Jørgen Graabak with gala performance in Fiemme
"Maybe my best competition ever", Jørgen Graabak commented the first of three events in Val di Fiemme. The Norwegian convinced with a strong jump and an equally strong race and finished 18.3 seconds ahead of Johannes Rydzek. Lukas Klapfer ended the Austrian team's dry spell with the third rank. He finished 0.1 seconds after Rydzek after a finish line sprint. Also sprinting for the podium was the man in the yellow bib, Jan Schmid, but missed it by 0.2 seconds.
Jarl Riiber spearheaded a triple Norwegian lead after the jumping part of the event. Even with an imperfect landing, Riiber topped the result list with 134.5 metres and 143.9 points. This meant an one-second lead on teammate and Best Jumper Espen Andersen, who showed 134 metres (143.7 p.). Jørgen Graabak continued in strong jumping shape and landed at the 132 metre-mark. 140.8 points meant a delay of 12 seconds at the start.
Finland’s Eero Hirvonen, who was on the podium several times already in the season, set himself up promisingly on position four with 29 seconds of time disadvantage, Akito Watabe followed at +0:31 and Johannes Rydzek was putting his name up for a great result with intermediate position six and a delay of 42 seconds. Fellow Germans Eric Frenzel and Fabian Rießle were 10th and 12th, with +0:56 and +1:03 to catch up respectively. Jan Schmid started his defence of the yellow bib with a disadvantage of 47 seconds.
Riiber and Andersen started their race together and Jørgen Graabak closed the gap to his teammates already on the first lap. Graabak was in strong cross-country shape and lead the group, while a pursuing group consisting of Johannes Rydzek, Eero Hirvonen, Jan Schmid and Akito Watabe formed approximately 30 seconds behind the leaders.
Later on, Fabian Rießle and Eric Frenzel also closed the gap to this pursuing group but the delay grew to around 40 seconds at the 5 km point. On the third lap, jumping winner Jarl Riiber and had to let go of Andersen and Graabak. Blue bib bearer Andersen held on a little longer but proved to be no match for a flawless Jørgen Graabak today. Graabak was a lonely leader going out in the final lap, Andersen’s disadvantage had already grown to 19 seconds. He and Riiber were caught by the pursuing group eventually.
In the end, it was Lukas Klapfer who skied a strong last lap and beat off attacks by Rießle and Rydzek. While Graabak skied to an undisputed victory, the fight for the podium was on between Schmid, Klapfer and Rydzek. Akito Watabe and Espen Andersen battled for positions five and six with Watabe having the better end for himself. The Top Ten were completed by Fabian Rießle on seven, Eero Hirvonen on eight, Eric Frenzel on nine and Jarl Riiber in tenth position.