Today was another exciting day of racing as both the men and women left it all out on the pack for day two of the Toblach sprint weekend. At the end of the day it was the Russian duo of Matveeva and Belorukova who won on the women’s side and Harvey and Valjas who won on the men’s side.
Looking at the action, with only 17 teams on the start list, it meant that only one team from each semi-final would not be advancing. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but that’s sport for you. Someone has to lose and in today’s case it was Russia II of Nepryaeva and Vedenina and Switzerland II of Widmer and Stiffler.
In the final, the pace was mostly pushed by Norway I with Jacobsen and Falla. They managed to control the race and slowly thinn out the pack as each lap went by. On the final lap, it looked like the race was down to Norway I with Falla and Sweden I with Falk as they had opened up some room between them and Russia I in Matveeva. Again, it Falla who was pushing the pace on the final lap with Falk trying to overtake her but only doing as well as pulling up along side the Norwegian. As the battle between Falla and Falk ensued, Matveeva slowly closed the gap and was now back in reach. On the final straight, it was a race between Falla and Falk, but Matveeva came from third and put in an incredible sprint to just beat out the Norwegian and the Swede to win her second race in consecutive days.
On the men’s side, the first five laps were pretty par-for-the-course and nothing too terribly exciting happened apart from a spill from Pellegrino on the four lap that took out Sweden II’s Pedersen and snapped his pole. This effectively took out Sweden II out of contention. Luckily for Pellegrino, he was able to bounce back up and regain contact with the pack.
Going into the final lap, 13 of the 15 teams were still in contention which made for a busy track. It was Sweden I’s Svensson and Norway I’s Klaebo who were jostling for top position up the first hill as the athletes began to put in their move and Canada’s Harvey quietly sat behind trying to position himself for his move. As they rounded the bend before the final uphill, it was Svensson and Pellegrino leading the pack, but Harvey exploded and split the two as Pellegrino fell back and Harvey took his place along side Svensson. Going over the top and down the hill Harvey pulled in front of Svensson as Pellegrino maintained third place. In the final straight the top three held off the other athletes to maintain their places on the podium.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the the Russian women right now and in particular Matveeva. Usually the double gold weekends are reserved for the Norwegian women, but this weekend Matveeva managed to do it. Her form is incredible right now and it’ll be interesting to see if she can hold this high standard right through to Lahti which is still five weeks away. As for Matveeva’s teammates Belorukova, she’s putting together a very nice season for herself too as she has now made a sprint/team sprint final three times and made a semi final once in four sprint starts.
As a Canadian, it’s hard not to gush about the men’s race. It was as good as it gets for Canadian ski fans today. Harvey’s last lap was brilliant and his move up the final climb was timed to perfection. It was as if Svensson and Pellegrino were the Red Sea an Harvey was Moses; as Harvey made his move, the Swede and Italian parted to make room for him at the top.
Naturally, the Norwegian’s are disappointed in having two teams in the race and both fail to make the podium despite having all four team members finishing in the top seven yesterday.
As I start to blog, it’s interesting to see how the newer generations are taking over from the ones that dominated five years ago. The perfect example of this is Sweden’s teams today with Westberg and Svensson on Sweden I and Pedersen and Joensson on Sweden II. Five years ago, Joensson and Hattestad were the sprint kings and were a class above everyone else. It seems as though Westberg hasn’t proven himself as a World Cup calibre skier as of yet, but it looks like the Swedish National Team is giving him every opportunity to prove himself early in 2017.
I might be back with a mid-week mailbag type of post, if not I’ll talk to you next weekend when the World Cup moves to a location that has never held a World Cup before; Ulricehamm, Sweden.