FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, is brought to you by the generous support of L.L. Bean, now featuring a complete line of Kikkan Randall training wear.
FALUN, Sweden — Why waste time when you can get the job done? That was Petter Northug’s mentality on his second of three laps in the men’s 6 x 1.4-kilometer freestyle team sprint at 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships on Sunday.
Already on a roll with one gold in the World Championships classic sprint three days earlier, Northug was on a quest for another in the only event he had yet to win at worlds: the team sprint.
With Norwegian teammate Finn Hågen Krogh, the two built an early lead in the final, and Krogh kept them in first on his second lap, handing off to Northug 2.79 seconds ahead of Sweden in second. Soon after, Northug attacked on the longest of the course’s two steep climbs, leaving Sweden’s Teodor Peterson behind.
“In the final, I looked for things to do pretty early,” Northug said in a press conference. “We thought that Sweden wanted high speed in the final when they put Calle [Halfvarsson] on the first leg. I was prepared to fight with [Peterson] on the last leg, but he was sitting on the bike when we were skiing fast.”
As Northug warmed up into his accelerated pace, Russia’s Nikita Kriukov led the chase, heading out six seconds after him. Teammate Alexey Petukhov had tagged him in third, just ahead of Italy and about two seconds in front of France and Germany, and Kriukov proceeded to lead Italy’s Federico Pellegrino and Germany’s Tim Tscharnke in pursuit of Peterson.
They caught the Swede on the second uphill, and the four descended into the stadium and second-to-last exchange together, led by Peterson about eight seconds after Northug.
One lap later, Krogh had increased Norway’s first-place cushion to nearly 16 seconds, while Italy’s Dietmar Nöckler and Halfvarsson raced behind him in second and third, respectively, up the first climb.
On the second uphill, Russia’s Petukhov was back in contact with the chase group, along with Germany’s Thomas Bing, Finland’s Ville Nousiainen, France’s Robin Duvillard, and the Czech Republic’s Ales Razym. Another five seconds back, American Andy Newell led a second group in ninth.
Krogh cruised into the final exchange in first, while Bing led the seven-man pack through 15.68 seconds later.
“Petter didn’t leave me much choice,” Krogh said in the conference about the lead. “When I saw he had the gap, I only had one thing on my mind, it was go hard the rest of the race.”
From there, Northug went through the motions, skiing the third-slowest anchor leg and looking back before the last rise in the stadium to see if anyone was charging from behind.
On that same stadium hill several seconds later, Kriukov attacked one last time to move into second ahead of Tscharnke and Pellegrino. He left both of them behind, securing silver for Russia, 5.64 seconds after Northug and nine-hundredths of a second ahead of Pellegrino, who claimed bronze for Italy.
“We lost only five seconds to Petter, but while we was [waving] the flag and drinking coffee, what can you say,” Kriukov said through a translator in the press conference. “The Norwegians were the best. We are really happy for them.”
The defending world champions in the 2013 freestyle team sprint in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Kriukov and Petukhov were also pleased with themselves.
“I’m happy today,” Petukhov said in the conference through a translator. “Because this silver medal, I have to work hard for it, but of course if you win the race, then you are even higher above, but still I am very happy.”
Tscharnke was 0.38 seconds short of the podium in fourth, which was Germany’s second wooden medal of the day after Nicole Fessel and Denise Herrmann placed fourth in the women’s team sprint.
Finland’s Martti Jylhä finished another 7.55 seconds back in fifth, 13.66 seconds after Northug, and the Czech Republic placed sixth with Dusan Kozisek coming through 16.73 seconds after the winners.
While Simi Hamilton skied the fourth-fastest anchor leg for the U.S., the Americans placed seventh (+17.48) ahead of Poland in ninth (+26.46), Sweden in 10th (+47.43) and France in 10th (+1:01.04).
Petukhov inadvertently took out Sweden — the silver medalists in the 2013 World Championships team sprint — when he came into the last exchange with such high speed that he fell and broke Peterson’s pole as Peterson was about to start on his last lap.
“I could not have done anything differently; I went to Teodor and apologized from the bottom of my heart,” Petukhov told Aftonbladet, according to a translation. “I cannot speak English so I do not know what he said, but I think we understood each other.”
“He arrived and apologized. There is no evil in him, but he knows he did wrong,” Peterson told Aftonbladet.
After breaking a pole in Saturday’s skiathlon, in which he placed sixth, Halfvarsson called the bad luck “just crap.”
“Why is this happening? I broke a pole yesterday and now we break a pole on the last lap. It is pure bad luck,” he said to Aftonbladet.
France also fell out of contention in the men’s final, after Duvillard had skied up to fifth at the halfway point behind Krogh. One lap later, they were still in the mix with Baptiste Gros in sixth, and Duvillard tagged them in seventh for the last lap, which was where they ran into trouble.
Coming down the last descent into the stadium, Gros crashed suddenly at the bottom; his ski popped off and he sprawled out on the ground for several moments. He ended up finishing, nearly 14 seconds after Sweden.
Earlier in the afternoon, France placed second to Italy in the first semifinal, one-hundredth of a second ahead of Sweden in third. While Italy and France automatically advanced, Sweden ended up moving on as well as one of the six-fastest lucky loser times among 28 teams. Finland and the Czech Republic also ended up advancing out of that semifinal.
Norway won the second, slower semifinal after Northug set the pace for that heat on his second lap and forced everyone else to contend for a top-two finish to guarantee a spot in the final. Russia placed second in that heat, ahead of the U.S., which also advanced in third, and Germany and Poland made the final as well.
Kazakhstan, which took bronze in the 2013 World Championships team sprint, did not advance to the final and placed 18th overall. Norway didn’t reach the team-sprint final in Val di Fiemme, where Pål Golberg and Northug finished 11th.
“We had a really bad team sprint in Val di Fiemme and also in Oslo [in 2011 where] we lost the team sprint in the last meters to Canada,” he said in the press conference. “So it feels really good to win the World Championships in a team sprint — it’s good to have checked off all the distances.”
With three races to go and 11 World Championships golds to his name, he’s still looking for more.
“I milk [my] base for all its worth,” he told NRK, referring to his altitude training before and after Norwegian nationals late last month. “That makes racing really fun, and I’m planning on riding that flow the coming week as well.”
— Inge Scheve contributed reporting
- 6 x 1.4 k freestyle team sprint
- Ales Razym
- Alexey Petukhov
- Andy Newell
- Baptiste Gros
- calle halfvarsson
- Dietmar Nöckler
- Dusan Kozisek
- Finn Hagen Krogh
- freestyle team sprint
- Martti Jylhä
- Nikita Kriukov
- Norwegian men
- Petter Northug
- Robin Duvillard
- Simi Hamilton
- Team Sprint
- Teodor Peterson
- Thomas Bing
- Tim Tscharnke
- Ville Nousiainen
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.