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World Championships Performance of the Year- Johan Olsson wins the 50km
By:  Lee Hawkings   (2013/03/05)

I would not normally write an article about the World Championships or World Cup circuit for this website. I would normally leave that type of journalism to the more high powered racing news sites. However, sometimes a performance comes along that just can’t go unnoticed!

The Men’s World Championships 50km Classic event took place on Sunday March 3 in Val di Fiemme, Italy. For those of you lucky enough to tune in it was a race to remember. Johan Olsson of Sweden won the race by 12 seconds over Dario Cologna of Switzerland. Olsson is the first Swede to win the race in 20 years and that in itself is a historic achievement. What was more historic was the manner in which he won the race. After only 11km out of 50, Olsson and Cologna broke away from the field, and managed to build a bit of a time gap. The pack somewhat let them go as this type of move is very risky in such a long race. Just as in cycling, breakaways will often get reeled back in the final stretches of the race. This breakaway was a long shot to begin with, however things became much more interesting when Cologna fell on a steep downhill, less than 25 km into the race, leaving Olsson all alone at the front.

If you have ever ski raced you have experienced the effects of pack skiing. Again, much like cycling, energy can be saved by skiing directly behind someone. For this reason many of the contender in a 50km mass start will usually be happy to sit back in the pack, content to save as much energy as they can for the last 5 or 10km when the pace is pushed to the max. All this to say, things were looking pretty grim for Olsson as he continued to ski with a huge pack of skiers containing skiers like Petter Northug, Alexander Legkov, Lukas Bauer, Eldar Roenning and of course Cologna, chasing him.

After 7km of skiing alone (27km total), Olsson had continued to increase his lead to 50 seconds over the next chaser. It was a very warm day and the tracks were wet and slow in the sun. Many skiers were skiing out of the track as much as possible. Olsson had an advantage as he could ski best line around the course, skiing outside the track whenever he wanted. With much effort he continued to hold his lead. Twice further attacks came from the pack. First Lukas Bauer and later Daniel Richardson, tried and failed to close down Olsson and were soon swallowed up by the pack themselves. Olsson remained calm and collected, completing his ski exchanges smoothly and generally skiing very well.

In the last 10 km of the race the chase pack started to pick up the pace noticeably. The effort by the chase skiers seemed to increase but the time gap to Olsson seemed to stay very steady. You could get the sense the pack knew they were in trouble. In the last 4 km the chase pack spread out as Alexander Legkov and Dario Cologna began their final push, however Olsson was still 24 seconds clear and had mostly downhill to the finish. It was tense moments as Olsson skied up the last huge uphill before the finish, with the next skiers now in sight and bearing down. With great relief for all, Olsson made it in to the finish chute and was afforded enough time to celebrate and savour his historic victory before finally crossing the finish line!

 To Summarize: Olsson: Won the most prestigious race of the year, the first win for Sweden in the event in 20 years, skied by himself for 30km (Longest break in a 50km mass start as far as I know), also won silver in the 15km skate several days prior!

 If you ever get a chance to watch this race, I highly recommend it. Olsson displayed exceptional physical and mental stamina, perfect classic technique, and great class and determination. I think I have a new favorite ski hero!

Video of the Finish!

Interesting Reading. . .
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