Only 12 points separated the red bib holder of the FIS Worldloppet Cup 2017, Candide Pralong and second-placed Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux before the final stage at the Ugra Ski Marathon today. In the ladies' ranking last year's winner Aurelie Dabudyk only had to collect 3 points today to ensure her second overall victory in a row.
But today the FIS Worldloppet Cup athletes got some very strong company: Petter Northug Jr. (NOR) and Sergey Ustiugov (RUS) chose the Ugra Ski Marathon for extending their season.In the end, it was Sergey Ustiugov, the local hero, who used his home advantage, started an attack just a few kilometers before the finish line and succeeded. In the end, he won the Ugra Ski Marathon 40 seconds before the other favorite, before Petter Northug who sprinted to the 2nd place.
"I was on Ustiugov's back when he increased the speed and tried to follow, but then I realized that there are some more kilometers to go, so I had to reduce the speed again for beeing strong enough on the finish lane.", explains Northug. 3rd place goes to Candide Pralong (SUI), only 0,1 seconds behind Northug. After Toni Livers last year, with this 60 points for the overall ranking, the member of Team Rossignol Gel Interim brought the FIS Worldloppet Cup goblet once more to the French marathon skiing team."Of course, the gold medals at Lahti are weighing a lot, but to win here today is also a great feeling, also since it is my birthday. But during the race I was not so sure if I can be in front in the end. It was so hard, windy, slow. But aproximately 8 km before the finish I felt, that I can attack and I increased the speed and it worked out!", says Sergey Ustiugov who also had birthday today.
In the women's competition the dominator of the season, Aurelie Dabudyk (FRA), once again had problems with the final stage in Russia. "I don't think the race or Russia is the problem, it's because of the end of the season. It is hard for me to keep the performance on top level so long.", she says. Like last year she had no chance for the victory. But with a lead of 98 points in the overall ranking, it was her focus to just finish the race and she did. So the winner of the FIS Worldloppet Cup once again is Aurelie Dabudyk, the French member of the Nordic Team Haute Savoie.But today's winner is someone else: Olga Rotcheva (RUS), last year's second. 53 seconds before Maria Gräfnings from Sweden (SAS & tg hütten) she finished the Ugra Ski Marathon. The third place again goes to Russia, to Mariya Guschina."It is a great feeling winning here in Russia after my second place last year. The race was hard, the conditions also, so I am happy to win. There was no need for an attack, I just skied my pace the whole race and it seems like it was the fastest one!", sums Rotcheva up.