Anders Gløersen had planned to sit out Saturday’s World Cup 15-kilometer freestyle interval start in Davos, Switzerland in order to rest for Sunday’s sprint. However, as fate would have it, several teammates came down with illness and Gløerson was placed on the start list.
It turns out fate was in the Norwegian’s favor, as he earned his first World Cup distance victory in convincing fashion.
An early starter with bib 15, Gløersen maintained a consistent pace throughout the majority of the course. While his 2 k time put him in 49th position, the Norwegian was able to increase his speed to give him the fourth fastest time at 12.8 k. It was in the last 3 k, however, where Gløersen won the race.
Crossing the line with a time of 34:27.9, the 28-year-old endured a long wait in the leader’s chair before he officially won. Although he had skied the race of a lifetime, the field’s strongest competitors were still to come, including teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who won last week’s 15 k classic on the same course.
But as time went on, one famed name after another – from hometown-favorite Dario Cologna to Petter Northug – failed to match Gløersen’s effort.
In bib 81, Sundby was the last starter for the men and nearly equalled Gloersen’s times at each split. At the 12.8 k mark, Sundby was only 0.5 seconds off of his teammate’s time. However, as Sundby rounded the corner into the stadium it was clear that he was nowhere near Gløersen.
Knowing that he had skied a near-unbeatable pace in the final kilometers, Gløersen started realize that the victory was his.
“When I saw Martin Sundby behind me after 12.8 km I started to believe I could win. I knew I had a very good final part of the competition,” he said to FIS in a post-race interview.
Gløersen, who has earned victories in four previous World Cup spirnts, said that he was surprised by the result, but that he had high expectations before Saturday’s race due to his increased distance training.
“I have been training for 15 km free technique. This is my first victory in a distance competition and it means a lot for me,” he said to FIS.
Behind Gløersen in second was Northug, who finished 4.8 seconds off the winning time. Northug skied in the top-ten through the majority of the race and then delivered a characteristic strong finish to overcome all but Gløersen.
Northug also said he was surprised by his result.
“I did not feel that good today and I did not think I was fighting for podium. My plan was to keep the high pace from the highest point to the stadium. I felt I had some power left after the two first laps. I had very good last 3 k,” he said to FIS.
Northug told NRK Sport that he knew he was battling Gløersen and fifth place finisher Jean-Marc Gaillard throughout the race, but had no idea it was for the win – or even a podium position.
The finish is Northug’s season-best in a distance race. His best previous finish this winter was in Lillehammer where he had the 14th fastest time in the 15 k classic to give him 15th overall in the mini tour.
Unlike Gløersen and Northug, third place finisher Chris Andre Jespersen did not have a strong finish. At the 12.8 k mark he was the race leader, roughly five seconds ahead of Gløersen and Sundby. By the time he crossed the finish line, however, he was 10.4 seconds back.
“I’m really satisfied with the third place but I was hoping for more. I have never had a good feeling in such a high altitude. The whole race was quite good for me but the last 2 km were really difficult,” he said to FIS.
Jespersen told NRK Sport in a post-race interview that he placed his pole between his legs twice in the final kilometers, with both incidents resulting in a fall. Jespersen said that the falls may have cost him the win, but considering the time he lost, the 31-year-old was pleased to have finished on the podium.
Following Jespersen was Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden in fourth (+11.6), Gaillard in fifth (+13.8), and Sundby in sixth (+14.9). Despite a strong start to the 15 k and a desire to gain his first World Cup victory in his native Switzerland, Cologna finished his day in 10th (+17.1).
The 15 k was the last distance competition of period one racing on the World Cup. As skiers take a short break before starting the Tour de Ski, Sundby is the men’s World Cup leader followed by teammate Finn Hågen Krogh and Hafvarsson in second and third. After today’s race, Northug and Gløersen have advanced to fourth and ninth positions.
Northug explained to NRK that he’s looking forward to the remainder of the season as he searches to find his top form.
“Now I’ll relax and prepare for the Tour de Ski. After the Tour my shape will hopefully get better and better, and in Falun I will have a good feeling for the first time this season,” he said.
World Cup racing continues Sunday in Davos with a 1.4 k freestyle sprint, where Gløersen will look to improve on his third place finish in the same event earlier this December.
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Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.