With about 50 meters to go in the men’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint on Sunday in Beitostøelen, Norway, Petter Northug engaged the turbo and overtook fellow Norwegian Sondre Turvoll Fossli right at the finish line — exactly the way we are used to seeing him: relentless.
“This was OK. I wanted to get a day with four tough sprint efforts and that’s what I got,” Northug, 28, told the Norwegian TV station NRK after the race.
“It’s useful to practice have a chance to practice how to race heats, how to keep your body going between heats and best prepare for the next effort before we’re headed into the World Cup season,” he added. “You don’t really get a chance to practice that off the snow.”
For him, this was simply a drill and part of the prep for the World Cup opener next weekend in Kuusamo, Finland.
Got to let them win sometimes
Fossli, 21, won the qualifier in 3:25.76 minutes, 1.69 seconds ahead of Norway’s Pål Golberg. Northug qualified ninth, 3.38 seconds back from Fossli. And while Northug took the cake at the end of the day, up-and-coming Fossli raced an impressive final, leading much of the way and had a small gap on the field coming into the stadium.
Fossli finished second in his quarterfinal and won his semifinal, and thought he might be able to pull off the victory.
“I had a faint hope that maybe I would be able to keep [Northug] behind me and win the race, but when he was that close on the final stretch and he had skate skis while I had kick wax,” Fossli said. “I expected him to pass me.”
Northug won the final in 3:32.3, four-tenths of a second ahead of Fossli, and Norway’s Johan Kjølstad was another 0.7 seconds back in third. Golberg placed fourth (+4.1), and two more Norwegians Timo Bakken and Ola Vigen Hattestad were fifth (+6.4) and sixth (+6.6), respectively. Norway swept the top nine.
“You just need to let an old veteran win once in a while,” Fossli said jokingly of Northug, noting that he feels like he has more to offer.
His goal for the season is to establish himself on the top 50 percent of the World Cup standings.
The conditions in Beitostølen on Sunday gave the wax crews plenty to work on: falling precipitation and lots of it in form of wet, sticky and slow snow at minus 9 degrees Celsius (about 16 Fahrenheit).
Northug was one of only two racers in the final who double poled all of the heats. Many of the racers started out with skate skis and no wax, but most of them chose to ski on kick wax as the heats progressed and the conditions got slower.
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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.