Sjur Røthe of Norway won a thrilling photo finish against Switzerland’s Dario Cologna in the 50 k skate race in Oslo, Norway, to cap of the men’s World Cup cross country ski season.
Many different skiers put in their time at the front as the field wound its way around and around the Holmenkollen venue’s 50 k course. Robin Duvillard of France and Anders Gløersen of Norway had the most successful breakaway, going to the front when the rest of the field swapped skis at 33 k and holding onto their break for almost six kilometers.
Closer to the finish, Cologna put in a big surge to try to break away. But four skiers followed him: Røthe and Norwegian teammates Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Hans Christer Holund, and Belarus’s 41-year-old Sergei Dolidovich.
Most of the field couldn’t keep up, but Sweden’s Marcus Hellner saw the break happening and fought his way through the chase pack before bridging the gap. In the final kilometer he skied into the middle of the lead pack, at times in second or third place.
But the race came down to what happened in the stadium, with the Norwegians and Cologna attacking up the final uphill and over the bridge above the biathlon range. As they dropped down to the finish, it looked like Hellner might snag a podium spot. Instead, either his legs or his skis were slower than the rest, and he slipped back through the pack of six.
Røthe led to the line, but Cologna put in a furious sprint and a well-timed lunge to get a photo finish. The two ended up with the same time but Røthe was enough in front that he has been crowned champion of the famous 50 k race. Sundby was third, Dolidovich fourth, Hellner fifth, and Holund sixth.
Canada’s Alex Harvey was in the lead pack until the last five kilometers, and when the pace surged he couldn’t keep up. He finished 13th, +52.6. The only other Canadian in the race, Ivan Babikov, finished 27th, +4:59.
Brian Gregg of Team Gregg led the United States, placing 35th +6:47. Noah Hoffman crossed the line in 44th, +8:55, and Erik Bjornsen dropped out.
Rarely figuring into the race was Petter Northug of Norway, the World Champion in the 50 k classic just two weeks ago in Falun, Sweden. Northug was in the lead pack early but was dropped with over ten kilometers still to go. He plummeted through the field and finished 39th, almost eight minutes back.