Summer Grand Prix winner Mario Seidl managed to hold on to his great summer shape and set the first World Cup victory of the winter and of his career in Ruka (FIN). Jarl Magnus Riiber (NOR) had to concede defeat and claimed position two, +16.5 seconds after Seidl. Germany’s Johannes Rydzek finished third, one minute and 30 seconds after the winner.
The jumping round on Ruka’s HS 142 Rukatunturi hill was not an easy one. In changing and challenging wind conditions, it took one and a half hours to get all jumpers down but in the end, the strongest jumpers of the field were also the ones to tackle the first part of the Ruka challenge best.
Mario Seidl worked his magic and delighted the crowd with an impressive jump of 145.5 m. With 142.7 points, he lead the field by 57 seconds at the start of the cross-country race. Jumping sensation Jarl Magnus Riiber was not fully satisfied with his performance but still showed the second-best jump of 134 metres (128.4 p.). Yoshito Watabe defended the Watabe family honour and claimed a top 3 position with a jump of 123 metres. 119.9 points meant one minute and 31 seconds of delay on the track.
Manuel Faißt, Willi Denifl, Tomas Portyk and Franz-Josef Rehrl all showed good jumping performances as well and started their races from positions four to seven with time behinds of +1:36 to +1:46. Behind these strong jumpers, also fast skiers Johannes Rydzek and Magnus Moan were still in striking distance for the podium, jumping to 125.5 and 128.5 metres. Rydzek, who can take his fifth individual victory in Ruka and equalise Ronny Ackermann’s all-time record, started his campaign +1:56 after Seidl and Moan followed at +2:11.
The race was a tactical masterpiece by Seidl who first had spectators believe he might not be able to carry his advantage all the way to the finish line. Jarl Magnus Riiber constantly made up time and was back only 40 seconds at the 2.5 km point, and down to 22.4 seconds at half-way. By the 8.6 kilometre point, he had almost closed the gap and was only 10 seconds behind Seidl when the Austrian ignited his turbo. Not only did he keep Riiber off his heels, he extended the gap to 16.5 seconds at the finish line. This strong performance made the "King of the Summer" into the first World Cup winner of the winter 2018/19 and also ended an Austrian dry spell with the first individual victory since 2016.
While Riiber and Seidl were duelling for the top honours of the day, a big group of athletes was vying for the remaining spot on the podium. Johannes Rydzek and Magnus Moan were the engines of the pursuing group with the German leading for long stretches of the way. On the last lap, Rydzek attacked and none of his opponents were able to follow, so that the German was undisputed third and recorded yet another Ruka podium in his impressive resume.
After an impressive jump, Czech Republic’s Tomas Portyk showed a brilliant cross-country race as well and repeated his career-best fourth position from Hakuba 2018, outperforming Germany’s Manuel Faißt and Austrian and Norwegian veterans Willi Denifl and Magnus Moan on the last metres. Vinzenz Geiger, Jan Schmid and Lukas Greiderer completed the Top 10. 2017/18 Overall World Cup winner Akito Watabe was 15th.