Norway’s men shook up Team Pursuit tactics and ended up smashing the track record at Heerenveen on Friday. Allan Dahl Johansson, Sverre Lunde Pedersen and Hallgeir Engebråten kicked off the second and final World Cup of the season by adopting a novel approach to beat last week’s winners the Netherlands, who eventually came fourth.
Norway also won the final classification, with the Dutch coming second and Canada third. In the Mass Start semi-finals Jorrit Bergsma (NED) overcame a crash to qualify for Saturday’s final.
Norway had tried their new tactic in last week’s Team Pursuit, when they finished second in 3:41.62. This time they stopped the clock in Thialf at 3:39.08, shaving 0.68 seconds off the 2012 track record set by Netherlands’ Jan Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer and Koen Verweij.
“[To skate a track record] doesn’t surprise me,” Johansson said. “We were pretty fast in training already and we’ve been dreaming about a 3:38 or 3:37.”
The new tactic is as simple as it is efficient. Instead of changing up front to distribute energy amongst the three riders, Johansson stayed in front for the full eight laps, with his two team-mates pushing him to keep up the pace. The theory is that change-ups cost more time than energy distribution wins back.
Norway has been experimenting with the idea over the summer. “It’s not our tactic,” Johansson explained. “The USA did it at last year’s world championships already and some teams with less strong skaters have set good times making fewer change-ups. We adapted it and tried to improve it.”
The new tactic was tough on frontman Johansson but he's confident the team can go even faster © International Skating Union (ISU)
The tactic is tough on the man up front. Johansson went on: “After four laps, I couldn’t see the corners anymore, I was so tired. When you go up front, you’re dead anyway. The reason I go up front is that I’m not good at skating from behind, while Sverre and Hallgeir easily find my rhythm.”
Johansson is convinced that his team can be even faster with the new tactic. “We made some mistakes,” he said. “I almost crashed in the last corner, which cost us time. Without that we could have gone below 3.39.”
Kramer: pushing is faster
Sven Kramer, who anchored a changed Dutch line-up with Marcel Bosker and Chris Huizinga, thinks the Dutch must look at the new tactic as well. “If you look at the individual strength of the nations, the Netherlands are top class, but you can see now that this pushing is faster, whatever you think about it,” he said. “We used our own tactic. With every change-up we step on the gas, but the only thing we achieve is compensation for the time we lost in the change-up.”
Netherlands were beaten into fourth on Friday but take silver in the overall classification © International Skating Union (ISU)
Canada came second in 3:39.94, and Russia took bronze in 3:41.40. Canada did make change-ups, but not so many as the Netherlands. Anchor Ted-Jan Bloemen praised youngster Connor Howe, as an influential replacement in the team for absent Graeme Fish.
“It’s really nice to get that compliment,” 20-year-old Howe said. “I’m more of a 1000m and 1500m man. I start behind and in the middle of the race I try to give the guys speed with a lap-and-a-half [up front] and then I have to hold on to the end.”
Bergsma up again after crash
The first of two Mass Start semi-finals was spectacular. Jorrit Bergsma fell, got back up again, made up about half a lap of lost time, and managed to qualify fourth from his heat. “I don’t know what happened exactly,” said Bergsma. “After the first intermediate sprint I let off a little and while dropping back [in the middle of the pack] I got hit from behind.
“You have to stay cool at a moment like that. It’s tough to get up while you’re still sliding so that takes a while and, after you get back on your feet, you mustn’t put in too much effort because you have to save some energy for a final sprint.”
Bergsma did exactly that, but had to be alert when a three-man breakaway almost caught up with the pack. When that happens, all lapped skaters have to leave the race. “I think I was not the only one who saw it coming, but everyone was waiting for someone else to take care of it,” he said.
Bergsma himself did not wait too long and jumped to hold off the breakaway from catching up. Andrea Giovannini(ITA), Ruslan Zakharov (RUS) and Haralds Silovs (LAT) did manage to stay clear, while Bergsma won the bunch sprint.
Where to Watch
Viewers will be able to watch the ISU Speed Skating competitions that will take place within the hub either via their national broadcaster / channel and for countries where there are no broadcasters, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel.
All the information is available in the Where to Watch which will be updated after each competition. The individual announcements and entry lists will be published under the respective events as soon as they are available. For further information regarding the ISU Speed Skating Hub please visit: https://www.isu.org/heerenveen2021.
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