Racers travel to Russia to find reduced ranks and
increased points BY PETER Q. GRAVES
the Journey WORTH
Vesna Fabjan of
Slovenia, shown earlier this
season, was a victor in Russia.
Rybinsk, Russia, is a long, long way from anywhere. Well, perhaps not so
far from Otepaa, Estonia, the previous World Cup stop. But still….
One of the oldest Slavic settlements on the Volga River, Rybinsk is a three-hour drive from the airport of Yaroslavi, where the World Cup charter plane
The area is now in its fourth straight season of hosting World Cup events.
And with a population of slightly more than 7,000, Rybinsk filled the stadium
with what seemed like the entire town for races from Jan. 22 to 24. It’s a
great stadium, too, and the course has always received good reviews from the
athletes. This is where Kikkan Randall won her first-ever World Cup. Good
Just as in the test event last January at Whistler, part of the story was the
lack of field size. At least one day saw fewer than 30 skiers in both the men
and women’s field. Care for a serving of World Cup points, anyone?
Most of the Scandinavian nations all gave the race a miss, as they were competing in their own national championships that week. Other racers (
including Slovenia’s Petra Majdic) were home preparing for the Olympic Winter
That meant good news for the racers who made the journey. On Day 1,
Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia, long a bridesmaid to the more successful Majdic,
earned her first World Cup victory in the sprint. Italy’s sprint ace Magda Gen-uin was second and
Polish whiz Justyna Kowalczyk finished third.
The men’s sprint race was very good for Russia, as its men went 1-2-3, delighting the screaming crowd. Nikolay Morilov, 23, of Perm (who is at his best
in sprinting), won the freestyle sprint with Alexei Petukov in second; Nikita
Kriukov went for third. This was Morilov’s first World Cup win.
Morilov would concede that part of his success came from the lack of field
depth, with the mighty Ola Vigen Hattestad of Norway and Emil Joensson of
Sweden taking part in their own national championships.
Jan. 23 featured the 7.5K classic and 7.5K free pursuit for the women. This
time, Kowalczyk, the current World Cup leader, led from start to finish and
took the gold in 41: 50. 8 over Germany’s Evi Stehle Sachenbacher, who was
timed at 42:00.6. This was Sachenbacher’s first podium in nearly two sea-
sons. Third went to Russian skier Olga Schuchkina from the Rochev’s Club.