InterviewsRacingResultsWorld CupNorthug Sprints To Victory in Falun

Avatar Topher SabotMarch 20, 20104

Falun, Sweden – The sight of Petter Northug (NOR) powering away from the field in the final meters of a race has almost become predictable.

The Norwegian star once again used his brutal finishing punch to claim victory in the 20km pursuit, and gain a significant margin in the overall World Cup Finals’ standings.

Northug started quickly and won the first intermediate sprint to gain 15 bonus seconds.  He then dropped back in the pack, but move up at the transition to skate, and picked up another 15 seconds on the third bonus sprint.

Tobias Angerer (GER) took second in a photo finish over Lukas Bauer (CZE).  All told eight skiers were within 4.4 seconds of the victory.  While the lead group was tightly packed, the fact that it was no bigger is another indication that mass start racing is changing on the World Cup.  In the past relatively short mass start races resulted in sprints of 20 or more.

Ten kilometers in, a small gap had formed after Marcus Hellner (SWE) in 12th, and several kilometers later Northug, Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA), Anders Soedergren (SWE), and Bauer had pulled five seconds in front.

The pack would regain contact however, setting up the final sprint to the line.

“I’m satisfied with my performance today, especially as I felt a bit tired,” said Northug.  “I did not have the best classical leg, but when we went up on the Mördarbakken in the free technique the last time, I felt good and knew I was where I wanted to be.”

He now holds a 40 seconds lead over Hellner for tomorrow’s 15km handicap start.

“I now have a 40 second advantage on Marcus [Hellner].  It looks comfortable but I know it will be not easy tomorrow.  He is a strong skater and has his home crowd behind him.”

Another Swede, Mats Larsson, is in 3rd overall, just six seconds behind Hellner.  Angerer is 4th, another 14 seconds back.

Ivan Babikov led the Canadians with a solid 12th place result, +29.1.  Babikov had an uncharacteristically slow skate leg – just the 27th overall.

Alex Harvey was 22nd, also dropping back in the skate portion.  He won a photo finish over Ole-Marius Bach (NOR).  He now sits in 18th in the overall standings while Babikov is just outside the points in 31st.

Devon Kershaw rounded out the Canadian squad (Graham Nishikawa did not start) in 37th.

The conditions were spring-like to say the least, with temperatures reaching +12C.

Andy Newell finished 39th for the US, just behind Swedish sprinter Emil Joensson and ahead of Axel Teichmann (GER) among others.

“Today was a big improvement on my last pursuit,” said Newell.  “I think it’s one of those races that the more you practice them the easier it gets.  I don’t think it was an awesome race for me but it was solid… a good sign that my distance racing is improving.”

Newell has commented in the past that mass start races are challenging for him as he can’t set his own pace, and often dies after trying to hang on.  Today was different.

“I was in a good pack and skied most of the skate behind Teichmann, which was great experience.  And for once I was feeling fresh enough on the last few K’s to put in a surge and drop some people.  That was fun.”

He is now 41st in the overall, 1:17 out of the top-30, a bit behind where he hoped to be.

“When I found out I was going to be racing in this final World Cup mini tour, my goal was to able to be in the top-30, and get a shot at scoring some distance points.  So I’m a little disappointed not to be in there – it would have helped to have had a better sprint in Stockholm, but considering it’s been a long season and I’m still feeling pretty fit, I can’t complain.  Everyone is pretty relaxed at these races and we’re all having fun with all the other teams.”

Brian Gregg finished 48th in the 50-man field, and is off in no-man’s land in the race tomorrow.  He is nearly two minutes behind the skier in front of him, and just about the same margin in front of the man behind.

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Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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4 comments

  • Avatar
    kaiser

    March 21, 2010 at 4:49 am

    I am starting to hate Petter Northug. His finish would be great if he could pull it out only one or two times but as it is every one knows that they will have to fight for second place. it makes finishes really boring.

  • Avatar
    D. Diehl

    March 21, 2010 at 11:33 am

    If you had the genetics to be an elite cross country ski racer and were fortunate enough to have Petter Northug skiing your anchor leg in a relay I’m certain you wouldn’t hate him!

  • Avatar
    justice

    March 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Thus far, no one has adopted a strategy that prevents Northug from unleashing his closing dash to victory: Attack the lead group–shaking Northug–and push the pace to the finish, instead of slowing down and allowing the chasers to rejoin, as happened twice yesterday. It’s a high risk, all-or-nothing approach: Attack and stay away for the victory, or blow up and finish off the podium. But for the moment, that is the only way to beat Northug in a mass start race when he’s on form.

  • Avatar
    davord

    March 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    To D. Diehl: First off, genetics aren’t the only thing needed to be an elite cross country ski racer. It’s funny that the Norwegians were/still are complaining about the Italians and the way they skied the relay races, where they didn’t pull very much, as in the Lillehammer relay. Now, they have no problem when Northug sits there and then just sprints 200 meters before the finish….Quite interesting. I guess you are right though, everyone wants a closer like that, no matter what happens before the final leg. Dementiev did the same thing when when he won his two medals in Torino. Northug pretty much knows what the others tendencies are in these mass start races right now and he waits for gaps and uses them to close up and/or get in with the lead group. He has been reading them like a book.

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