Beitostolen, Norway – Petter Northug (NOR) pulled off his patented move, attacking on the last climb to bury Russian Ilia Chernousov, and claim victory for Norway in the men’s 4x10km relay.
Northug took the tag down 10 seconds on leaders Russia and Germany. He closed over the first several kilometers, and with three kilometers to go, Tobias Angerer (GER) fell off the pace, setting up the two-way battle for first.
Overall, seven teams finished within 20 seconds of the lead.
Eldar Roenning and Martin Sundby Johnsrud led Norway in the classic legs, staying in the lead group. Ronny Hafsaas, the biathlete who won yesterday’s 15km freestyle, lost contact with Alexander Legkov (RUS) and Rene Sommerfeldt (GER) on third leg before turning over to Northug.
Said Northug after the race, “I’m happy with my race today. It is always good to take a home victory. On the last round I just stayed behind and decided to take my chance on the last uphill. There were cheering a lot of Norwegians and it helped me to push hard to overtake Chernousov.”
The Russian Team was pleased with second and Legkov with his performance. “I had amazing skis – my winner skis! Always when I take them I am very good. The entire team is happy with second place. Unfortunately Ilia was not able to follow Petter on the last uphill but anyway – second place is very good.”
And while Norway was pleased to be on the podium, the team recognizes they cannot always depend on northug to bail them out. “Although we have Peter (Northug) at the end, there is a limit on how far we can be back. I think it will be difficult if he is more than a half minute behind,” said coach Morten Aa Djupvik. “We can not gamble on Peter,” he added. “Eventually, he gained an advantage, but in the future he will be beaten.”
Finland finished 4th, buoyed by Matti Heikkinen’s strong anchor. Heikkinen continues a strong start to the season – he was 3rd yesterday. He edged Norway III’s Frode Andersen by 1.4 seconds.
Canada finished 10th in a photo finish with Belarus (9th). Devon Kershaw and Ivan Babikov kept the team with the leaders through the two classic legs. Alex Harvey maintained position in 7th, before Graham Nishikawa, on his first European World Cup trip after winning last year’s NorAm series, dropped back to 10th.
Kris Freeman turned in his usual solid opening leg, staying in the lead pack. Torin Koos took over, and dropped two minutes to the leaders. The US skaters Andy Newell and Lars Flora faired better. Newell lost a spot overall, but his leg was 1:29 slower than the fastest, as compared to Koos’ 2:42 down.
Flora posted the 15th fastest time on the anchor leg, moving the US team up two spots and outsprinting Florian Kostner of Italy II.
Newell posted on his Twitter feed that while the result was not the best, it was a “fun relay,” and that the soft conditions made for a tough skate leg.
“Andy had a really solid race and it showed a lot of athleticism,” said USST Head Coach Pete Vordenberg. “Torin raced solid and Lars finishing 15th in his leg was a good showing.” The finish for a team is not a goal for us yet. We don’t have a team yet where we can look for those results.
“Freeman’s goal of the day was to work on classic racing in a head to head mass start situation and I think he had a good race, finishing sixth in the first leg,” Vordenberg concluded.
Last year’s defending World Cup Champion, Dario Cologna, had a strong race posting the second fastest anchor leg, and skiing the Swiss team up 7th, just 19 seconds back.
The best leg of the day belonged to Marcus Hellner (SWE). Hellner took Sweden from 14th to 6th in the last 10km, while psoting the top skate leg of the day.
Other strong individuals included Alexsey Ivanov (BLR), Alexey Polaranin (KAZ), Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA) and Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset (NOR).