Editor's Note: FasterSkier's roving reporter Tucker Sawin is reporting from Rybinsk, Russia this weekend, giving us first-hand information on the World Cup Cross-Country races.
Much like the women’s race, the men’s race turned into a race of attrition, followed by a mad sprint to the finish, and, once again, a Norwegian sprinter came out on top. Tor Arne Hetland won out of a bunch sprint of nearly 20 skiers, with a surprise Ville Nousiainen of Finland in second and Pietro Piller Cottrer of Italy in third. The pace was high throughout the race, and it seemed that, rather than attack, most of the leaders were interested in slimming out the field. The conditions for the men’s race were similar to the women’s race (-5C and overcast), but there were snow flurries late in the men’s race. The course held up well and appeared to be firm throughout both races. The course had a notable amount of climbing, particularly for the men, with just over 100m of climbing per 3.75km lap. The crowd was even more impressive for the men’s race, with some deafening yelling in the stadium when Alexander Legov surged to the front on the last lap. Unfortunately for the Russian fans, he was overtaken on the final climb before the stadium and finished 6th.
Two notable features of this race were the improved travel situation and the introduction of the â€œpit-stopâ€ ski change option, whereby a skier may stop during the race and change their skis if their wax job is inadequate. Piller-Cottrer said that he never considered using it today, as the waxing was not difficult and his team had great skis. Hetland agreed, noting that it was rather impractical to consider a ski change in such a fast skate race.
Hetland was asked how he found the travel and infrastructure to the venue relative to European stops. He said that â€œIt’s cold, there’s snow, there’s a good track, and good food at the hotel. You need nothing else.â€ He added that with the charter flight (a direct flight from Munich to the Rybinsk area was arranged), the travel is no different than any other European venue.
It was a mixed day for the North Americans, as Devon Kershaw had an outstanding result to take 12th, but Kris Freeman faded to a disappointing 46th. Also, George Gray of Canada and American Lars Flora skied solidly for 52nd and 55th place finishes respectively.
Kershaw had a relatively quiet race, always near the front of the pack, but he never seemed to be driving the pace. Nevertheless, he had plenty of kick at the end and was a mere 4 seconds from the podium. On the other hand, Freeman looked very impressive early, leading the pack through the feed about 12k in. However, he dropped to the back pretty suddenly about halfway through the race and then slowly peeled off the back of the main field from 15k-25k. Freeman was understandably disappointed today, particularly since he was hovering in the top 10 for the first 10-15k. I spoke with him briefly after the race and he didn’t really have a sense of what had gone wrong. He said he felt good for the first part and then the wheels came off. Freeman said he intends to start tomorrow in the sprints, and hopes to put out a good effort and qualify for the heats. There were 68 starters in the men’s race.
The author is a recent graduate of Williams College where he was a four year member of the ski team. He currently lives in Moscow, Russia doing a 5-month internship.
Race literally came to a stop on the climbs for the first lap
Flora and Grey working together