TOBLACH, Italy – Norwegian Eldar Roenning, who is not a strong skater, was disappointed with his performance in the 35k Cortina to Toblach pursuit.
Starting in 10th, he started hard, hoping to get in a group with Marcus Hellner (SWE) and Lukas Bauer (CZE).
“But after five minutes I was so tired I had to just let it go,” he told FasterSkier.
He backed off and after reaching the high point, his race began to turn around. He ended up in a group with Curdin Perl (SUI), and Italians Thomas Moriggl and Roland Clara.
He fell from all the way to 24th place, and described the first 15k of the race as “terrible.”
It was a different story for 26-year-old Lars Nelson of Sweden. Hardly a household name on the World Cup, Nelson said he has been having an excellent Tour.
He placed 31st in the pursuit, holding position, and is looking to crack the top-30 at the top of the Alpe Cermis.
He told FasterSkier that he trained on an alpine hill at home in Sweden in preparation.
“I came here with no anticipation,” Nelson said. “For me it is a great tour so far.”
The big names on the Swedish men’s team have not had such a good time of it, with both Emil Joensson and Marcus Hellner suffering some major disappointments.
Nelson said that spirits are still high and that “of course some people are not satisfied immediately after the race, but a couple hours later they are ready to go again.”
The Swedish press officer confirmed this, saying that the team was in good shape after a pep talk, and that Hellner’s spectacular performance in the pursuit would be a major lift.
On the topic of lesser-known skiers from major ski powerhouses, Niklas Dryhaug (NOR), skied a strong pursuit, moving up to 16th from 20th.
He finished at the front of a pack of five skiers, and said the men joined forces to maximize speed.
“We worked very well together and talked about it before the race,” Dryhaug said. “I am really satisfied with the team work and 16th place is good for me.”
In Saturday’s 20k, he will be working for Petter Northug (NOR), trying to get the star bonus seconds.
“We will fight together, all the Norwegians, and hopefully get Petter on top in Alpe Cermis,” Dryhaug said.
When asked if Northug still had a shot at the overall title, he said ”
It is possible, but it is a very big challenge for the moment. Petter took very many seconds in Val di Fiemme last year [in the 20k]. If Petter is in good shape in the weekend anything can happen.”
Maurice Manificat (FRA) thinks otherwise. Sitting in 6th place, just seconds out of second, he sees the only race is for number two.
“To catch Dario? No it is impossible. The second place, the podium, but not Dario,” Manificat said.
Devon Kershaw (CAN) had what he termed as “probably the best skate race of my career.” He worked in conjunction with Manificat and Hellner.
He had nothing but praise for the Swede.
“You talk about mental toughness, Hellner is so storng mentally…and today was a really good indication. He is a classy athlete, super classy,” Kershaw said.
He also added that when Hellner went to front to pull the chase pack, “I was slobbering like a Saint Bernard in the summer.”