Davos, Switzerland – 28-year-old Johan Olsson (SWE) won his first World Cup event in the 15km classic individual start race.
In an exciting race on a 3 x 5 km course in Davos, Olsson skied to victory in a time of 40:10.0min, 10.5 seconds ahead of runner up Axel Teichmann (GER). Third place went to Sami JauhojÃ¤rvi (FIN) 28.5 seconds behind Olsson.
Olsson started the race strong and maintained his speed until the end. Teichmann, a well-know slow starter was quite quick on the first kilometers and increased his pace towards the end. The two battled for much of the race, with only 1.7 seconds separated the two at 6.8km. Olsson gradually pulled away, expanding the gap to 3.7 seconds at 11.8km before closing out with a strong finish.
“It is an amazing day. I was strong already the whole season but now I made the podium and even took the victory — it still feels a bit unreal! Last year I started quick, too quick, but this year I was more efficient and kept a bit of energy for the last round. I knew all the time that I was pretty close to Axel and I just skied, even on the finish straight I was not really sure but then I heard the announcer Kjel Erik, and knew I won!
Teicmann's season has been off to a slow start – the tall German had yet to crack the top 10, his best being a 12th in 15km in Kuusamo. This result may show that the former World Cup Champion is rounding in to form.
Said Teichmann following the race, â€œThe course here in Davos fit’s me well as it starts quite flat and I can start the race with double poling – that suits me. After the weaker start of the season where I felt quite tired I am satisfied with my good race and happy about the second place.”
Before today, Olsson had never stood on the World Cup podium in an individual race. He appears to have raised his game a notch this season, turning in two 8th place finishes, a 12th, and skiing on the Swedish relay team that has twice finished second to Norway this season. His previous top individual results of 7th and 8th both came in Canmore, in 2005 and 2008. While solid performances, the fields for those races were somewhat weaker.
“I have made changes, small things in my preparations for the season, I’m working now with Joachim Abrahamsson (Coach) and was also working a lot with my mental coach It was not only the marriage with Anna (Anna Olsson, former Dahlberg) why I am stronger than ever,” Olsson added with a smile. “I will not compete in the Tour de Ski and will be training back home for my season highlight — the World Championships.”
He now leads the overall World Cup by 26 points over Petter Northug (NOR) who struggled to 55th today.
JauhojÃ¤rvi started fast, posting the fastest split at 1.8km, just ahead of Olsson. The Finn maintained his top three ranking from there on, en route to his second 3rd place finish of the season. â€œI was quite tired after the races in La Clusaz,” he said. “I felt not so comfortable this morning but then during the race I realized that I might finish on the podium. I had extremely good ski’s.” This was only the third time on the podium for JauhojÃ¤rvi, who now sits in third in the overall standings.
George Grey (CAN) finished a career-best 16th, skiing a consistent race that had him in 18th at the first to intermediate checkpoints, and 15th with 3.2km to go. Grey was only 5 seconds out of 12th and 11 seconds from the top 10.
â€œI typically haven’t done well at World Cups in November so I decided to take a different approach this year and stay home longer, do some fun NorAm events and be fresh and it seems to have worked,â€ said Grey. â€œI am tired of finishing top-40, and I believe I should be a top-15 contender out here each week. I do believe I’m ready to do more, but the World Cup is never forgiving.â€
Grey's teammate, Ivan Babikov was not far behind in 21st. Babikov started slowly, standing in 30th place at the halfway mark, but moved his way up in a tight field. Devon Kershaw rounded out a solid trio of Canadian finishes in 23rd, 2.7 seconds behind Babikov, and 1:49.8 behind winner Olsson. As usual, Kershaw started fast, but was unable to maintain the pace that had him in 11th at 6.8km.
American Kris Freeman cracked the top-30, finishing in 29th. Freeman started slowly, as he often does, in 29th at 1.8km, but appeared headed for a strong performance when he moved up to 10th at 6.8km. Unfortunately the wheels came off and he steadily lost ground over the second half of the race, ultimately finishing just under two minutes off the pace.
“It started pretty well for Kris. He had a conservative start, paced himself and was in 10th midway through the race,” said U.S. Ski Team Coach Justin Wadsworth. “So it was going pretty well and we were excited. It looked pretty solid.”
“I know Kris is pretty disappointed,â€ said Wadsworth. “Everything was working well. This was a really good track for him and his skis seemed fast.
â€œThe good thing is that to ski half the race in 10th place, we know he has the speed and fitness,” added Wadsworth. “We just need to figure out why he's dropping back.”
Stefan Kuhn (CAN) was on the start list, but did not begin the race.