There were 93 athletes starting the race, but it was bid number 19 and 41 that stole the spotlight today instead of the higher bid numbers reserved for the red group skiers. It was very interesting watching today’s race as usually it takes a while to get into a race, but little did we know today that the race was won before half the athletes crossed the finish line.

MEN’S RACE

The Swedish sprinter Halfvarsson (bib 19) was the early leader at all the time checks for the first 40 athletes, but it was his teammate Johan Olsson with some steady pacing to take up the lead at all the intermediate time checks. Olsson’s times were looking more and more impressive as many of the athletes came through and were all unable to best the Swede’s time.

After all the athletes went through the 2.9km check, it appeared that Halfvarsson had a blistering fast start as only Cologna had a faster time than him. Cologna’s time was extremely fast as there was 10 seconds between the top 10 athletes.

At the finish, Olsson took a huge 39 second lead out of his teammate Halfvarsson to take the leaders chair. Livers and Harvey both came across but failed to topple to the two Swede’s as did many athletes and after 69 athletes across the finish line, Olsson and Halfvarsson were still first and second.

Back on course, all the athletes were through 7.5km. It was very tight between Olsson and Cologna as the Swiss man had a 1.6 second lead. Meanwhile, it was also becoming apparent just how well Halfvarsson’s day was going as he still stood fourth at the halfway point. Roland Clara, who sat third at 7.5km, had a 1.6 second lead on Halfvarsson at that point, managed to feed off the information and split that Swedish 1-2 and beat Halfvarsson by seven seconds.

Olsson’s day was really put into perspective when Cologna came through the 11.5km check and was 21 seconds down on the Swede which means he lost 23 second in the previous 4km.  From this point on, it became apparent that it was Olsson’s day and the race for second begun.

Northug was trying to chase down Clara’s time and coming into the home stretch has 12 seconds to beat the Italian. With the crowd and announce cheering him on, Northug lunged for the line and beat Clara by only 0.2 seconds to sit in second. The only question left was Cologna and coming into the finish, he lost another 20 seconds to Olsson and came across the line in 7th place.

RESULTS
1. Johan Olsson
2. Petter Northug
3. Roland Clara

Analysis

After watching the women’s race and seeing Bjørgen win by 27 seconds, I didn’t think that the men’s race could be anymore dominating, but I was wrong. I can’t remember the last time in the men’s field a race was won by over 30 seconds, truly an incredible feat. It was funny how honest Olsson was in the post-race interview, when asked if he thought he would win today’s race he said “I did absolutely not believe I could win [today].“ Can’t fault the man for being truthful.

This race showed me how many misconceptions of this Swedish team I had. I thought Halfvarsson was a sprint… wrong. I also thought of Olsson as a classic specialist, but his performance threw that notion out the window.

As for Calle Halfvarsson, my hat goes off to the 22-year old. As I was watching the race, I kept on thinking either a). he’s going to burn out because his time through 2.9km was so fast or b). the red group of skiers are going to easily beat this time, but neither of those things happened. What a great way to start off the season and the Swedish team much be extremely happy with the start of the season as they also had Hellner in 9th which means three athletes in the top 10.

I was actually quite impressed by Northug today, I didn’t expect to see him on the podium and races like today to those that think he’s only a mass start skier that he can race any distance in any technique.

The other nation that impressed today was Italy who was led by Clara. This was Clara’s first World Cup podium and after his strong Tour de Ski last year, it’s well deserved but not that surprising. Also David Hofer with a 12th place was another great result.

While Cologna fell off the pace hard in the second half of the race, Switzerland can still be pretty satisfied on the day as Remo Fischer had a great race and finished in 6th while Cologna was 7th.

Also, it was a great race from Harvey who got little or no TV time today and was today’s winner of the “Slow ‘N Steady Pacing” as he sat 34th after 2.9km and finished today in a very impressive 5th. It’s a great start to the season. The same can’t be said for his teammates Kerhsaw (37th), Babikov (42nd), Valjas (64th) and Nishikawa (71st) who will be looking to improve when the World Cup moves to Kuusamo.

The most shocking results today came from Jauhojaervi (67th) and Chernousov (85th). Chernousov was one of the most impressive distance athletes last year and for him to be 3:20 and 85th out of 92 starters, something must have gone very wrong today.

Back later on with a relay preview.