Espen Andersen has taken the first victory of his career and is leading in inaugural Ruka Tour after Day 1. He finished 7.7 seconds ahead of teammate Jan Schmid who gifted himself with a podium finish on his birthday. Akito Watabe from Japan captured rank three.
Very changing and challenging wind conditions in the jumping round and also in yesterday’s PCR made the first ski jumping experiences of the season difficult ones. While some athletes were able to show good performances, others, like last year’s overall World Cup winner Eric Frenzel, Jason Lamy Chappuis or David Pommer were very unlucky with the changing winds and were not able to get into a good position for the 5 km race.
The jumping round was won by Austria’s Mario Seidl. He showed 131 metres (125.1 p.) and lead the pack at the start of the cross-country race. Hot on his heels was Espen Andersen, who landed at 132 metres, the longest jump of the day. 124 points meant a four second delay for him at the start line. Akito Watabe, an unlucky athlete in yesterday’s PCR, was able to redeem himself with 125 metres and the intermediate third position, +0:33 behind the leader.
Martin Fritz and Willi Denifl held the positions four and five in the cross-country start list and Norwegians Jan Schmid and Olympic Champion Jørgen Graabak conquered positions six and seven but with 38 seconds to make up, Schmid was in a better position than Graabak, who had to contend with a delay of 53 seconds. As the hill in Ruka is a big one and the challenging wind conditions spread out the field, these were the only athletes to start within the first minute of the race.
The quick 5 km race started off with Andersen closing the gap to Mario Seidl and the two working together for the first of two laps. Behind them, a pursuing group formed with Akito Watabe, Jan Schmid and Willi Denifl skiing together. When Andersen felt strong on the second lap, he went away from Seidl and skied towards a confident victory.
Seidl had to let go and had to fight with the approaching Schmid and Watabe, who eventually managed to steal the podium from the Austrian. Schmid finished strong and raked in the second place, while Akito Watabe struggled with a painful bruise on his chest due to a training accident a few days ago. He still managed to fight through the pain and beat out Seidl for rank three by 4.4 seconds
Willi Denifl, Jørgen Graabak, Martin Fritz, Björn Kircheisen, Maxime Laheurte and Takehiro Watanabe completed the Top Ten.