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Northug bests Hellner in Vegas desert rollerski duel

Fri, Jul  9, 2010 - By Jesse Winter

The Vegas heat abated a little today - good news for Peter Northug and Marcus Hellner, and for the media and fans who were out to catch their Vegas Rollerski Showdown.

The race took place in a parking lot at the Palms Resort and Casino, just off of the Vegas Strip, and given the black tarmac and little wind, the slightly cooler temperatures were much appreciated.

Hellner and Northug begin their rollerski duel. Photo: Jesse Winter

Hellner and Northug begin their rollerski duel. Photo: Jesse Winter.

Even so, nearly everyone including the two athletes, was drenched with sweat after the first 15 minutes in the morning sunshine. With bannered fencing and a finish line archway, the race had a distinctly competitive feel to it. There were even a surprising number of spectators present, giving the impression that the organizers must have rounded up all the Norwegians they could find in Sin City.

Vegas has certainly seen it's share of the oddball and unusual, but Palms security and special events co-ordinator Ralph Rillos said he's never seen anything like this before.

Hellner leads Northug in the second heat. Photo: Jesse Winter

Hellner leads Northug in the second heat. Photo: Jesse Winter.

"We've had extreme sporting events here at the Palms, like our Kicker event which features motocross racers. Even [motocross superstar] Travis Pastrana has been here, but we've never seen a head-to-head showdown like this, and certainly not a winter sport one. Skiing in the desert...who would have known," he said, with a slightly bewildered look.

For the final heat, the organizers decided to tinker with the start line a little, moving it back about 10 meters which favoured Northug but this didn't seem to bother Hellner, who said, "It's still fair. I had the best start, and if I'd had that twice it would have been easier to win." Still, he said he'd much rather have had a 10km race - his specialty - instead of a sprint.

The skiers were then off on round three and Northug took the hole shot to take the final round holding off Hellner at the finish to win the best of three rollerski match.

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