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The team sprint is like a pump rocket, slowly building pressure for a final eruptive takeoff. Six 0.65 km laps each in rapid succession. Short recoveries between legs mean the athletes slowly wind up the effort while staying out of trouble, not wanting the rocket to misfire and lose it’s peak potential. Stay in the pack, drafting and in control, don’t crash or break a pole are sound strategies.
The men’s event evidenced this metaphor perfectly. The pack stayed close and looked comfortable with no crashes through the first half. As the final four exchanges progressed, you could feel the pressure from the pump steadily rise (in this case, three pumps wearing red, navy, or royal blue lycra) fighting against the confines of the bottle.
At the 7th exchange, just after the half-way mark, the pressure reached its limit and the launch began. Richard Jouve of the France 1 team accelerated from the exchange zone, making an effective push to stretch out the field. Italy’s Francesco De Fabiani and Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov kept close on his tails, and although the remaining pack did not immediately lose contact, it became increasingly clear who the podium contenders would be.
Next exchange, Russia took the reins, with Gleb Retivykh setting pace. Yesterday’s sprint winner Federico Pellegrino looked confident as he tucked in behind the Russian, the winners of the two qualifying rounds squaring off. Lucas Chavanat of France kept close contact in third.
Russia continued their up-tempo from the front during the final lap where the three leading teams separated from the chasers. Heading into the lanes, all three teams had a chance. Retivykh took charge off of looker’s left, while Chavanat fought for centimeters on lookers right. Pellegrino tucked in behind the Frenchman, priming himself to sneak a boot around at the line.
Real estate was limited and Retivykh had unmatched finishing speed on the day, crossing the line for the win in 15:01.14. Chavanat stopped the clock +0.19 seconds behind in second, and Pellegrino carried the Italians to third (+0.58).
“It is a very nice competition every time we come to Dresden…” Retivykh told FIS after the race. “We worked together really well and with tactics. The Russian teams took the podium today for women and men. We’re happy.”
Prior to today’s win, Russia was in a three-year drought for team sprint victories. Russia last won the event in February, 2017 during a pre-Olympic World Cup in PyeongChang, China. Retivykh was also the anchor on that day.
Behind the podium finishers, the U.S. team of Kevin Bolger and Simi Hamilton stayed in the mix, skiing strong in the middle of the pack and close to the leaders through the final two laps. With two laps of the course to go, Bolger and Hamilton began to lose contact along with the remaining teams, fading from 2 seconds back at 6.5 k to finish 12.57 seconds behind in 9th.
“Even though the result wasn’t exactly what we wanted today I thought we skied really well and fought through both heats,” wrote Hamilton after the race. “I felt great in our semi, and still pretty good for the final, but things were incredibly scrappy and we just kind of kept getting caught in the back with tangles, broken poles, and the likes. Team sprinting can be so fun and so frustrating at the same time, but it was just really, really cool to ski with Kevin today and I’m so psyched with how he’s skiing right now.”
The Bolger-Hamilton duo had placed fifth in the first semi-final in a tight finish, 0.69 seconds behind winners Italy I ( De Fabiani and Pellegrino).
In the second men’s semi-final, the U.S. team of Logan Hanneman and JC Schoonmaker placed 10th (+27.21) and did not advance.
The World Cup takes a holiday break until the Tour de Ski which is scheduled to begin on January 1.
Men’s Team Sprint Final Results: Final Results
– Harald Zimmer contributed
Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646