Niskanen wins 15-kilometer classic race
KUUSAMO, Finland (AP) — Finland’s latest cross country star Iivo Niskanen won the first men’s distance race of the World Cup cross country season on Sunday.
Niskanen finished the 15-kilometer classic race on the Ruka track in 35 minutes, 9.4 seconds.
Defending World Cup champion, Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway, took second in 35:19.7.
Finnish veteran Sami Jauhojaervi was third in 35:21.9, one tenth of a second ahead of Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaug.
The 23-year-old Niskanen won the team sprint gold at the Sochi Olympics, pairing with the 33-year-old Jauhojaervi.
The victory was not a big surprise for Niskanen, a brash youngster hailed as a budding superstar.
“I have competed here many times and knew the track, and I had decided to take a little off my maximum in certain parts. It worked well, with Sami Jauhojaervi and me on the podium. I like the look of this yellow jersey, but I can’t wear it for long, I’m not going to the next races in Lillehammer,” Niskanen said.
He received the traditional yellow jersey as a World Cup leader, tied with Friday’s sprint winner, Norwegian Eirik Brandsdal.
Niskanen will not add any points to his tally next weekend because he will be attending a presidential gala held once a year on Finland’s independence day, Dec. 6. Olympic winners are usually invited to attend.
The women’s 10-kilometer classic race was won by Norway’s Therese Johaug in 25 minutes, 47.2 seconds.
At the first intermediate station, 1.4 kilometers in, Johaug had already built a 9.2-second gap.
“I’m really happy, for this was my first (World Cup) victory in classic and I was never on the podium in this race before,” Johaug said. “My technique, my pace and the skis, everything was so good.”
Johaug’s compatriot Marit Bjoergen trailed by 42.2 seconds, and third-place Charlotte Kalla of Sweden was 44.1 seconds slower.