The temperature was the same, but the conditions were immaculate compared to yesterdays sprints. The sun was out and the tracks were fresh for the first mass start races of the World Cup season. The athletes were dressed warmly with many neck warmers, Vaseline, and anything else to protect the skin – especially the cheeks – from frostbite due to the frigid air.
The lead pack was down to 10 by the end of the end of the first lap with a handful of athletes barely hanging on to no avail with the pack being widdled down by bursts of speed from Saarinen and Majdic. The first sprint points were won by Longa and the second sprint saw some contact between Saarinen and Majdic (Saarinen was to blame) which saw the Slovenian hit the floor without a chance to collect any sprint points and Kowalczyk picking maximum points from the second bout. The fall seemed to completely take the wind out of Majdic’s sails and she subsequently lost over 20 seconds in the next 1.2km. By 11km, the lead pack was down to seven, dropping Ishida (who still had a phenomenal race), Shevchenko, and Majdic. Kowalcyzk put on the afterburners on the penultimate climb and opened up a seven second lead on the other six athletes with only 1.4km left. The chase was led by Haag with only Bjørgen, Saarinen, and Størmer-Stiera able to keep pace. Haag and Bjørgen lunged for the line with the Norwegian beating out the Swede by a boot for second place.
1. Justyna Kowalcyzk
2. Marit Bjørgen
3. Anna Haag
Notes: After a jury review, Saarinen was rightfully disqualified for her knock down of Majdic in the build up to the second sprint. It must have been
rather disappointing for Majdic not to pick up a victory on home snow after doing it so many time elsewhere on the circuit. Smigun-Vaehi continued her comeback with a very impressive with a sixth place. Alena Prozchakova, considered by many as a sprint specialist had a fantastic race today finishing 15th, only 1:35 of the winner. The same can not be said for Kuitunen who – usually bossing the races from the front – has yet to find her form this year. She was a disappointing (relatively) 14th being over 1:31 back. Khazova showed she was human as she finished 17th. Anna Haag had a great weekend picking with her bronze today and a fourth in the yesterdays sprint.
The first 15 minutes was rather standard protocol as the Russians and Italians set the pace for the majority of the time. Kris Freeman positioned himself nicely at the beginning of the race by always being in the top 10. The field was down to 37 at the 12.5km time check. This is when the first move came when Johan Olsson tested the field and opened up a 10 meter led before the pack reeled him in again, but the Swede still lead the field and continued to push the pace. Angerer continued to show his sprinting prowess as he collected the full 15 points for the second sprint in the race at the 15km mark. Mattias Fredrickson; who has been invisible for the past couple years, put in the next move with just under 10km left but was unable to shake anyone from the main group. The third sprint at 22.5km saw Alex Harvey take the points. It was Daniel Rikardsson who tested the pack shortly after 23km and it was Vittoz’s who took up the reigns with only two laps remaining. With a lap remaining, the lead pack was still 23 strong and it was a nail-biting final 2.5km. With Northug still in the pack, the main question wanting answered was who was going to make the first move and try to break the pack before a sprint was required? First it was Filbrich, then Legkov countered and the leading group finally started to thin with only 1.4km left. Visions of Liberec flashed through Legkov’s head as he temporarily tangle with his fellow teammate Vylezhanin on the final descent into the stadium. Northug, who stayed quiet in the pack, came to show his colours with only 1km left and seemed to double pole away from the Russian’s that
1. Petter Northug
2. Alexander Legkov
3. Maxim Vylegzhanin
Notes: Pietro Piller-Cottrer had a decent birthday as he finished 9th. Matti Heikinnen monumental blow-up to say the least. He lost an amazing 4:55 and nine places over the final 10km. Even the best have their off-days. The Russians had a good day place four inside the top 15 while the
Swede’s did well having Olsson in 6th and Rickardsson in 8th.
North American Watch
The females in the 15km fared much better today with Renner getting into the World Cup points with a 26th place and Randall continuing her distance improvements by just missing the points with a 31st placing. Kris Freeman had a strong first half of the race before losing contact with the lead pack just before the 20km mark and eventually dropping out at the 25km after losing 1:47 in his final 7.5km. Alex Harvey had a great run ending in 22nd. He was in the lead pack with one lap to go but the sprint took too much juice and couldn’t hold on the last 2km to been in the final sprint. Nonetheless, a good way to go into the Christmas break. You can read about this thoughts on the past weekend here.
Edit: The red group were announced after this weekend races with Harvey, Kershaw, Freeman, and Renner getting into the top 30 ranking for the next racing period.
In Canmore, the second classic sprint day of the weekend and the third of four Olympic qualifying races which saw Daria Gaiazova who took her second victory in as many days while Drew Goldsack stamped his ticket to the big show by winning the men’s sprint. Results can be found here.
Til Next Time.