RUKA (VG) Erik Valnes (25) was the only Norwegian in the podium at the Olympic exercise 15 kilometers classic in Ruka. Too weak team effort, says Emil Iversen.
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– Fantastic to be back here with the audience. I really like being here, and it’s great to be on the podium in front of the home crowd, says Niskanen to VG.
The Finn won for the third time at home and thus broke Alexander Bolshunov’s series of five straight victories in classic World Cup races. He was joined by Alexei Chervotkin and Bolshunov on the podium.
– Niskanen will be scary over the winter, says Hans Christer Holund.
Erik Valnes, who finished third in the sprint on Friday, ran his best distance race in the World Cup. He finished just 1.1 seconds behind Bolshunov.
– Valnes really beats himself into the world top. That is why he is here, because we have faith in him at this distance, says national team coach Eirik Myhr Nossum to VG.
– It is difficult not to be number four obviously. New Kristin Størmer Steira… No, I’m very happy, says Valnes, while his teeth are shaking from the cold, to VG.
He also finished fourth in the distance at Beitostølen. The rest of the Norwegian team was some distance away from the podium:
– That is bad. It does not hold at all, but it is fun to see Erik who is probably happy. It’s a pity he does not get on the podium, says Emil Iversen about the team effort.
The 15 km classic is an Olympic exercise with an individual start on 11 February at the cross-country arena Zhangjiakou. The Norwegian Olympic selection is based on three races: the opening race at Beitostølen, this race and a 15 km in Swiss Lenzerheide during the Tour de Ski.
– It is fortunately a long time until we will take out the places for the Olympics. The race in Lenzerheide will potentially be very important, says Nossum.
– I have submitted a good application, but I have to show once again that I am up there, says Valnes.
– I’m incredibly impressed. We must stop talking about Valnes as a sprinter, says Viaplay expert Niklas Dyrhaug.
Emil Iversen has always enjoyed himself in Ruka and became the second best Norwegian with 7th place.
– There will be two dice rolls. It’s going downhill. There were three dice rolls on Beitostølen last time. Now there were two here. Then it’s next weekend. I have to reverse that trend, says Iversen to VG.
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo made his first distance race of the season. He never fought with the very best after the cold and defeat in the sprint final on Friday.
– It was mediocre. I did not feel super alert. I was no better today. Heavy from the start, says Klæbo to VG.
Pål Golberg ended up four seconds behind Klæbo in the finish in 10th place. Hallingdølen was only number 50 in the opening race at Beitostølen last weekend.
Hans Christian Holund won the opening race at Beitostølen, but finished in 12th place. Simen Hegstad Krüger was number 74.
The World Cup opening in Ruka ends with the hunt start on Sunday.