Erik Valnes had never been closer than a podium finisher in a distance race in the World Cup.
The coach of the all-round national team, Eirik Myhr Nossum, called it his international breakthrough as a long-distance cross-country skier. Erik Valnes had just become the best Norwegian behind the superb Ivo Niskanen, Alexei Chervotkin and Aleksandr Bolshunov in the 15 kilometer classic cross-country skiing.
It was his best position ever for the sprinter from Sørreisa in a distance race. But the podium smoked. He was just over a second behind Bolshunov who took third place.
– Right now it’s bitter. I must admit that. It stings a hell of a lot, he said afterwards and talked about the podium that smoked in the race.
But he had to admit that the form is good and that he, who has always said that he wants to go further than sprint, had had a good day on the track. With his performance in Ruka and fourth place in the season opener at Beitostølen in 15 classic, he is well on his way to walking this distance in the Olympics.
The outlet is tough and even.
– It was a good application, coach Myhr Nossum stated. He was impressed by what the 25-year-old had achieved on the course.
Now he gets an opportunity in the Tour de Ski to show that he will have that place in front of runners on the all-round national team.
– I guess it’s just a matter of preserving the shape of a Norgesglass and taking it out again in February, he joked. Then he agreed with the Norwegian media present that it looked good.
Emil Iversen was number 7, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo number 9, Pål Golberg number 10 and Hans Christer Holund number 12. Simen Hegstad Krüger had, as many times before in Ruka, a miserable day at work and was number 67.