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In warming temperatures and through clearing skies the men battled their way three times around the challenging 5-kilometer course in Davos. With the noted absences of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, today’s 15 k individual skate title was arguably Alexander Bolshunov’s of Russia for the taking. And take it he did, with a time of 32:46.4, putting himself more than 30 seconds ahead of his fellow countrymen and the remaining field. Completing the Russian sweep of the podium were Andrey Melnichenko in second place and Artem Maltsev in third.
Bolshunov started out strong and only grew stronger. At 2.2 k he was leading by a sliver of time, 1.6 seconds, at 5 k that gap had widened to 16.4 seconds. By 10 k he was 26.3 seconds up on Melnichenko (RUS). Not laying off the gas he continued to push on, finishing with a lead of 32.2 seconds. In a post-race interview with FIS Bolshunov spoke through a translator, saying, “The plan was to go all the loops equally and keep the high pace. He is very happy with the performance of the team and hopes they will keep the high pace until the World Championships”.
Melnichenko maintained solid splits in second place through the entire race, Dario Cologna of Switzerland came within one second at 5 k but ultimately dropped more than 43 seconds to finish 14th. Melnichenko posted the second-fastest time two weeks ago in Ruka in the 15 k skate pursuit, prior to that, his last individual podium was the 3rd fastest time in the final stage of the Tour de Ski, the notorious hill climb up the Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
For Maltsev (RUS), today’s third-place finish is his first individual World Cup podium. His previous top distance result was 6th place in Toblach during a Tour de Ski stage, skate 15 k.
Scott Patterson was the first finisher for the American men in 16th place. “This is my fourth year racing the 15k skate in Davos”, Patterson wrote in an email to Faster Skier. “It is the first year that I actually felt like I had something to give. The last 3 years, it felt like I started out slow and faded, whereas this year I started strong and held on pretty well. I’m psyched on the result from today and looking forward to more racing soon.”
Last year Patterson finished 51st in this same event in Davos. Back in 2018, Patterson began a tear at the PyeongChang Olympics. In three individual events, he placed 18th in the 30 k skiathlon, 21st in the 15 k skate, and 11th in the 50 k classic mass start. He continued his top-20 pattern in Oslo’s 2018 50 k skate, with a solid 16th place. A year later in Oslo, he was 19th in the 50 k classic. Last season, Patterson pulled himself from the World Cup early on and raced domestically for the remainder of the winter. His form and confidence took a hit as he was unable to connect the dots and repeat his 2018 run. Early this year, Patterson is finding his way into the top-30. He concluded the Ruka weekend with the 23rd fastest time of the day in the 15 k skate pursuit.
In reference to watching fellow APU/USST members Rosie Brennan and Hailey Swirbul achieve the podium just hours before the men’s race Patterson wrote, “I watched the women crush on TV and then our guys van arrived at the waxing truck about when they were getting back there. It was quite a celebratory mood and felt like a little pressure that we had to do something impressive as well. Also, seeing those types of performances is always a good indication that our wax techs have done a great job. Once I was warming up though, I was able to get back in the zone and focus on my own racing.”
Post-race interview with Kevin Bolger.
Just outside the top thirty were Kevin Bolger (33rd) and Gus Schumacher (35th). This is Bolger’s best distance finish to date, his previous top distance result being in a stage race in Québec in 2019 where he placed 44th in a 15 k classic mass start. Simi Hamilton, Adam Martin, and Ian Torchia rounded out the finishes for the U.S. men in 38th, 44th, and 49th, respectively.
Post-race interview with U.S. Head Coach Matt Whitcomb discussing the men’s racing.
Results: Men’s 15 k
Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.