It was a long day for Joey Mantia (USA) in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, on Saturday, but the hard work finally paid off when he crossed the line first to win the men's Mass Start. In the 1500m the American had finished a lowly 16th, with Thomas Krol (NED) taking gold in a track record just 0.19 seconds ahead of team-mate and last week's winner Kjeld Nuis (NED).
Thomas Krol (NED) setting a track record to win the 1500m in Tomaszów Mazowiecki on Saturday 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Krol takes advantage of ‘suicide opponent’
Mantia started in the first pair of the men's 1500m, having skated the Mass Start semi-finals two hours earlier. "I tried hard and I thought that I was faster in the first lap than I was," he said. "I was just snailing, I went way too slow off the beginning."
Last week's 1500m winner Nuis faced team-mate Patrick Roest (NED) in the penultimate pairing, while Krol was up against Ning Zhongyan (CHN) in the last and this draw proved to make a world of difference.
Nuis had discussed his race plan with Roest beforehand, because a slow start could give him a draft behind Roest on the first back stretch. "I went into the race slower than I did last week, but this was too slow," Nuis said. "If I start faster, I can get him [Krol]." Roest was not able to keep up with Nuis after the opener. "Patrick said he just couldn't go any faster and I had to skate 1100m on my own."
Krol took full advantage of Ning, who started ferociously. "It couldn't be better [for me], with that crazy suicide opponent," Krol smiled. "He went flat-out from the start and blew himself, so I could easily catch him on the final back stretch. He was the ideal pace-maker for me."
Nuis admitted to being envious of Krol as he watched his race unfold: "A [similar draft on the] final back stretch would have been nice. I'm not saying that he [Krol] wouldn't have won without it. He certainly hasn't stolen this one." Krol finished in 1:45.76, while Nuis set 1:45.96.
Denis Yuskov (RUS) took the bronze medal in 1:46.28, after also finishing third in the 5000m on Friday. After a couple of years in which he specialised in the 1000m and the 1500m, Yuskov went back to his roots as a speed skater this season. He lost five kilograms of muscle weight, targeting the 5000m and the 1500m. "Those distances are equally important to me," he said. "I think I am capable of winning in both distances."
Gold medalist Thomas Krol is flanked by compatriot Kjeld Nuis and Denis Yuskov of Russia 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Thanks to his second place, Nuis retained the lead in the World Cup standings, ahead of Krol in second and Yuskov third.
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 1500m Men
Mantia pulls ace from his sleeve
After his failed 1500m effort, Mantia had to get back on track for the Mass Start final, which he once claimed to be the ace up his sleeve if he did not perform well in the classic distances. And the ace played out perfectly.
Russia's Danila Semerikov tried to get away from the pack with an early attack, but Jorrit Bergsma (NED) countered with a similar move to last week's race-winning jump. "I actually did not want to attack as early [as I did last week], but that Russian [Semerikov] was up front and if we didn't do something, he would have been gone, so I went all-out in the final three laps," said Bergsma.
World champion Joey Mantia (USA) acknowledges the crowd after his victory in the men's Mass Start 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
The Dutchman managed to get away from the pack and reeled in Semerikov heading into the final corner, but behind him Bart Swings (BEL) had pulled strongly to bring the bunch back on Bergsma's tail and Manta took advantage with a powerful sprint. Bergsma managed to hold on to second place, with his team-mate Arjan Stroetinga (NED) taking the bronze medal.
"I had to dig deep today," Mantia said. "Last week in Minsk I crashed Tuesday before competition and I couldn't really race very well. I tried to race the Mass Start but it didn't go great, pulled out of the 1000 and the 1500. I landed badly and I'm old so it takes long to heal.
"But it's not really bothering me anymore and the race played out very well for me. The Mass Start is very strategic, when you make the final push for the line, you can't do it twice. It's one and done so I tried to wait for the perfect moment."
Bergsma and Stroetinga are first and second in the Mass Start World Cup ranking, with Swings, who eventually finished fifth, in third place.
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings Mass Start Men
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