sprint events than in the longer races. He won his first World Cup sprint race last season in Reit im Winkl, was second in Drammen and third in Lahti. He is hoping to do better in the longer events this season. The fifth place in Saturday’s 15-kilometer classic World Cup race and skiing the first leg for the first team in the relay makes him believe that his ambitions can be within reach.
– I’m hoping to race the sprint, the 15-kilometer classic and the sprint relay at the Olympics. That’s the goal for the season, says Ronning.
That’s going to be tough
– I have to prove that I’m good enough to reach the podium to be considered for the 15-kilometer team. It’s probably the hardest team to make on the Norwegian Olympic team. Frode Estil, Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset, Anders Aukland and Jens Arne Svartedal are some of the skiers you have to beat out to claim that spot. The road to skiing on the relay team becomes a lot easier if can do that. The first step is to race a good 15-kilometer classic in Kuusamo this weekend.
It’s expected that the course in Kuusamo this weekend is more a â€œtypical World Cup courseâ€, with longer and harder climbs than the course at Beitostolen. The result in that race (Kuusamo) will answer the speculation that it was the â€œeasy course profileâ€ at Beitostolen that made it possible for the sprinters to dominate the opening 15-kilometer classic World Cup race.