Petr Novak of the Czech Republik and Estonian marathon specialist Tatjana Mannima won Saturday’s 51-kilometer Bieg Piastów classic race in Poland.
With the victory, Mannima move into the FIS Marathon Cup leader’s bib, passing American Holly Brooks by 17 points. Mannima led the FIS Marathon Cup after her victory in the Tartu Marathon earlier this month, but had to turn over the red bib to Brooks after last weekend’s American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis.
Novak increases his gap in the overall FIS Marathon Cup by 89 points over France’s Benoit Chauvet.
The Bieg Piastów served up a race day with challenging-and-changing conditons. The day started with -1-degree Celsius temperatures and some foggy weather, but during the race, the sun burned through the fog, lightening spirits while complicating waxing.
Setting up for a thriller
In the women’s race, the skiers stayed in a pack for around 25 k. Lapping through the stadium, Brooks was caught behind a racer grabbing a drink and had to let the other women go, she explained to the organizers after the race. Brooks never managed to bridge the gap.
That left Mannima, Klara Moravcova of the Czech Republic and France’s Aurelie Dabudyk to battle out the podium places. Mannima won the sprint finish and secured her third classic win on the FIS Marathon Cup this season. Moravcova was second (+3.7) and Dabudyk took third (+5.5). Brooks placed fourth, 3:46.3 off the podium and 3:51.8 behind Mannima in first.
“It was a hard race, but I had very good skis, especially in the downhills,” Mannima said. “I had a big advantage of good glide, which helped me a lot. … I am very happy win here today, and to get the red bib back again. I hope I can now keep it until the end of the season.”
With today’s victory Mannima leads with 427 points, while Brooks in second place has 410 points. Dabudyk is in third place with 354 points. With two races left, it will be a tough fight for the overall victory until the end.
Novak set out with a plan
On the men’s side, the race took a clear direction early on, and by 26 k, only seven men, including the podium contenders, were left in the lead pack. With 10 k to go, Novak and Stanislav Rezac, also of the Czech Republic, made their moves and dropped Chauvet.
The Frenchman was the only one of the former seven racers who was still with them at that point. It looked as if the finish of this year’s La Transjurassiene would be repeated, but Novak made his move on a short uphill before the finish and kept on pushing for first in 2:19:19.7. Rezac finished second (+2.1) and Chauvet battled alone to claim third (+1:58.5).
“After the waxing disaster in the U.S., I came home very disappointed and did not feel well,” Novak told organizers after the race. “On the other hand, it gave me some extra motivation to have a good race today.”
“I wanted to be at the head of the race to control the situation and not to spend too much energy,” he added. “I knew that with Rezac, I would need to save enough energy for the finish sprint. I thought that he would start pushing hard on the last uphill, and I needed to keep up with him there. One k before the finish there was a little bump, and I took my chance and accelerated there. Luckily, I was able to keep the gap until the finish line.”
FIS Marathon Cup overall
With the victory today, Novak increased his lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Novak now has 404 points. Chauvet is in second place with 315 points, and Sergio Bonaldi of Italy is third with 223 points.
More than 1,500 skiers representing 27 countries participated in Saturday’s 51 k classic marathon.
– Inge Scheve