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Laid out like a white magic carpet along the Elbe River in Dresden, Germany, the thin ribbon of snow became the speedy tracks for the men’s 1.3-kilometer freestyle sprint on Saturday. While the state of Saxony, where Dresden is situated, went on lockdown this week, Federico Pellegrino of Italy was unleashed, yet again.
After qualifying in fourth behind fastest qualifier Lucas Chanavat from France, Pellegrino boxed out, out-paced, and out-foxed the six-athlete final to win in 2:21:96. Last week’s sprint winner in Davos for back-to-back wins. This is Pellegrino’s 15th individual World Cup title, to place third overall for the most career sprint wins on the World Cup. (Johannes Høsflot Klæbo of Norway has 24 wins, while the now-retired Emil Jönsson of Sweden won 16 sprints.)
“After Davos, for sure my confidence went up, really up, and I knew I had a good chance to win,” said, Pellegrino in his post-race interview with FIS, “Two years ago I was disqualified and last year somebody took me down… so today by the semi-final I didn’t want to get any risk so I went in the front.”
Pellegrino advanced to the final after winning the first quarterfinal and placing second to Andrew Young (28) in the first semifinal. Great Britain’s Young continued his impressive rise to the elite level as he placed second on Saturday, a scant 0.53 seconds off Pellegrin’s winning time. Last weekend in Davos, Young earned his first World Cup podium since 2015, when he placed third overall in the skate sprint. Russia’s Gleb Retivykh placed third (+0.91) for the podium’s final spot. Teammate Alexander Bolshunov, the overall leader of the men’s World Cup, was fourth (+1.19). Two Americans advanced to the finals. Simi Hamilton, for his best 2020-2021 result skied to fifth (+1.80), and Kevin Bolger sixth (+3.95).
For the thirty-three-year-old Hamilton, in his third individual sprint of the season, he has steadily improved. After placing 50th in the Ruka classic sprint, he qualified ninth and placed 14th in Davos, cresting with his fifth place in Dresden. Hamilton did not start last year’s Dresden sprint as he recovered from illness.
Post-race interview with Simi Hamilton.
“I think there were a lot more good things than bad things that came out of today,” said Hamilton. “Those will become more clear as I go forward. … I feel like I regained a lot of confidence today with my top-end speed which I feel I haven’t had in a few years just with getting older and losing a little bit of power. On a day like today when you have such a fast flat course, you are not going to have a good qualifier and you are not going to ski in the finals if you don’t at least have a little bit of sprinter strength still. So I think that was a really good sign.”
Since Bolger broke onto the scene after placing 11th in the 2018 Lahti, Finland skate sprint, Saturday’s result marked his 12th career top-30 World Cup result. However, since that Lahti semi, Bolger has a run of semi-final droughts. His sixth place in Dresden is a result high-mark for the U.S. Ski Team athlete as he advanced to his first sprint final after progressing through the semis along with Hamilton as lucky losers.
Bolger looked at ease in the final, his big-frame keeping pace, until he snapped a pole. He did eventually receive a spare, fiddled with the grip, and reconnected to the pack of five skiers slightly upfront.
“I was on cloud nine I was psyched to be there,” Bolger said of his first sprint final appearance. “Even going back [a bit], once you make the semi-final anything is possible, and then making that final was an extra cherry on top. From there I wanted to try and just ski fast in any possible way that I could. From the gun I just went for it and had a really great start … I got unlucky with that pole break but just getting there is such a relief because … I came onto the scene in Lahti with that 11th, and there has been this big elephant in the room, ‘when am I going to get back to the semi-final again?’ Doing it today and getting to a final is like a huge monkey off my back.”
Post-race interview with Kevin Bolger.
Also for the U.S., JC Schoonmaker and Logan Hanneman advanced beyond qualification. Schoonmaker, who qualified in 22nd, placed third in the first quarterfinal. The twenty-year-old Schoonmaker finished 14th overall, for a career-best result. Schoonmaker’s first World Cup was last season here in Dresden when he placed 30th.
Hanneman moved onto the semi-finals for the second weekend in a row. In Davos, he placed ninth overall, a career-best. Today, he fell off the pace in the first semi where he placed sixth. He concluded the day 12th overall.
Gus Schumacher (20), finished in 43rd, while Tyler Kornfield was 52nd.
Considering the World Cup sprint series, Pellegrino leads with 220 points, Bolshunov is second with 170, and Young is third with 152. Hamilton is eighth, Bolger ninth, and Hanneman 11th, respectively.
Racing continues in Dresden with a team sprint on Sunday.