The Swiss led by just 0.7 seconds at the 8-kilometer mark of the interval-start race, but his advantage grew steadily and he finished 28.5 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Johan Olsson.
Another Swede, Daniel Richardsson, took bronze after his strong finish put him 0.2 seconds ahead of Finland’s Iivo Niskanen.
Cologna started 30 seconds behind Olsson but caught the Swede before coming into the stadium, and the two were side-by-side on the final straight.
The two may have benefitted from early start numbers. Both went out ahead of the seeded group, and the warm weather softened the course for the later starters. Czech veteran Lukas Bauer, second in the seeded group, was the only other skier within a minute of Cologna, finishing 58.9 seconds back in fifth place.
Overall World Cup leader Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway had a disappointing race, finishing 1:37.7 behind the winner. Chris Andre Jespersen was the top Norwegian in sixth place. He skied in a modified suit with shorts and cutoff sleeves in the bright sunshine.
Cologna and Olsson would both normally have been in the seeded group, but they haven’t competed much on the World Cup because of injuries. Cologna had ankle surgery in November and returned to competition only last month, but still won the opening 30K skiathlon in Sochi. Olsson, the 50K classical world champion, had not competed in about two months because of an illness and rib injury.
The 22-year-old Niskanen was surprisingly in the lead early in the race and then second just behind Cologna at the 8K mark, but he faded toward the end and just missed out on a medal. The Finn has competed only once on the World Cup this season, finishing eighth in a 15K race in Italy two weeks ago. He won the under-23 world championship title in the discipline in January.
Norway dropped Petter Northug for the race after the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Vancouver struggled in the opening two men’s races. Russia, meanwhile, surprisingly dropped both Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin, who had been seen as the country’s top medal candidates. Alexander Bessmertnykh was the top Russian in seventh place.
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