The first distance race of the season was held yesterday in Beitostolen, Norway. Axel Teichmann of Germany won the men's 15km freestyle and Norway's Marit Bjoergen paced the field in the women's 10km event.
Teichmann, the World Champion from Sapporo in the Pursuit race, took home his 7th World Cup victory, finishing 6.3 seconds ahead Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic. Teichmann pulled out the win with a very strong last kilometer. Anders Soedergren of Sweden was third, 13.3 seconds behind Teichmann. Teichmann was 9th at the 5-kilometer mark, moving into first by 10k, with a mere one second lead over Bauer. Said Bauer of his race “I’m very happy, but I was a little bit surprised about this good result. I didn’t start so fast, I wanted to save a bit of my energy.” Teichmann was also pleased, telling FIS “It was a hard race, but in the end I was the winner (laughs). The snowfall started before the race and continued, so we all had fair conditions. Now, I will see from race to race, stay healthy, and join the Tour de Ski. I hope to finish the Tour in the top 6.”
Norweigan biathlete Ole einar Bjorndalen was 5th, 4 seconds behind 4th place finisher and veteran Rene Sommerfeldt of Germany. Switzerland's, Toni Livers, who led the race after 5km and finished in 6th, showed that last year's victory in the 15km freestyle in Davos, was not a fluke.
In the women's race, Bjoergen continued her recent string of strong performances, winning over teammate Vibeke Skofterud by 20 seconds. Young Swede Charlotte Kalla took third, just under a second behind Skofterud. This was the first World Cup podium for Kalla, and the first since 2003 for Skofterud.
Said Bjoergen after the race “I am very satisfied. This was my first victory in skating. I was a bit nervous before the start, but I knew that I was in good shape after the strong results last weekend. I like the new courses at Beitostoelen, and I like that the speed was not as high as last week. The Tour de Ski is my main goal this season, and I hope to have the yellow bib at the end of the season.”
Seven different nations were represented in the top 10 in the women's race, and 43 year old Hilde Pedersen of Norway finished a strong 13th. Ukrainian Valentina Shevchenko was 4th and Arianna Follis of Italy, rounded out the top 5.
It was not a stellar day for North America. Canadian Devon Kershaw was the top finisher in 43rd, 1:30 behind the leader. Kris Freeman (USA) was 50th, Drew Goldsack (CAN) 68th, George Gray (CAN) 74th, and Lars Flora (USA) 77th. Said US Ski Team Head Coach Pete Vordenberg “We're not happy today by any means, but now we know exactly where we are and we can keep moving forward. We'll be better next week in Kuusamo [Finland, Dec. 1-2] and better again in Davos [Switzerland, Dec. 8-9].”
Canadian Head Coach Dave Wood was pleased with Kershaw's performance. “The goal at this level is to get in the race and stay in it as long as you can and Devon was able to do that today until the final five kilometers. Overall we are very happy with where Devon is at right now. He is in good shape and is skiing well, he just simply ran out of gas at the end today.” Kershaw lost nearly 20 seconds on the leaders in the last five kilometers.
No North American women raced. The World Cup will continue today with a 4x5km relay for the women, and a 4x10km relay for the men.
Contributing Sources: FIS, USSA, CCC