Jarl Magnus Riiber seems to be close to unbeatable in a finish line sprint, as Finland’s Ilkka Herola had to learn in Oslo today. After a great tactical race, the Finn was beaten by 0.2 seconds in the end and Riiber claimed his second King’s Cup out of the hands of King Harald of Norway. Teammate Espen Bjørnstad claimed the third place, his second podium finish of the World Cup season.
The jumping round was not easy with snowy conditions and changing winds and it was Japan’s Go Yamamoto who navigated the challenge best: 130.5 metres (125.3 p.) put the 24-year-old at the top of the result list. Norwegian youngster Jens Lurås Oftebro gave Yamamoto a run for his money, though. 127.5 metres and 124.7 points had Oftebro start almost together with Yamamoto with a gap of only 2 seconds. French veteran Maxime Laheurte was smiling after his 126.5 metre jump, which put him in the third starting position for the race. 23 seconds separated him from the pole position at the start line.
PCR winner Manuel Faißt did not have the best starting position with rank six but a delay of 33 seconds kept the German in the game for the podium. The same was true for blue bib bearer Franz-Josef Rehrl, who started his race one second ahead of Faißt from rank five. Serial Holmenkollen winner Akito Watabe had 44 seconds to make up in the race and with +0:52, local hero Jarl Magnus Riiber was hot on his heels as well. Even though lower style marks kept him a little further away, fast Finn Ilkka Herola still had hopes for a good end result starting from position 15 with a delay of one minute and 16 seconds.
As the weather conditions had thus mixed a very interesting starting list for the race, the battle on the skinny skis was a tactical affair with a slow start. Riiber was able to close the gap to the leaders around jumping winner Go Yamamoto already on the first lap. Nine athletes were entering the stadium together after 2.5 km and in the following lap, Ilkka Herola had closed his gap of one minute and 16 seconds as well.
From this point on, the ten athletes at the head of the field skied tactically and slowly while every athlete tried to conserve as much energy as possible. Jumping winner Go Yamamoto was the first athlete to drop off before the last lap started. Ilkka Herola and Jarl Riiber began increasing the speed on the long uphill and tore open a gap to to all other athletes in the group. Akito Watabe and Manuel Faißt were the closest pursuers but Espen Bjørnstad skied a courageous end of the lap and manage to pass both, the German and the four-time Holmenkollen winner.
While Riiber and Herola sprinted for the victory, Bjørnstad finished as the clear bronze medallist of the race. Manuel Faißt and Akito Watabe had to be satisfied with ranks four and five. Norwegian junior Jens Lurås Oftebro, who had been part of the leading group all the way, finished on a fantastic career-best sixth place, Maxime Laheurte was seventh and the Top Ten were completed by Franz-Josef Rehrl, Yoshito Watabe and Francois Braud.
Magnus Moan finished the last race of his career on rank 42, together with fellow retiree Pawel Slowiok, who had waited for him at the finish line. Moan and Slowiok were greeted by their teammates and the rest of the athletes in the finish area.