Emotions of Bolshunov and the return of Ustyugov
The stage of the World Cup in cross-country skiing in Lahti ended in a real scandal.
Overall leader Alexander Bolshunov quarreled with Finn Yoni Mäki during and after the 4 × 7.5 km relay.
The Russian was disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior, and with him his entire team lost the medal.
This discipline gave Russian skiers a great opportunity to take revenge on the Norwegians for Saturday's skiathlon.
Two teams from Russia could compete in the race at once, while the Scandinavians got only one quota.
The first team of Russians included Alexey Chervotkin, Evgeny Belov, Denis Spitsov and the leader of the Cuba World Alexander Bolshunov.
The second team consisted of Ilya Semikov, Ivan Yakimushkin, Andrey Melnichenko and Sergei Ustyugov - the two-time world champion finally returned to the national team and held the first race of the season.
The Norwegians did not have to puzzle over the composition - they put up all the first four of the skiathlon.
At the start of the relay, Chervotkin was not lucky.
During acceleration, his stick broke, and he even lagged behind everyone while changing inventory.
The Olympic silver medalist in the relay quickly made up for lost time and returned to the group.
Already at the first stage, the peloton began to tear rapidly, and by the sixth kilometer only three remained in the lead - two Russian skiers and the Norwegian Paul Golberg.
He decided that it was better to pass the baton apart from the rivals, and accelerated towards the end of the stage.
His pace was supported by an expert on the classic move Semerikov, but Chervotkin was still ten seconds behind.
In the Norwegian national team the second stage was run by the winner of the skiathlon Emil Iversen.
He gave no reason to doubt his abilities, but at the same time he sometimes got lost when Yakimushkin made short attacks on the rise.
The leadership duo ran very smoothly and covered all 7.5 km together.
Belov from the first part of the Russian team did not manage to close the gap.
As it turned out, it was extremely necessary for Belov to recoup.
Spitsov, who took over the baton from the first kilometers, began to lag behind, and even the third place staggered under him.
Finn Iivo Niskanen played 15 seconds in just half a stage and joined the Russian.
At the same time, Shyur Röthe made an attempt to break away from Melnichenko, which immediately succeeded.
The Russian skier immediately after that drooped and fell so far behind the Norwegian that Spitsov and Niskanen caught him.
At the end of the third stage, Norway had already won 38 seconds.
Bolshunov and Ustyugov had to compete with the Finn Yoni Myaki, who was noticeably inferior to both Russians in terms of title.
However, the host of the competition clung to his rivals with a stranglehold.
Even when Bolshunov accelerated, Myaki stayed behind him, and Ustyugov was far behind, showing that he was not yet ready to perform at this level.
Towards the end of the distance, Myaki completely bypassed Bolshunov, being the first to roll out to the finish line.
The Russian gained speed and began to overtake the opponent, but the Finn blocked his path, pushing him to the billboards.
At the same time, Myaki ran over a Russian athlete on a ski.
As a result, Bolshunov lost his pace and emotionally brushed off the opponent with a stick, and after the finish he knocked him down into the snow with a hockey power move.
The judges examined this episode for ten minutes, and as a result, the World Cup leader and the entire first Russian team were disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior, and the bronze went to the second team of Russians.
Recap 🎬of hightlights on the course of todays mens Relay at Lahti Ski Games! # Fiscrosscountrypic.twitter.com / HIqlsx6fMa
- FIS Cross-Country (@FISCrossCountry) January 24, 2021
Fourth place girls in the absence of leaders
It was not easy for the Russian women's national team to assemble the roster for the relay.
The team was left without Yulia Stupak, Tatiana Sorina and Alisa Zhambalova, who for various reasons missed the stage in Lahti.
As a result, the first quartet included the four best girls in the skiathlon - Yana Kirpichenko and Natalya Nepryaeva got the classical stages, and Anna Nechaevskaya and Maria Istomina skated.
The second four were Natalia Mekryukova, Lilia Vasilyeva, Ekaterina Smirnova and Aliya Iksanova.
But even in such a situation, Russian girls could well compete for a medal.
Only the Norwegians, led by Teresa Johaug and the Finns, who played at home, put forward the strongest teams.
The American women were forced to send their strongest skiers Jessica Diggins and Rosie Brennen to the stage in a classic move, and the Swedes put up only one heroine of the recent Tour de Ski, Ebbu Andersson.
For Kirpichenko, the main thing at her stage was to keep up with the leaders, and she coped with this - at the transfer of the relay, the Russians were included in the leadership group of five skiers.
Nepryaeva's task was much more difficult - she needed to restrain Yohaug and Diggins.
The American was also interested in the Norwegian skier staying with them, but the skiathlon winner easily created a comfortable break for herself.
Finnish Kerttu Niskanen then fled from the quartet left behind, and at the end of the second stage she even lost to Johaug by only seven seconds.
Nepryaeva with Diggins and Swedish Emma Ribon lost a little less than half a minute.
In the third stage, Nechaevskaya had to throw off her rivals from the USA and Sweden in order to prepare the ground for the fight in the last five kilometers.
The bronze medalist of the Olympic Games sometimes made attempts to break away, but every time her competitors caught up with her.
Although Nechaevskaya narrowed the gap from Finnish Laura Mononen to nine seconds, she passed the baton simultaneously with the Swedish national team.
Istomina had to fight for medals with two much stronger athletes - Andersson and Finnish Krista Pärmäkoski.
The Swede immediately got involved in the struggle, caught up with the hostess of the competition and rushed to get silver for her team.
Istomina, on the other hand, could not get close to Pärmyakoski.
The Russian national team took fourth place, and the second team finished eighth.
Recap 🎬of the winning womens Relay at Lahti Ski Games 💥 # fiscrosscountrypic.twitter.com / wgPBqBWNoC
- FIS Cross-Country (@FISCrossCountry) January 24, 2021