Lahti, Finland – Maurice Manificat (FRA), along with his teammates, was shut out of the medals in Whistler, the most heartbreaking moments coming when Emanuel Jonnier lost out in the final sprint for the podium in the 4×10 relay.
But today Manificat gained a small measure of redemption, outsprinting Lukas Bauer in the men’s 30km pursuit. The two broke away from the field at the 20km mark, and skied clear. Third place finisher Ilia Chernouov (RUS0 was 46 seconds back at the end.
This type of break is relatively rare in a World Cup mass start, though Johan Olsson attempted a similar break in this race at teh Olymnpics. He was caught with just a kilometer to go, but held on for third. Today Manificat and Bauer did better, extedning their lead over the chasers as the race progressed.
“I am really satified with my race,” Manificat said. “I had good skis, good glide and good shape. I didn’t expect to be in top 5 after classic part – I felt very strong in that part. After change over I was skiing with Lukas. I must say I am still suprised about my victory. Even though I have been in a good shape and performed really well at the Olympics.”
The 24-year-old Manificat claimed his first-ever World Cup victory.
With World Cup bonus points available at three intermediate stages, the race featured a number of attacks and counters. Bauer ended up winning all three bonus sprints, adding an extra 45 World Cup points to his total.
“It was good cooperation with Manificat,” said Bauer. “I was stronger in the uphill, he was faster in the downhill so we knew without words that we could work good together to stay in front of the big bunch.”
Bauer closed on Petter Northug in the overall World Cup standings, and is now only 172 points behind in 2nd. Northug did not race in Lahti, but will be back in action when the World Cup heads to Norway.
Despite being close, Bauer does not believe he can catch the Norwegian.
“There is no chance to beat Petter in overall World Cup. I had health problems in December and therefore cannot fight for the overall WC victory. Maybe I will skip Holmekollen. I feel quite tired after tough programe of last weeks. I will decide in upcoming days. The World Cup Final in Falun is very improtant to me as I want to capture second place in the overall ranking.”
Bauer’s lack of sprinting prowess would make closing the gap difficult, but not impossible.
Chernouov claimed his second World Cup podium of the season by edging teammate Maxim Vylegzhanin in a photo finish.
“I was starting fast and tried to follow the first group but it didn’t worked out, I had not the best ski’s in the classical part but then I was strong and in the end I was able to sprint and took third place.”
James Southam finished 36th for the US, +4:06. While the field was missing a number of top skiers, both the Finns and Norwegians started strong squads.
Andy Newell also started for the US and finished 46th.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.