Falun, Sweden – The results sheet showed an amazing comeback by Frenchman Maurice Manificat, who chopped 45 seconds off of Petter Northug’s lead in just 2.2 kilometers. Somehow the fading Northug was able to recover and rally for yet another stunning finish charge and the World Cup Final victory.
The video tells an entirely different story, with Mr. Northug cruising into the stadium with a huge lead, stopping to take a flag and then touring along the fence shaking hands with the crowd. Meanwhile Manificat, who had broken away from Marcus Hellner (SWE) in those last kilometers, kept the hammer down.
Northug checked on his progress, interrupting his celebrations to ski a little closer to the line. As Manificat sprinted up the last 50 meters, the Norwegian stopped just shy of the finish, waiting for his competitor to get within just 10 meters, before calmly stepping over the line to officially claim the win.
Northug Impressive as Usual; Manificat Magnificent
In addition to his lengthy homestretch performance, Northug had an impressive day, capping a phenomenal season.
He started with a 40 second lead on Hellner, the gold medalist in the Olympic pursuit, and an excellent skater. At the post-race press conference the day before, following his victory in the 20km mass start, Northug said all the right things – noting Hellner’s strength, and taking nothing for granted.
But it is hard to believe that he was actually concerned. The best Hellner, or anyone else for that matter, could do, was to shave the lead down by a mere second early in the 15km freestyle race.
As the kilometers ticked by, and Hellner unable to make any headway, it became clear that Northug would pad his already official overall World Cup title, and add the Word Cup Final victory to his impressive resume. The only real question was how many hands he could shake in 50 seconds – the answer apparently, is quite a few.
“I really enjoyed the race today,” said Northug. “Usually I have to sprint for the victory, but today I could ski relaxed and control the pace and it. The spectators were amazing, and while the conditions were tough today, I had good skis.”
The more interesting, if less theatrical action was occurring further back on the course. Manificat, wearing bib 12, and starting nearly two minutes back, wasted no time in attacking for the podium. By the 5 kilometer mark he had moved up into 3rd knocking major time out of some impressive names – Tobias Angerer (GER), Dario Cologna (SUI), Lukas Bauer (CZE) and Mats Larsson (SWE) were just some of the skiers to be caught and passed by Manificat.
A pack formed up behind the Frenchman, but could not hold the pace for more than a few kilometers. Manificat had his sights set on a step or two higher on the podium.
At 10 kilometers he was 24 seconds clear of the pack, now lead by his teammate Vincent Vittoz, and just 18 down on Hellner. Less than three kilometers later that gap was closed and the two were skiing together. Hellner had no chance, and Manificat didn’t waste time pleasing the crowd, hammering all the way through the finish.
He easily posted the fastest time of the day, 57.8 seconds faster than Maxim Vylegzhanin (RUS), who skied up to 4th after starting in 8th. And despite losing his 2nd spot, Hellner was still 5th fastest, and Northug, with his epic celebration, 8th.
Ilia Chernousov (RUS) made up the most ground, picking up 17 places to finish 20th.
Babikov Leads Canadians
Ivan Babikov (CAN) was not far behind Chernousov in regards to advancement. Starting in 31st, Babikov climbed well into the points, picking up 14 places with the 14th fastest time of the day.
His teammate Devon Kershaw skied up to 31st from 38th, ending his World Cup season with the 24th best time.
Alex Harvey did not fare as well, dropping from 18th to 32nd.
Gregg Ends World Cup Tour on High Note
The day after getting hammered in a crash early in the pursuit, Brian Gregg (USA) bounced back with the best World Cup distance result of his career. He placed 32nd on the day, besting the likes of Harvey and Rene Sommerfeldt (GER).
He ended the World Cup Final mini-tour in 41st out of 43 finishers, just one place behind teammate Andy Newell.
Newell did not have his best day, finishing last with a time 7:29 behind Manificat.
– Despite Hellner’s 3rd, several Swedes had the distinction of losing the most places. Larsson slipped from 3rd to 19th, and Jens Eriksson from 16th to 33rd.
– French skier Jean Marc Gaillard was disqualified yesterday for skating in the classic portion of the pursuit. He finished 5th but was removed from the results, ending hi World Cup Final.
– Eight different nations were represented in the top-10.
– A number of top skiers did not start, including Axel Teichmann (GER), Johan Olsson (SWE), Andrus Veerpalu (EST), and Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR).
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.