With the course re-routed from the original 38-kilometer mass start skate to essentially an out and back into Meråker, Norway’s ski stadium, the day belonged to Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov who appears, at this point in the season, to be unstoppable in the distance events.
In a post-race interview, Devon Kershaw noted that men paced it World-Cup comfortable for much of the first portion of the race. In other words, the effort up-front, although speedy for most, was not a break apart the 79 starters into small groups of similarly paced pockets of effort.
Fast forward to the 14 k mark, and 32 men came through the time check within 1.8 seconds. At that point, Jens Burman of Sweden was driving that train.
Through the race mid-point, the pack faced a steady headwind. Tactically, it made sense for any would-be endurance escape artist to wait until the turn home on the mostly out and back course, when a tailwind could aid their efforts, to make a move.
Sjur Røthe of Norway took big pulls leading as did his teammate Finn Hågen Krogh. Later in the race, Emil Iversen too sensed some podium opportunity. We could expand the list. But that would perhaps overshadow Bolshunov.
A select group began to pick up the pace as skiers sped towards the 20 k time bonus. This included Røthe, Krogh, Bolshunov, Iversen, and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo who came through the check-in 17th. (This was not the Norwegian national champs, although nine Norwegians, at that point, jammed the front 17 spots.)
Post-20 k time bonus, Bolshunov wound up, uncoiled, and made a decisive move. He set off solo, accelerating ahead of the pack of star names, and was able to gap the chase by 51.7 seconds at the finish for a solo effort win in 1:19:34.9.
Klæbo placed second (+51.7), and hometown skier Iversen third (+51.8). Places fourth through 11th were separated by roughly nine seconds.
Bolshunov leads the Ski Tour 2020 with a total time of 2:26:16 hours after four stages. Golberg is second (+1:05), and Røthe third (+1:06).
David Norris was the top North American in 26th (+3:08.7). Ben Lustgarten placed 51st (+5:30), Kevin Bolger 69th (+8:06.7), Simi Hamilton 74th (+9:28.1), and Logan Hannmen 76th (+9:39.3).
Canada’s Evan Palmer-Charrette skied to 37th (+3:46.0), Russell Kennedy 39th (+3:59.9), Alexis Dumas 67th (+7:32.3), and Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier 77th (+13:03.6).
Racing continues Saturday in Trondheim with a 1.5 k classic sprint, the sixth stage of the Ski Tour 2020.
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.