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.
Twenty year old, and World Sprint Champion, Astrid Jacobson of Norway won today’s women’s 15k skate out of a bunch sprint in Rybinsk, Russia. Natalia Korosteleva finished second and Liisa Roponen finished third, all three women were within 1 second of each other. The conditions were overcast and humid with a race-time temperature of -5C. Today’s race was certainly a race of attrition, with skiers falling off the back starting mid way through the first lap. By the third of four laps, the lead pack had thinned to 15-20 skiers, with the pace being pushed by Norway’s Vibkeke Skofterud on the decisive climb. Entering the stadium, there was still a somewhat coherent pack of 13, but Jacobson was clearly in control with at least a ski length lead entering the finishing stretch and losing nothing from there. Skofterud faded to a respectable 12th after her early surge at the front. The crowd was extremely rowdy and excited today, particularly with a Russian pushing near the front all day. Korosteleva said the crowds really helped her, as people were screaming her name all day. She speculated that there may have been more spectators in Rybinsk than at the World Championships in Sapporo. Jacobson echoed this sentiment, adding that the crowds compared favorably to the Holmenkollen, both in size and energy.
Jacobson, the 2007 World Sprint Champion, expressed surprise at her distance success. In fact, she said in some ways this victory was a bigger deal for her than the World Championship. She acknowledged that she had been doing much more distance specific training this year, but had not expected any big results until much later. Nevertheless, she felt it was her sprint training that won the race for her, as she opened up a decisive gap in the final 300m.
Jacobson and Roponen were asked about their aspirations for the Tour de Ski. Roponen said that in many ways she is just happy to have her fitness back again, but still hopes for a top-5 or better at the Tour de Ski. Jacobson acknowledged that the distance legs may prove difficult for her, despite her demonstrated ability today, and that she only hopes for a top-10 overall. However, she was more optimistic about her chances for the sprint leg, saying she would like to podium overall for the sprint competition.
Lastly, Korosteleva was asked about the size and depth of the Russian team and the seemingly rotating cast capable of success; the Russians put 5 in the top-20 and 10 in the top-30. She said that they had a competition prior to this race to determine starting rights, but that also their daily training was extremely competitive and productive, driving them to succeed and, of course, competing in front of a home crowd helped immensely.
No North Americans raced in the women’s race today, as Chandra Crawford and Kikkan Randall are saving their energy for the freestyle sprint tomorrow. There were 46 starters.
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.
Third pass up the climb before the stadium, Skofterud driving the pace
Coming out of the stadium to start the 2nd lap