Judging by the highlights of the semi-finals, saying the heats were chaotic was an understatement. The women’s teams had to go around the tracks six times in total, or three times each, while the men went twice that distance.
With 10 teams in the final it was bound to be a frantic and messy affair much like the semi-finals and sure enough, within the first 100 meters the first athlete fell as Sweden II’s Somskar as her tip was skied over by American Bjornson. Mia Eriksson of Sweden I led the pack round the loop into the exchange as Sweden I, Norway I and Switzerland had a slight gap on the others. The pace being set by Sweden I was hurting the athletes early on and the field was already spreading out. Like Eriksson, Brodin of Sweden I led the pack for the second lap.
At the second exchange, there was a three-second gap between the top seven and Sweden II, Germany I and USA. Sweden I continued to stave off the other athletes as the battles for second and third were tight and very competitive behind the Swede.
There was another crash, but this time it was the exchangers that crash between Russia and Norway II, but the good news was that they had already tagged off to their partners.
Again Sweden I led the charge for the fourth loop and once again coming into the exchange their was carnage as Norway I’s Eide stabbed her teammates binding which cause her to fall and caused a ripple effect.
On the fifth lap, Sweden finally relinquished the lead to Finland I’s Kylloenen as the Fin led the charge into the final exchange.
On the final lap, Sarasoja-Lilja led the charge and going over the bump, her ski pole was stepped on by Matveeva which opened the door for Falla to take the lead and Falla didn’t look back. The fight for second became intense and it was eight teams fighting for the final two podiums, but it was Randall’s quality showing through as she was the best for the dash for the finish with Russia in third.
1. Norway I (Eide, Falla)
2. USA (Bjornson, Randall)
3. Russia (Korosteleva, Matveeva)
It was a very casual start with Strandvall of Finland I taking the lead and slowed the pace down so the athletes were two abreast going around the first lap. Coming through the lap it was Golberg who took the lead for Norway I and continued to lead to the first exchange and handed off to Hattestad.
The second run was again very pedestrian with no real pace to the race as Hattestad led for the first 1.5 laps then Peterson of Sweden I took over before the second exchange and exchanged to Modin. Amazingly, the pace got even slower as the big Swede controlled the pace and nobody seemed to mind the slower pace. In the lap, it was Golberg to take the lead and inject a little bit of speed into the race.
With half the race gone, it was a very boring sprint with the pace extremely slow and no crashes and it continued to be the case for the fourth lap.
The pace finally picked up as the first leg skiers went out for their final lap as the race was led by Sweden I and Sweden II. Coming through the lap, Modin took the lead as Golberg hunted him closely and overtook him on the back straight as the Norwegian and Swede pulled away from the other athletes. Coming into the tight right-hander, Golberg and Modin had a 15 meter gap on the other athletes.
At the exchange, Golberg and Modin were side-by-side as they tagged off to Hattestad and Peterson. Hattestad took the lead and decided to slow the pace down which meant all the teams were able to recoil back into a 10 man pack. Petukhov came through the crowd and took the lead on the back straight and coming through the lap, Petukhov, Hattestad and Peterson were three wide trying to gain the lead but it was the Russian to take the lead. Petukhov made his move early and as soon as they left the finish area, he increased the pace and only Peterson was able to maintain contact as Hattestad and Pentsinen were in a fight for third. In the home straight, Petukhov and Peterson were side by side and Petukhov’s technique began to fail him while Peterson remained strong and Sweden took the win as Hattestad was able to hold off Pentsinen for third.
1. Sweden I (Modin & Peterson)
2. Russia (Kriukov & Petukhov)
3. Norway (Golberg & Hattestad)
It’s amazing how one course can produce to very different races. In the women’s it was one of the most exciting races I’ve seen this year. It was a dog-fight from line to line with no one giving an inch. With 2nd to 9th place separated by 1.8 seconds, it was anyone’s race right to the finish line. On the other hand, the men’s race was a completely snoozefest until the final lap when Petukhov made his moved and ripped the field a new one. Unfortunately, it was a move we’re seen Petukhov make before and like before, Petukhov ran out of gas just before the finish which opened the door for Peterson to come through and take the win. Petukhov’s tactics are admirable and almost the opposite of Northug’s. Perhaps the Russian will find the fine line where he will be able to make his attack in a sprint but keep the pace right until the finish instead of dying just short and losing positions.
Perhaps for next year, the race committee should seriously think about dropping the men’s sprint relay down to only one lap like the women. The pro’s and con’s are pretty straight forward; drop it to one lap and you instantly have a much more exciting race. It also means better snow conditions since the men will be skiing half the distance. It’s a win-win in my eyes.
As for Peterson, this guy seems like the real deal. There must be such a good feeling for the Swedish sprinters right now with Jonsson, Peterson and Modin all on top of their game and Ingemarsdotter, Brodin, Falk and Kalla all medal threats for the women.
Once again, we saw a glimpse of Randall’s quality USA were off the pace by as much as five seconds at points of the final but managed to claw it all back and win. I believe Randall sat in 9th at the start of the final lap and moved up to the silver medal position. Quite impressive considering how tough all the skiers were today and how tight the course is.
Staying with the women, I was really happy to Norway I with Eide and Falla. It just goes to show that even with their big guns not racing, Norway have the quality to win with their “secondary” skiers. I really haven’t heard much about Eide before this year and according to her rap sheet she’s still very raw with only five World Cup starts. She had a decent U23 last year finishing 6th, but looks to be one of those fringe skiers constantly fighting to keep their spot on the Norwegian World Cup team.
I’ll be back in a few days with some news about the site for the rest of the year.