Petter Northug wins 50 km Mass Start free. UPDATED
Petter Northug did it again and became World Champion in 50 km Mass Start free.
Petter Northug beat in the finish Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin who could not respond to the final attack of the Norwegian at the biathlon shooting range before the home stretch. Vylegzhanin crossed the finish line second and won silver medal. Bronze goes to Norway too thanks to Tord Asle Gjerdalen who had more left in the tank and with the final burst in the stadium claimed third place.
Northug won the competition in in the time of 2:08:09.0 and edged out Vylegzhanin by +1.7 sec. Tord Asle Gjerdalen crossed the finish line in 2:08:15.3 and lost on Northug only +6.3 sec.
Final competition of the World Championships was a tactical battle. More than 100.000 spectators gathered in the stadium and along the track. Numerous rows of fans lined the whole 8.3 km lap, which the athletes had to make six times. Pace was not very high in early phase of the race. Many skiers were in front.
French squad with Maurice Manificat, Robin Dullivard or Jean Marc Gaillard were active in front. Swedish quartet with Johan Olsson, Marcus Hellner, Anders Soedergren and Daniel Rickardsson were setting the pace too. Petter Northug jr. took initiative from time to time and was checking the situation on the top. In the halfway of the 50 km race there were around 35 athletes in the leading group within 12 seconds.
During the race athletes could change skis after every 8.3 km lap and in total could do so four times. Marcus Hellner tested reaction of the field and around km 35 launched an attack, which was caught by Sjur Roethe of Norway who led the field together again. Also Swiss medal hope Dario Cologna was in front when the pace increased in second two laps.
In the last lap Rickardsson and Hellner moved in front and were working together. Dario Cologna could not follow the pace in the uphill towards the highest point of the course at Frognerseteren. Also Lukas Bauer CZE was left alone and fell away from the leading group.
For the last time before the finish athletes appeared in the stadium and Finland's Juha Lallukka attacked with only 3300 m to go. Northug, Vylegzhanin, Dolidovich, Gjerdalen and Eliassen were able to react to this attack. In the Gratishaugen, which was nicknamed "Hellner baken" Vylegzhanin attacked and tried to fly away. Norway's Petter Northug and Tord Asle Gjerdalen were able to hook on Vylegzhanin and did not lose precious seconds.
Vylegzhanin came first in the stadium but at the biathlon shooting range Petter Northug attacked again took over Vylegzhanin. In a similar decisive power as in the relay Northug came in the home stretch and crossed the finish line as first and became World Champion. Vylegzhanin claimed silver. Tord Asle Gjerdalen grabbed first individual medal at big event and won bronze.
Petter Northug NOR
This 50 km race has been in my mind every hour for the last year. Winning this race feels like a heavy burden has been lifted off my back. During the race, everything was just right and the audience lifted my spirit. I'm looking forward to Sochi in 2012 and the World Ski Championships in Falun in 2015. We'll see what happens.
Maxim Vylegzhanin RUS
If I'm going to beat Northug one day, I have to improve my finish spurt. Now I just have to focus on preparing for the Olympics at my home track. When the season is over, I would like to come to Norway on a holiday. I want to see more of Oslo.
Tord Asle Gjerdalen NOR
I was just two meters behind Petterand the Russian at the finish line. It was two meters two much. Petter and I talked a lot during the race. A few kilometers before the finish he told me about his tactique. There aren't many people who had that kind of inside information. I don't think there is a ski waxing team that has worked harder than ours.