With wet snow falling one of the must exciting races in Nordic ski racing has started. Norway has set the pace for most of the first lap, but coming through the stadium Devon Kershaw of the Canadian team decided to take a turn up at the front of the pack. Andy Newell of the United States is hanging strong a few rows back in this first classic leg.
At 4.3km Daniel Richardsson (SWE) has moved to the front to push the pace. Germany sits second and Norway is hanging in third, while the Canadian team is sitting just behind. For the most part the skiers have gone from skiing in a pack to a long line as they go out on course for the second lap.
The group is still together after the second lap as they enter the stadium once again. On their way out onto the third lap the efforts are lifting with the French team’s Jean Marc Gaillard moving to the front to push the pace. Now at 7.6km the Frenchman is trying to break away from the pack.
Nearing the end of the first lap, about 1km from the finish, Gaillard had built up a large lead (maybe 200m), but crashed and his entire margin disappeared. The Finnish team tags in first.
Andy Newell (USA) tagged Torin Koos in 12th position. He was visibly exhausted as he among other skiers collapsed to the ground to recover.
CLASSIC LEG 2:
The lead pack is five with France, Finland, Sweden, Germany and Norway all 25 seconds in front of the chase pack which includes Canada and the Czech Republic.
After the first lap the French team led through the stadium, but shortly afterwards as they left the stadium Johan Olsson (SWE) took over the pace setting and has dropped the Finnish team. Lukas Bauer is attempting to bridge from the chase pack to the leaders and now at 4.3km is only 7 seconds from the back of the four up front. He has passed the Finnish team.
While the front four double pole with a rhythmic tempo, Bauer is hammering to reach the back of their pack. He now has, and the lead pack is five.
As they ski up the courses final climb before dropping into the stadium their technique is all very similar. This is ‘big boy skiing’ at its finest – lots of long poppy striding and snappy double-poling. Maybe with the exception of Germany’s Axel Teichmann, who displays the upright stance and shorter stride which has become his trademark.
Vincent Vittoz (FRA) has moved to the front to once again push the pace. The Swedish team has jumped in right behind him following his lead, while the other skiers seem to be struggling to keep pace. Lukas Bauer has bridged the small gap to France and Sweden with Norway and Germany just behind.
Sweden’s Johan Olsson has made his move and is hammering trying to break Bauer and Vittoz. Teichmann is off the back and Norway’s Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset has fallen even further still.
The top three are all separated by just a few seconds now as they tag the skate skiers. You can visibly see the efforts on the faces of the skiers as they come into the stadium. This is gold medal is worth more then any other. This is the biggest deal!
Kazakhstan skier Alexey Poltaranin skied a great second leg, lifting them just past Norway into fifth place after two legs.
SKATE LEG 1:
Sweden, France and the Czech Republic are skiing together and 1km into the third leg they now hold a 30 second lead over Norway and the rest of the chase pack.
After the first lap the lead three is clear, equally clear is that they are not playing any games. They know that if they keep the pace high that they will all have a better chance of a medal. The chase pack includes Norway, Germany, Finland and Russia, all of which have very strong anchor legs, especially Norway – we don’t even have to mention who it is.
The lead three continue to switch the lead each nation helping with the pace setting. However, the chase pack is led by Norway with the other nations seemingly saying you’re the one with all the pressure to win, bring us up there. At the 4.3km mark though the margin has increased, now to 35 seconds.
Now at 6.6km France’s Maurice Manifecat sets the pace, the look on his face is one of complete anguish. Sweden’s Anders Sodergren and the Czech Republic’s Jiri Magal follow right behind. On the final climb before dropping into the stadium Sweden has opened up a small margin. France tags 3.5 seconds back and the Czech Republic is 5 seconds off the pace.
The three skiers that had been battling up front congratulate each other as they all had the same goal, to stay clear of Norway and give their anchor legs a shot over Petter Northug.
At 1km into the final leg the lead three hold a 30 second margin over the chase pack which is still led by Norway. Germany and Finland are staying right on Northug’s tails, but making him do all the work.
Tobias Angerer has moved to the front of the chase pack to take over some of the load.
As they come through the stadium at 3.3km not much has changed up front, Sweden continues to lead. In the chase pack Northug has moved to the front and raised the pace. Now with a 25 second gap in front of him he must go now if Norway has any chance at a medal.
The three nations remained in the lead until Sweden made their move and now has opened up a sizable lead over the other two. Northug is charging with everything he has. The gap to the silver is now only ten seconds for the Norwegian. Both are in danger and it is likely that France and the Czech Republic with not be able to match his finishing move when he decides it is time to move to the front.
Northug bridged the gap to the skiers from France and the Czech Republic going up the final climb before decending down into the stadium. He seemed to catch his breath for a second before charging to the front of the group where he slowed the pace down with a questionable snowplow at the top of the hill before the final downhill.
Sweden’s Marcus Hellner had enough time to grab one of his nations flag as he celebrated winning the gold down the finish lanes.
In typical Northug fashion he made an explosive move on the other two capturing the silver. All in all Northug erased a 35 second margin to win silver for Norway.
The Czech Republic fought all day to bring home the bronze medal, while France too battled they ended the day in fourth. However, the story of the day can not be told with including much of the pace setting done by both the Czech Republic and French teams. It is unlikely that you could find many people in the world that would have predicted that these two nations would have been battling up front all race for the gold medal.
The Canadian team crossed the line in 7th place, while the United States squad came in 13th.