Iivo Niskanen and Therese Johaug win classic interval start in Lahti

At the cross-country World Cup in Lahti, the women offered an unusually tight intervalstart race over ten kilometers in classic style. Therese Johaug (NOR, Fischer ***) narrowly won ahead of Ebba Andersson (SWE, Fischer ***) and Krista Pärmäkoski (FIN). In the men's race Iivo Niskanen (FIN, Fischer ***) celebrated a relatively clear home win ahead of Alexander Bolshunov (RUS). Hans Christer Holund (NOR, Fischer ***) finished third.

The first intermediate top times were held by Johanna Matintalo (FIN) in bright sunshine and five degrees below zero - it was clear that the local hero wanted to show something in front of her home audience. Then, like in the last races, Frida Karlsson (SWE, Fischer ***) sprinted out the starting house and set intermediate times which the other athletes found a hard nut to crack for the first few kilometers. Even Therese Johaug started the race much slower, but this time it turned out that the 20-year-old was able to keep up her pace better and did not slump as much as in her previous appearances this season. Halfway through the race, Therese Johaug, who had taken the lead at the long climb after about 2.5 kilometers, was two seconds ahead of Pärmäkoski, five seconds ahead of Ebba Anderson and eight seconds ahead of Frida Karlsson. In the second half of the race, at least Krista Pärmäkoski and especially Ebba Andersson were on the heels of the Norwegian, who had the advantage of being able to orientate themselves to Johaug's times. However, the Swede did not quite manage to snatch the victory from Johaug, who cheered loudly on her leader's chair when the Swede crossed the line three seconds behind. "It was a tough race!", she said later. The fourth-placed Frida Karlsson is now showing a clear forward trend, apparently she has now almost made up for her large training gap due to the long forced break and missed the podium by around ten seconds. Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR, Fischer ***) came in fifth just behind her, followed by Natalia Nepryaeva (RUS, Fischer ***), who had to stop the Ski Tour early due to a cold. Heidi Weng (NOR, Fischer ***) finished seventh ahead of Katharina Hennig (GER, Fischer ***).

=> 10km C Lahti (FIN)

As with the women, there were later head-to-head race for the men - and over long stretches even more closely than when Therese Johaug won. Up to half of the race, Finland's frenetically cheered leader Iivo Niskanen and Russia's Alexander Bolshunov were never more than a second apart, but the Russian lost 13 seconds in the second half of the race and finally finished second, ten seconds behind. "I have been waiting for this race since the beginning of the season in Ruka, since then we have not had a classic interval start. It was a really nice day. It worked as I hoped, even though we were under a lot of pressure from the Finnish press because of the skis have not been that good lately. This win belongs in large part to the service team. It's been three years since I became World Champion here, but with all those spectators it feels like World Championships", said the happy winner. Third-placed Hans Christer Holund was 28 seconds behind. Surprisingly, Ilia Semikov (RUS, Fischer **) finished fourth ahead of four Norwegians - eighth-placed Johannes Høsflot Klæbo (NOR, Fischer ***) was fighting for the podium in the middle of the race. Ivan Yakimushkin (RUS, Fischer ***) finished tenth ahead of his team-mate Alexey Chervotkin (RUS, Fischer ***).

=> 15km C Lahti (FIN)

* = Fischer skis

** = Fischer skis and bindings

*** = Fischer skis, bindings and boots