Petter Northug Jr. (NOR) wins the La Sgambeda (ITA) 42km FT in Livigno – Riitta-Liisa Roponen (FIN) wins on the women"s side
Right for the start of the La Sgambeda 42km FT race, the sun came over the hill an shone onto the thousands of racers, ready to start their voyage on the 21km loop through the “little Tibet” valley. And the sun shone especially on Petter Northug Jr. today.
After the Norwegian"s participation in last season"s Marcialonga (ITA), it was his second appearance at a FIS Marathon Cup race. Having decided not to participate in the World Cups in Canada, Northug decided that a 42km FT race would be a good preparation for the Tour de Ski which awaits him right after Christmas.
He had not been the only one who thought so, and so other World Cup skiers like Matti Heikkinen (FIN), Niklas Dyrhaug (NOR) and Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA) were first seen on the start list. The latter two however had to withdraw from the race just the day before due to sickness.
After a first 21km loop of “easy skiing”, and watching each other, a group of around 8 racers took its chances and left the chasers behind. Until the end, this group of eight stayed together, so that the places were distributed in the finish sprint. As most had already guessed before, Petter Northug, once again, relayed on his finish sprint. He won in front of Matti Heikkinen from Finland and the Swiss Toni Livers.
The women"s race in contrary was decided pretty early. Riitta-Liisa Roponen (FIN) soon got into her own rhythm and left the other girls far behind. Good for a surprise was Ekaterina Rudakova vom Belarus who stayed second almost throughout the race, accompanied by a friend. Third placed Seraina Boner (SUI), who was still sick one week ago, had to race alone for almost 35km as she was caught in a big gap.
Petter Northug Jr. now leader of the overall FIS Marathon Cup – the same goes for Roponen
As the winner of the first FIS Marathon Cup of the season, Petter Northug Jr. is now also the leader of the overall FIS Marathon Cup 2012-13. He leads with 100 points in front of today"s second placed Matti Heikkinen (FIN, 80 points) and Toni Livers (SUI, 60 points).
On the women"s side it"s of course Riitta-Liisa Roponen (FIN) who wears now the red bib of the leader of the FIS Marathon Cup on the women"s side. She also leads with 100 points in front of today"s second placed Ekaterina Rudakova (BLR, 80 pints) and Seraina Boner (SUI, 60 points).
The complete result list from today"s race & the actual overall FIS Marathon Cup standing:
The statements of the best 3
Petter Northug Jr. (NOR):
I didn"t expect too much of this race today as I am here to prepare the Tour de Ski and therefore did a lot of training in the past days. But I had a good feeling during the race and of course it"s always nice to win. It"s good for the motivation. I started easy in the first round when everybody was still together. In the second round Matti speeded up the pace and suddenly we were only 8 who stayed together until the end and who help the speed up high. And yes, I counted on my finish sprint once again and it worked, so I am very happy.
Matti Heikkinen (FIN):
It was my first Worldloppet resp. FIS Marathon Cup race and I really enjoyed it. We all skied a relatively easy first round and then in the second round I attacked and a group of 8 racers was built. Then, the real race started. I knew that Petter would be strong in the finish. At about 8km before the finish Petter and I talked and we said that we"ll take first and second place – but somehow it ended not in the order of which I had thought ;-)! This race was a good training for me for the Tour de Ski, I was not feeling so great before so it"s nice to be on the podium and get some confidence. Normally long distance races are not really on my schedule, but if the timing works out, I will certainly do one again, maybe in preparation to the Olympic Games in Sotchi!
Toni Livers (SUI):
It was time for a podium place in a FIS Marathon Cup – I waited long enough and got a lot of experience on the way, so I am very happy that it finally worked out! It was a really nice race and I really enjoyed it. Right at the start of the second round, a group of eight could get away and I was well placed and could go with them. The pace was hiugh throughout the whole second round which was nice. It was clear for everyone that it would end in a finish sprint so I simply tried to give everything and it worked out!
Riitta-Liisa Roponen (FIN):
That was my first FIS Marathon Cup race and that I could already win that one makes me very happy. At first, I tried to follow the others to see how everything goes and works, but from around the 11th km I started to ski my own race in my own pace and the gap to the other girls was growing steadily. I also got some help from some men with whom I raced which was good. I really enjoyed this race and I am looking forward to the next one! I will do the Tour de Ski over New Year and the König-Ludwig-Lauf will be my next long distance race.
Ekaterina Rudakova (BLR):
I am very happy with my competition. It was really great to race with such good racers as Riitta-Liisa or Petter Northug in the same race. To be on the podium is even better! I didn"t expect it, especially that this race takes place in high altitude. But maybe I got acclimatised well, as I am here for already a week. In any way, I am really happy and satisfied!
Since I was sick a week ago, I wasn"t sure what to expect from this race. It was hard I have to say, especially that I had to race completely alone for almost 3/4th of the race. Therefore I am very satisfied and happy with the third place. Now I have some time until the next race to build up my shape again. The course looks easy at first sight, but there are no real areas where you can rest – you have to work the whole time. Therefore the race is maybe harder then one thinks. I really liked the new little loop close to the start and finish area – it brings some difference to the normal race track.