Frenzel dominates, Hirvonen surprises in Lahti
German superstar Eric Frenzel continues his winning streak from 2016 also in 2017 and takes the victory in the first of two Individual Gundersen events in Lahti. Behind him, Finnish youngster Eero Hirvonen skied to his first podium result (+4.1) after having already shown ambitions for the podium with a fourth place in Ruka earlier this year. Yellow bib bearer Johannes Rydzek lost the overall lead to Eric Frenzel but salvaged a third place today, finishing 26.4 seconds after the winner.
Norwegian Jarl Riiber dominated the jumping round upon his return to the World Cup after an extended period of sickness. He jumped 128 metres from gate 7 (coach request), two gates lower than the rest of the field. In the points total this meant 135.2 and a one minute and six second-head start on runner-up Eric Frenzel who landed at 125.5 metres (118.8 p.). Local hero Eero Hirvonen delighted the audience with the intermediate third position after showing 120.5 metres (113 p.) He had to to make up a time disadvantage of one minute and 29 seconds.
From ranks five onwards, the gaps between the athletes were quite small, putting Johannes Rydzek still in a striking distance for a podium rank with a time behind of two minutes and 34 seconds. In the top group for the race, strong jumpers Samuel Costa, Willi Denifl, Maxime Laheurte, Terence Weber and Leevi Mutru and Espen Andersen were present as well as Francois Braud and Switerland’s Tim Hug who all started between +1:38 and +2:30.
Legend Hannu Manninen began his comeback race from rank 37 and with three minutes and 52 seconds to make up, this shaped up to be a long way to the head of the field for the 38-year-old. Still, the veteran was not to be discouraged and skied through the field like in former times. In the end, he had an impressive 18th position and the fourth fastest cross-country time to show for - all while still working as a pilot for Finnair.
At the head of the field, the race was a one man show for most of the time. Until shortly after the 5 km point, Jarl Riiber was in the lead but with the fresh, deeper snow and a difficult course, it became apparent that the Norwegian was not fully up to his top level yet. Eric Frenzel took over the lead and quickly went away from the 19-year-old and also Finnish youngster Eero Hirvonen impressively managed to overtake Riiber and stay hot on Frenzel's heels. Behind these three, Johannes Rydzek skied a very fast race and, with the fastest cross-country time of 27:06.1, captured rank three starting from position 12 into the race.
Veteran Willi Denifl and Italy's Samuel Costa formed a duo for most of the race and ultimately ended up on positions four and five, Riiber fell back to position six, Fabian Rießle turned rank 25 into final position seven and Philipp Orter, Ilkka Herola and Björn Kircheisen rounded out the Top Ten.