Not only did 22-year-old Iivo Niskanen score his first World Cup podium on Sunday, but he won the first World Cup distance race of the season, the 15-kilometer classic, at home Kuusamo, Finland.
Niskanen consistently skied some of the fastest splits of the day, with Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin putting the squeeze on for the first few kilometers of the race. Vylegzhanin later faded, finishing 11th overall, and it was Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby who ended up coming closest to Niskanen by the finish.
But 10.3 seconds back in second, Sundby wasn’t much of a threat. Niskanen jumped out of the leader’s chair and ran with his skis in hand down the finishing stretch to thank the crowd. He led two Finns on the podium, with Sami Jauhojärvi in third, 12.5 seconds behind Niskanen’s wining time of 35:09.4.
Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaug was bumped from the leader’s chair to fourth overall (+12.5), and Russia’s Alexander Bessmertnykh finished fifth (+19.7). Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson was sixth, Canada’s Alex Harvey seventh, Norway’s Simen Håkon Østensen eighth, Pål Golberg ninth, and Finland’s Matti Heikkinen 10th.
Vylegzhanin tied Norway’s Didrik Tønseth for 11th (+37.5).
The second Canadian in the top 15, Devon Kershaw placed 14th (+42.1).
North American results:
7. Alex Harvey (CAN)
14. Devon Kershaw (CAN)
52. Erik Bjornsen (USA)
57. Ivan Babikov (CAN)
69. Simi Hamilton (USA)
71. Graeme Killick (CAN)
82. Reese Hanneman (USA)
83. Andy Newell (USA)
Noah Hoffman DNF