Lukas Bauer’s (CZE) masterfully paced race ousted Eldar Roenning (NOR) from the victors chair today in Kuusamo, Finland, allowing the veteran Czech to claim his first victory since 2010. Bauer’s pace in the 10k classic race saw his split times trailing throughout the first 8k to both Roenning and Dmitriy Japarov (RUS), before accelerating in the final kilometers to best Roenning’s time by just 2.4 seconds.
Japarov took third, 5.7 seconds behind Bauer and just over three behind the Norwegian.
Martin Sundby (NOR) was the early leader followed, surprisingly, by the sprinter Pål Golberg (NOR), who ultimately placed an impressive 4th. But once Roenning hit the course, all else would trail until Japarov started. It appeared to be the Norwegian’s day as he looked comfortable on the climbs and gradually opened a gap.
The Russian went out hard and fast, taking 10 seconds off of Roenning’s time at 3.1k. At 6.4k he increased his lead by another second. That was the high water mark for Japarov however, and he began to pay the price for his early breakneck pace.
At the 8k split Japarov’s lead was down to 5 seconds. His energy continued to fade over the last kilometers, and visibly exhausted, he labored up the final climb to the stadium.
Unable to maintain his lead, he finished 3.3 seconds behind Roenning.
“I’m a bit disappointed with today’s result,” the Russian told FIS. “I was hoping for victory. On the other hand…It’s very nice to start the season with a podium. I hope I can do such result again.”
Bauer, his splits steadily trailing throughout the race, did not appear to be a threat for the win. until 2k from the finish he turned up his pace considerably, charging up the final climb and sprinting into the stadium to snatch victory away from fellow classic specialist Roenning.
After the race Bauer told FIS, “I have extreme experience from Kuusamo, it’s been either successful or disaster, nothing in between. It’s nice I could enjoy a great day. Yesterday’s sprint was a disaster for me, 104th place was not good. I did not feel the best today but the snow conditions fit me very well.”
Roenning, speaking to Norwegian broadcaster NRK, said that he is “a little bitter that he [Bauer] hung on me in the first round. He got a good ending, but I’m pleased with second place. I go fast from start to finish.”
Coming through the lap after the first 3.1km loop, Roenning found Bauer headed out of the start. The Czech caught a ride from Roenning, much to his advantage.
Although Bauer seized his advantage in the final 2k, Roenning felt he did well at the end of the course telling FIS “I felt quite good and had a fast 2.0 km before the finish. It was an exciting competition. I have not been in the yellow bib for almost seven years. Tomorrow is skating and I have no hopes to be in top 10.”
Three North Americans finished in the top 30. With Ivan Babikov in 21st, Noah Hoffman in 28th, and Alex Harvey in 30th.
Pasha Kahn writes and coaches in Duluth, Minnesota.