The German cross-country team is off to an inauspicious start at the 2011 World Championships, but their Nordic Combined brethren are doing their best to make up for it.
Twenty-two-year-old Eric Frenzel (GER) rode a stellar jump to a convincing victory in the men’s Normal Hill Gundersen 10km event in Oslo, Norway on Saturday afternoon. The 26,000 fans may not have been able to see much through the dense fog, but even if they had, their wasn’t much action at the front of the race.
Frenzel started the cross-country portion with a 19 second lead on Haavard Klemetsen (NOR) after earning the 131.8 points in the morning’s jump. Frenzel never looked back, and was never threatened by the large chase pack that came together early in the race.
The young German was joined on the podium by teammate Tino Edelman and Felix Gottwald (AUT).
French star Jason Lamy Chapuis, the favorite coming in was just 32 seconds down at the start, but struggled on the track. He dropped through the ranks, and was never in position to challenge for the podium.
By the three-kilometer mark, the chasers had come together, with Gottwald working his way to the front. Two-and-a-half k later, it splintered, Gottwald still driving the pace.
Three men followed the Austrian off the front – Edelman, yet another German ,Johannes Rydzek, and Akito Watabe (JPN). Frenzel continued to maintain a 30 second plus margin, looking strong at the front.
He may have looked relaxed, but was not taking anything for granted.
“I didn’t believe I could win until I saw the finish line. I was afraid of Gottwald, who was chasing me,” Frenzel said.
His fears were not ill-founded. The veteran Austrian has his fare share of triumphs, and took over the lead on the last of four 2.5km laps, continuing to drive the pace.
Rydzek and Watabe were unable to maintain the pace, and dropped off the back, while Edelman appeared content to ride on Gottwald’s tails. As the pair hit the last large climb, the same hill featured on the back-side of the cross-country sprint course, Gottwald made one last effort to escape, but again failed.
Once over the top of the hill, he dropped the pace to a crawl. He and Edelman cruised into the stadium and the obvious question was who had had one last push left.
The answer? Edelman, who used a final burst to get clear of Gottwald on the stadium hill, and cruise across the line
and into the arms of the waiting Frenzel.
“It was a great race, perfect for the German team,” Edelman said. “Eric did a fantastic jump and mine was also very good. I’m sure we are going to celebrate this in the evening, but in a small scale, because the team race is coming soon – and now the German team is a favorite.”
Gottwald, spent, did not share the Germans’ joy at the finish, collapsing to the ground and covering his eyes. But later, he said that he was satisfied with his performance, and happy to earn a medal.
Frenzel, who has a four-year-old son, said simple “It feels fantastic to be referred to as the World Champion.”
Rydzek edged out Watabe for fourth, giving the German team three skiers in the top-four.
American Billy Demong turned in the fastest ski time of the day, besting Gottwald by seven seconds. He was undone on the jump, however, and ended the day in seventh,
“I am very disappointed,” Lamy Chapuis said. He finished 15th, but is looking ahead to the team competition where he believes France has a good chance.
Nordic Combined, Normal Hill – Results
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.