Otepaa, Estonia – Lukas Bauer (CZE) demonstrated that he is in good form heading to World Championships, wining the men’s 15km classic World Cup race in Estonia. Bauer, last year’s overall World Cup Champion and Tour de Ski winner, edged Swede Johan Olsson by 1.5 seconds. Veteran Vincent Vittoz (FRA) rounded out the podium, +9.3 seconds.
This was Bauer’s first victory of the season, bettering his second place performance in Kuusamo, Finland at the end of November. Bauer was unable to defend his Tour de Ski title, battling illness, and placing 11th. He has told the press on several occasions that his big focus this year is the upcoming World Championships in his home country.
“My main goal for this season is the World Championships in Liberec, and this is much more important than a single World Cup race. It is good to see that a month before the Championships everything looks OK. Before traveling to Otepää I had only four days of training as I was resting after the Tour de Ski.”
Olsson skied to his second podium of the year. He won the last distance World Cup race before Christmas in Davos. He had not raced a World Cup since.
“I’m very satisfied, because this track in Otepää is very hard and I felt a little bit unsure before the race. I have trained in Sweden and had a long Christmas break, so now I had to do a sort of bread and water diet before Otepää. As you see, it went well. No Russian races for me, because we have the Swedish championships race at the next weekend. Then the last World Cup race before the World Championships in Italy and I hope very much to be a medal contender in Liberec as well.”
Axel Teichmann (GER), who finished 3rd in the Tour de Ski, was fourth today, and Tour champion, and overall World Cup leader Dario Cologna (SUI) fifth. Cologna continues to have an amazingly consistent season, and now has 10 top 10 finishes and 13 top 15 results in 15 World Cup starts.
Norway, often dominating in classic events, had a decent showing. Veteran Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset led the squad in 6th. Teammate Eldar Roenning was less than a second back in 7th.
No North American skiers competed in the challenging 65 man field. Only a few athletes who competed in Whistler contested this event, and none had particularly strong results.
Racing continues tomorrow with an individual classic sprint. US sprinters Andy Newell, Torin Koos, and Chris Cook will all take part.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.