Winners in the finals today were Judith Wyder, Switzerland, taking her first major victory this year, and local favourite Vojtech Kral. Both the semi-finals and finals courses took the athletes through some very complex multi-level terrain as well as fast open parkland.
This was a first full-scale trial for this new format, which will come into the World Championships programme first in 2020 in Denmark. The preliminary round and quarter-finals were held this morning, and two notable names to drop out were Natalia Gemperle, Russia and Olav Lundanes, Norway, both disqualified.
Six in each semi-final – two through to final
For both women and men, there were three semi-finals with six runners in each, the best two going through to the final. One women’s semi-final line-up was particularly strong, with Tove Alexandersson and Lina Strand of Sweden pitted against Judith Wyder. Strand made a small error early on that proved critical. The six finalists were two from Sweden (Alexandersson and Karolin Ohlsson), two Swiss (Wyder and Sabine Hauswirth) plus the Norwegian Andrine Benjaminsen and the Russian Irina Nyberg.
In the final, Alexandersson lost a crucial 10 seconds on leg 2-3 which she never recovered from. Wyder and Ohlsson both made good route choices and ran strongly, with Wyder winning by just 1 second; Alexandersson finished 22 seconds down.
No Swiss in men’s final
Notable in the men’s semi-finals was the fact that five Swiss took part, but none of them reached the final! Four were in the same heat, but were soundly beaten by the Swedes Gustav Bergman and Jonas Leandersson. Daniel Hubmann in heat 3 made some errors and finished fourth. Robert Merl, Austria did well to qualify for the final, putting out sprint specialist Øystein Kvaal Østerbø NOR in the process. The list of six for the final was completed with Vojtech Kral CZE, Yannich Michiels BEL and Frederic Tranchand FRA.
The final was a close-run affair with only Robert Merl making a mistake and dropping off the pack. Towards the end it was clear that Kral had only victory in his sights, and he increased his lead over second-placed Jonas Leandersson by 1 second through the final two controls. Gustav Bergman finished third.
There was almost no let-up in the action throughout the afternoon, with enthralling viewing both for the many spectators on site and for the TV and web-TV audiences.
All results can be seen on www.wcup.cz.
With all the leaders in the men’s World Cup performing below their best today, the biggest change is Vojtech Kral moving from seventh to fifth, and only 16 points down on fourth place. The women’s World Cup is hotting up for second and third places, with Karolin Ohlsson now only 13 points below Natalia Gemperle.
Tomorrow is the Sprint Relay, starting at 1530 local time.