He has already seized many successes in Val di Fiemme, particularly in the Tour de Ski. He is one of the favourite skiers in the whole valley and the bells and joy of his supporters are legendary among the inhabitants of Val di Fiemme. He is also considered in part Italian, because he speaks so well the language of «Dante» and he has a name that sounds very Italian.
Dario Cologna (SUI) has indeed everything needed to be one of the athletes that everybody loves. And now he is also a World Champion.
After winning several World Cups, an Olympic medal and 3 Tour de Ski events, one of the few trophies missing on the shelves of the home of Cologna was a World Championship gold. Now, that spot has been filled, with a gold medal that will remain in the pages of the history of cross-country for many years, since this is also the first gold for a Swiss athlete in a cross-country race at the World Championships.
The success of Cologna was built on a wise mix of perfect tactic, amazing physical shape, state-of-the-art materials and a good deal of power on the last hill. The action of Cologna was unstoppable and only the Norwegians Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Sjur Roethe tried to keep his tails, both settling for the silver and the bronze, leaving off the podium a disappointed Petter Northug jr.
The 30 km skiathlon for men (15 km CT + 15 km FT) didn’t start in the best possible way for Dario Cologna, who fell after a kilometer on one of the first climbs of the day. Nevertheless, the Swiss recovered quickly and decided to stay in the middle of the pack without spending too much energies and trying to stay out of troubles.
After the first lap, Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) was leading a group of 60 skiers featuring in the first positions Veselin Tsinov (BUL), Jens Filbrich (GER), Petter Northug jr. (NOR) and Giorgio Di Centa (ITA).
During the second lap, Dario Cologna decided to move to the front and avoid other possible falls. The Swiss was immediately followed as a shadow by Alexander Legkov (RUS) and Petter Northug jr. In the final part of the second lap, Cologna started increasing the pace, trying to make a selection in a group composed by many athletes. The move of Cologna prompted Northug to take the leadership of the group and control the situation from the front.
Then, during the third lap, it was time for another favorite to put his nose in the front, with Markus Hellner (SWE) dictating a speed that didn’t make much selection in the group.
At the start of the fourth lap, the ranking featured Legkov in first position, followed by Northug and the brave Italians Giorgio Di Centa and Dietmar Noeckler, but the leading group was still composed by 50 skiers, proving that the main tactic was to keep a low speed and avoid wasting too much energies.
After 15 km, it was time to change technique and skis. The fastest one in switching materials were Eldar Roenning (SWE), Daniel Richardsson (SWE) and Alexander Legkov (RUS).
Maybe tired of the low pace kept by his competitors, Richardsson tried to increase the speed and cut out from the group the worst skaters. The action of Richardsson prompted Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) to take the leadership and keep up the speed, with Cologna, Legkov and Di Centa right on his tails.
The higher speed started making some victims, reducing the athletes in the leading group to 20, with Sundby, Di Centa, Legkov, Cologna, and Tobias Angerer (GER) taking turns in the front of the group.
On the second free technique lap, Sundby tried to break away from the field, while his team-mates Sjur Roethe and Northug «stopped» the other competitors and allowed their colleague to dig an important advantage on the competition. Thanks to this action, Sundby closed the lap with 15’’ advantage on the group, led by Vylegzhanin and Roehte.
On the second-last lap, Cologna decided to close the gap on Sundby and increased the frequency of his action, reducing the meters that separated him from the leader of the race and taking with him all the others. With his action, Cologna re-composed a leading group of 25 athletes, featuring all the best skiers of the World.
The last lap started with a group of 27 athletes ready to struggle for the medals on a «sprint» of 3.75 km. The first one to make his move was Curdin Perl (SUI), who tried to break away on the «Valena climb», without succeeding.
Then it was time for Maxim Vylegzhanin to take the lead, followed by Tord Asle Gjerdalen (NOR). who overtook the Russian with a decisive action. Nevertheless, the Norwegian was overtaken immediately by Dario Cologna, who seemed to notice the absence of Northug and Legkov in the first 10 positions and tried to cut them off the struggle for the gold by gaining some meters advantage.
The action of Cologna proved to be the most important of the entire race: the Swiss took away with him 3 other athletes, Vylegzhanin, Roethe and Sundby. In the end, they were those that struggled for the medals.
Behind them, Northug tried to react, but it looked like it was too late, since Cologna started the last climb in first position and powered up the hill with incredible power and strength. Ten meters behind him, Roethe and Sundby tried to hang on, but the Swiss champion gained many meters and kept them also on the downhill leading to the final straight of the XC-stadium of Lago di Tesero.
Petter Northug jr. did everything in his power to close the gap on his team-mates, but all his efforts were useless and in the end, behind a parading Cologna in first position, the sprint for the silver was won by Sundby, who placed his foot few centimeters ahead of Roethe’s. Northug took a "sour" fourth place, while Vylegzhanin closed fifth.
Complete results are available here.