CANMORE, Alberta – Thursday was a good one for Tim Tscharnke before it started. On his 23rd birthday, the German had some basic goals for the men’s 15-kilometer classic mass start, but once he realized how fast his skis were and how good he was feeling, he dug a little deeper.
Following close behind 35-year-old teammate Tobias Angerer, who last skied in Canmore at the 1997 Junior World Ski Championships (where he tallied two distance top 30s), Tscharnke searched within himself on the last of four laps for something, anything else.
“[I] realized I had some more petrol,” Tscharnke said in a press conference.
The extra gas and timing turned out to be key as Tscharnke skied away on the final climb and held off his contenders on the following flat. He then double poled like crazy down into the stadium, throwing his arms up at the finish and nearly buckling at the knees at his birthday achievement. It was Tscharnke’s first World Cup victory and first individual podium.
He finished in 41:14.8, considerably slower than most World Cup 15 k courses and a testament to its difficulty at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level. Roethe trailed 4.8 seconds behind and notched second for his first World Cup podium. Angerer took third (+5.8), an individual World Cup best (outside of stages) as well.
Three Germans made the top six, after Hannes Dotzler held his own near the front early in the race and placed sixth (+9.3) behind Russia’s Evgeniy Belov in fourth (+6.2) and Italy’s Giorgio Di Centa in fifth (+8.7).
Belov, 22, was in the running for the podium before Roethe outsprinted him and Angerer to the line. Di Centa, 40, remained competitive throughout the race in his 227th World Cup start.
“We were very strong as a team today,” Tscharnke said in a press conference. “We had very good skis.”
Feeds also worked for the Germans, who appeared to be among the few taking them. Angerer dropped outside the top 15 near the end of the second lap when he took one, and teammate Thomas Bing was vying for the lead before taking a feed just before that.
A few minutes later, Bing regained his spot behind Norwegian leaders Chris Andre Jespersen and Roethe and next to Emil Jönsson (SWE). Meanwhile, Angerer worked his way to the front and was the second to Belov at the bonus preem at 9.7 k. Angerer took the lead for the final lap as Belov followed, and by the high point of the course, Tscharnke stuck behind his teammate to get in the top three. More than five seconds back with two kilometers to go, Dotzler, Russia’s Andrey Larkov, Di Centa, Roethe and Jespersen tried to catch up.
Speed turned out to be on the Germans’ side, as Angerer and Tscharnke sandwiched Belov and dropped him in the final kilometer.
“The downhills were our friends, not our enemy,” Tscharnke said.
The chase pack absorbed Belov on the final downhill and Roethe skied around him to catch Angerer before the finish.
Tscharnke said he “could not have hoped for a better result,” and Angerer said the Germans’ performance, with several taking turns up front, was a must for team morale. Jens Filbrich finished 13th (+31.2), and Bing was ultimately 21st (+1:10.1).
“Today was the first time this season that we showed everyone that we are in good performance,” Angerer said. “The first two weeks we were a little tired. We trained a lot.
“For me, I need to get the confidence in the mass starts to see if I can do the right things in the right place,” he added. “Today was good. … [I] wish every World Cup could be here.”
Roethe echoed the enthusiasm after outsprinting Angerer and Belov to the finish.
“I have had a few fourth places in the World Cup,” the 24-year-old said. “Finally I reached the podium. A little hard in the first lap, [but the] third and fourth, I felt really good.”
Also: Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) in bib No. 1 crashed on a downhill at the end of the first lap and later withdrew from the race. Larkov ended up seventh, Jespersen placed eighth and Jonsson was ninth.
Alex Harvey led the Canadians in 11th for his best result this season, and Kris Freeman (USA) went from skiing in the top 10 to finishing 14th for his best performance of 2012/2013 as well.
— Topher Sabot contributed reporting
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.