Petter Northug closed in on the overall cross-country World Cup title Saturday by finishing fourth in a 15-kilometre mass start race won by fellow Norwegian Eldar Roenning.
Northug made sure to stay ahead of his closest competitors — Alexander Legkov of Russia and defending overall champion Dario Cologna of Switzerland — and seemed content with saving some energy for Sunday's final pursuit race rather than challenging for the victory. The Norwegian is 80 points ahead of Legkov and 87 in front of Cologna and will start ahead of both in the pursuit.
"Today, the first lap was a bit chaotic with so many skiers gathered but the field spread out on the second and third laps which made it easier to ski," Northug said. "I had control of what happened [towards the end]. I could see that Legkov had problems with the pace, and I stayed where I was until the finish. I don't want to think that the overall win is settled yet. You need to be on song tomorrow, and do things right."
Roenning beat Maxim Vylegzhanin of Russia and Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway in a sprint to win the race in 43 minutes, 26 seconds.
Norway swept the podium in the women's 10K race, with Marit Bjoergen clocking 28:06.7 to beat Therese Johaug and Heidi Weng. Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who has already clinched the overall title, was fourth.