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Triple Russian podium at cold Ruka 15km F Pursuit
Image by NordicFocus

The third Cross-Country race day at Ruka Nordic started with temperatures being close to the limit for World Cup racing. The situation demanded intensive surveillance on how the situation developped. The Jury decided to postpone the Women's competition twice but left the Men's Pursuit scheduled as planned as temperatures rose accordingly. Nevertheless, the decision of a row of atheltes to draw back from the competition left the Russian team lined up in the pole positions. 

Due to the absence of yesterdays winner Iivo Niskanen, Alexey Chervotkin was due to start in pole position. But an error noise from the starting clock caused confusion. The Jury on site coordinated the times with the athletes according to their supposed start gaps. Out on course - within 30 seconds - five athletes from teh Russian team were on track. Sergey Ustiugov was in charge of pacing the group and in the meantime, Artem Maltsev went on the chase. The 28 year-old started 1 minute and 5 seconds behind the starting time of Chervotkin but was on fire to close the gap to the leading group. Along his side was Michal Novak from the Czech team who went out of the start gate with Maltsev. The two athletes joined the head of the race in the fourth lap and recorded the two fastest times of the day.

The leading group took no time to rush. The final attack only happened at the last possible spot at the final uphill, heading back into the stadium where Alexander Bolshunov stepped out of the group and up front. Ustiugov and Maltsev remained on the heels of the 24 year-old and crossed the finish line in 2nd and 3rd position.

 

Without the classical winners Niskanen and the Norwegians, a five-man top Russian group quickly formed, but the pace was slow, so that the second group, led by Maltsev, to which Lucas Bögl belonged, came up. After the merger, the Czech Michal Novak was always well ahead, while Alexander Bolshunov completely hid in the group after his health problems and never did any leadership work. It was only at the beginning of the last lap that Bolshunov took the lead and increased the pace, to which Alexey Chervotkin first fell victim, and a little later also Bögl and Semikov. Bolshunov went into the mountain first, followed by Maltsev and Ustiugov, and didn't give his teammates a chance on the home stretch either. The 24-year-old celebrated his first win of the season, followed by Sergey Ustiugov and Artem Maltsev. Fourth place went to Ivan Yakimushkin ahead of Michael Novak and Ilia Semikov.

"Today was a bit uncertain with the cold temperatures. It is not easy to keep the focus but I am glad that I did." Alexander Bolshunov
 
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