In a wild final heat in Davos, Norwegian John Kristian Dahl pulled out a squeaker of a victory over his teammate Petter Northug and Russian Alexei Petukhov.
After following Petukhov up the first big hill, Dahl made his move on the course’s final rise, slotting in front of the Russian and holding him and Northug off in a drag race over the final 100 meters.
It’s the first career win for the 28-year-old Dahl, who had been knocking on the door for six years since his first World Cup podium in 2003.
Dahl’s victory came as a rebuke to Petukhov, last week’s double victor who seemed invincible after winning qualifying by more than a second and a half.
On his Twitter feed, Canadian Alex Harvey wrote that Pethukov was “on another planet…crossing the finish line mouth shut.”
But in the final, even Petukhov could not hold off the irrestible force of the Norwegian sprint team. Though Petukhov led the heat for the first part of the course and looked to be cruising to another victory, Dahl managed to sneak around him on the last hill and just held off a charging Northug on the flat finishing straight.
American Andy Newell qualified in 7th and finished in 22nd when he broke a pole in his quarterfinal. After getting a replacement, Newell looked sluggish for the first half of the heat, but came on strong at the finish and just missed advancing to the semis as a lucky loser.
“Kind of bummed. Should have made it,” Newell wrote on Twitter.
Canadian Devon Kershaw also qualified for the heats for the first time this year and looked strong, although he got boxed in during the quarterfinals and finished one spot behind Newell in 23rd.
Other North Americans in the race included the U.S. Ski Team’s Torin Koos in 32nd, making him just the second man out of heats. He was just .97 seconds behind Japan’s Nobu Naruse, the final qualifier.
Kris Freeman was another four seconds behind Koos in 57th, and Canadians Harvey and George Grey finished 49th and 60th, respectively.
From Davos, the World Cup travels to the first-ever races in Slovenia, a classic sprint and distance race at the mountain resort of Rogla. The Rogla races will be the last of 2009, and then the circuit resumes with the start of the Tour de Ski in Oberhof, Germany, on New Year’s Day.
Check FasterSkier later today for a complete breakdown of the Davos sprint.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.