Rogla, Slovenia, Petter Northug (NOR) erased any doubt that he is the best all-around skier on the World Cup this season, following up his victory in yesterday’s sprint with his trademark late surge to capture the 30km Mass Start in Slovenia.
Northug added to his overall World Cup lead on the 2.5km course. Racers did a total of 12 loops and bonus World Cup points were awarded every 7.5km.
“I feel very happy about my second victory here in Rogla,” said Northug. “It was a difficult race for me today as I was tired after the sprint yesterday.”
Northug did not win any of the bonus points.
The field remained in close contact over the first half of the race, at which point skiers began to fall off the back. By 20km the lead pack was down to 30 and the attrition continued. At 25km, the lead group was still 24 strong and at the last checkpoint, with 1.4km to go, 22 skiers were in position to challenge for the victory.
Maxim Vylegzhanin (RUS) and Alexander Legkov (RUS) took over the lead and accelerated an already high pace in an effort to break away. The pack quickly spread out slightly, leaving a group of half a dozen skiers with a shot at the podium
One of these was Northug, who had been sitting in the middle of the pack for the entire race. As the last kilometers approached, he crept up toward the front, and when Vylegzhanin made his move Northug was in position to respond. Going up the steepest climb on the course, he move on the outside into the top-4, and when the pack hit the finish straight he turned on the afterburners, and double poled away for the victory.
Legkov was 2nd and Vylegzhanin held onto 3rd, edging Giorgio DiCenta (ITA).
“Now I will rest over Christmas with my family and train slightly. I want to be ready for Tour de Ski,” said an exhausted Northug after the race. At this point he is the clear favorite in the Tour.
Legkov and Vylegzhanin both finished on the podium for the second time this season.
“It was a good race for me,” Legkov told reporters. “The course was tough but I wanted to fight in sprint for bonus World Cup points as well. I am happy I gained World Cup points. It will help me in the Olympic qualification.”
He was not overly successful in his quest for bonus points, claiming 5 by crossing the third preem in 3rd.
Vylegzhanin did not win any bonus points, but was pleased nonetheless. “I am very happy about my 3rd place today. It was a fight to the very last moment. There were 10-15 athletes who could hope for podium so I am very happy it was me on the podium. It is also good sign for the Russian team that we are getting stronger.”
In addition to finishing 4th, DiCenta won the first intermediate sprint for 15 bonus World Cup points. Tobias Angerer (GER), 2nd in yesterday’s sprint, won the second sprint, and finsihed the day in 11th.
Alex Harvey (CAN) grabbed the final 15 points at the third sprint. He led the race for several kilometers before slipping to the back of the pack. He still posted a season-best 22nd place finish.
Kris Freeman struggled with his blood sugar, and was forced to withdraw at around the 22 kilometer point. He was in the lead group through 20k.
Andy Newell was the top finisher for the US, a career-best 41st in a distance race. This was his first World Cup 30k. Despite the place, Newell was disappointed with his time back after skiing much of the second half of the race by himself.
“I was just off the back of one of the chase packs so that was frustrating.
“This is my first 30K individual world cup race so I was happy to get the experience. It feels great to be in good shape and healthy.”
Lars Flora was 47th for the US.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.