The men’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint final on Sunday in Beitostølen, Norway, shaped up quite nicely for the home nation, the only country out of six with any athletes in the final. Even so, the all-Norwegian sprint finalists showed no mercy on one another, as Eirik Brandsdal was all smiles after beating Petter Northug by 0.6 seconds in the final.
For the 29-year-old sprint specialist, race tactics were key to Brandsdal’s win.
“In the finals, I got [what I] desired and planned,” he told Langrenn, according to a translation. “I knew that Pål [Golberg] would go strongly in front and that Petter would lie slightly behind.”
With no no room for hesitation, Brandsdal accelerated up the final rise in order to get in front and sped toward the finish ahead of Northug.
After he made his move past Northug, Brandsdal recalled thinking one thing, ” ‘Do not look back. Imagine that you have the devil at your heels.’ “
He told Adressa that “It was great to keep ‘the king’ behind [me] and on the run. It only [makes me] look forward to Kuusamo. I guess we have a new challenge there.”
The World Cup season starts in less than two weeks in Kuusamo, Finland.
While Brandsdal won the final in 3:38.3 — the fastest course time of the day — Northug placed second and Pål Golberg was third, 1.2 seconds back.
The runner-up by six-tenths of a second, Northug declined to comment after the final. Throughout the day, his sprint rounds were nothing short of interesting, starting with his quarterfinal, which Northug won by 0.2 seconds over Norwegian up-and-comer Emil Nyeng, 24. Nyeng (Ringebu-Faavang Skiklubb) won the qualifier to start the day by 1.9 seconds over 23-year-old Sindre Odberg Palm (Spydeberg Il).
Also in that quarterfinal, Northug, 29, faced off against his two younger brothers, Tomas, 25, and Even, 20. While Northug and Nyeng automatically advanced in the top two, France’s Baptiste Gros moved on as a lucky loser in third, and Tomas and Even placed fourth and fifth in the heat, respectively.
“I know that I am better than them,” Petter Northug said of his brothers to Langrenn. “I did not choose [to] start as number two, but I gave my place to Even and stood in the second row.”
Northug qualified 11th, Even was 20th in the qualifier and Tomas made the cut in 30th.
The trio didn’t back off the pace, posting the second-fastest quaterfinal heat time. In the end, however, only Petter advanced to the semifinals. There, Northug and Brandsdal raced neck-and-neck to the line, ending in a photo finish for the win. They advanced with identical times.
Previously, Brandsdal, who qualified fifth, topped Golberg by 0.6 seconds to win their quarterfinal.
One name missing from the sprint final was Norwegian sprint specialist Ola Vigen Hattestad, who did not advance past the quarterfinals. Instead, Palm, Morten Eide Pedersen and Martin Løstrøm Nyenget rounded out the final, finishing fourth (+2.8), fifth (+4.9) and sixth (+6.5), respectively.
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.