Richard Jouve won the men's sprint classic at the Coop FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Les Rousses, France, on Saturday, making the home fans turn the ski stadium into a blue-white-red party.
The 28-year-old Frenchman struggled to hold back the tears of joy after beating overall world No.1 Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo from Norway by 0.09 second in the final race. Norway's Paal Goldberg, runner-up in the overall World Cup standings, finished third, 0.91 seconds after Jouve.
The French Cross-Country fans chanted Jouve's name and the other skiers stood in line to congratulate him as he earned his fifth World Cup victory and the first on home snow.
"That's so impressive, man," Golberg told him, making a gesture of bowing down to the winner.
Jouve had started at a high pace and stayed in the front for the entire race. When Klaebo made a push to the first place mid-way through the race, Jouve responded immediately and took back control.
The Norwegian two-time Olympic sprint champion had won all sprint events but one this season and made a strong finish but could not close the gap to the Frenchman. Jouve had saved some energy for the finishing straight, carried by the cheers from friends, fans and family.
"It was an incredible day," Jouve said.
"Winning at home is really something special, I'm super satisfied with my skiing today even if it wasn't easy at the beginning of the day."
Jouve, who won the team sprint final in Livigno, Italy, with Renaud Jay, last weekend, stressed that his victory was a team effort.
"The staff in the French team did an amazing job and the organisers did a titanic job to arrange this World Cup. I want to thank them and the audience. Thanks to everyone," he said.
The result pushed Jouve up from sixth to fifth position in the World Cup sprint standings, but with third-placed Federico Pellegrino, who finished last in the final, within four points' reach.
In the women's sprint final, four of six skiers came from Sweden, but it was Norway's Kristine Stavaas Skistad who crossed the line first, claiming her first World Cup victory. The 23-year-old had made an early drive and kept control of the race, confident enough to be able to slow the speed down at some parts of the 1,300m course. Before Saturday's triumph, her best results had been two sprint free fourth-places, the latest one from December 2021.
Finishing 0.70 second before runner-up Emma Ribom from Sweden, Skistad had time to look back and double-check that she had come away with the milestone win. Sweden's Maja Dahlqvist finished third.
"It was very fun," Skistad said.
"My plan was to go fast in the end and I did it so I'm very happy."
This weekend's World Cup action concludes on Sunday with the men's and women's 20km mass start classic.