Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA) dropped Frode Andresen (NOR), Chris Jespersen (NOR) and Espen Harald Bjerke (NOR) in a fierce sprint to the finish line. But for a long time, Gaillard was not sure he’d be able to catch the 2011 World Champion of the 30K freestyle: Therese Johaug.
“I really didn’t think we would be able to catch her, but all of the sudden, we were right on her tails,” said Gaillard, who raced Skarverennet for the first time Saturday.
“It was a fantastic experience,” Gaillard said to Norwegian TV station NRK after the race.
New this year, Skarverennet featured a pursuit-style event in the elite class, where the elite women were given a 12-minute lead on the elite men, and the first elite skier – male or female – would be the race winner.
Johaug pulled off a surge midway through the race where she dropped the entire women’s field, and was not chased down by the elite men until the last seven kilometers. The foursome consisting of Gaillard, Bjerke, Jespersen and Andresen caught Johaug just prior to the long descent to the finish at Ustaoset. By the time they arrived in the stadium area, the battle for first place was between Gaillard, Andresen and Jespersen.
Gaillard crossed the finish line first, clocking in at 1:44:07, with Jespersen in second place and Andresen in third, both a tenth of a second behind Gaillard.
“Of course, it was bittersweet to lose the prize money, but I feel like I pulled off a good race,” Jespersen said after the race. The winner received 100,000 Norwegian kroner, almost $20,000.
Biathlete Andresen was disappointed with his third place.
“In Skarverennet, the winner takes it all – you get the money and a car for a whole year,” he said to the Norwegian biathlon web site Strafferunden.no after the race.
Bjerke was fourth, 42 seconds behind Gaillard. Emanuel Jonnier (FRA) was fifth in a second sprint finish with teammate Vincent Vittoz, 5 minutes and 44 seconds behind Gaillard for their very last world-cup level event. Jonnier and Vittoz, who have spent over a decade on the French national team, are retiring after this season.
Johaug crossed the finish line in 2:00:33, almost a full seven minutes ahead of Marit Bjørgen, who was the second female. Martine Ek Hagen was third, another two and a half minutes behind Bjørgen.
“I have not trained for three weeks, and the conditions were soft and challenging,” Johaug said to NRK after the race.
Petter Northug also participated in the race, but did not finish among the top contenders. According to the race organizers, Northug took his time and even stopped to greet the recreational skiers along the way. He finished in 71st place.
The race featured unseasonally springish conditions, and putting on the race was only possible with the generous efforts of the course volunteers who have been working around the clock the last week to add snow to the lower parts of the course, drain creeks away from the trail.
“We could have raced in bikinis,” Johaug said to NRK, commenting on the warm weather.
Complete results elite waves.
(Sources: NRK.no, Langrenn.com, Skarverennet.com, strafferunden.no.)
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.