The World Cup leader Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) and the ski veteran Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) took the victory in today’s free style Sprint in Asiago (Italy), the fourth Stage in the Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski.
Virpi Kuitunen took her first Tour de Ski stage victory in the Sprint under bright sunny skies in Asiago, ahead of Marit Bjoergen (NOR) and the home favourite Arianna Follis (ITA, Valley d’Aosta). In fourth place finished Britta Norgren (SWE). Also in the final: Czech Katerina Neummanova (5th place) and Natalia Korosteleva (RUS).
Kuitunen overtook the overall Tour de Ski leader bib (Golden Bib) from Kristin Steira (NOR) who finished in 48th place today. She is now leading 28.3 seconds ahead of Marit Bjoergen (NOR) and 34.3 seconds ahead of Petra Majdic (SLO; 17th place today).
In the Tour de Ski Sprint Ranking standings (Silver Bib), Marit Bjoergen confirmed her lead, with now 95 points. Virpi Kuitunen in the 2nd place has 85 points at the moment, followed by Arianna Follis with 70 points.
In the men’s race, Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) finished first, narrowly ahead of Thobias Fredriksson (SWE) and the youngster Petter Northug from Norway. Fourth place was Janusz Krezelok (POL), Markus Hellner from Sweden finished fifth, and also in the A-Final was Dusan Kozisek (CZE).
Tobias Angerer, who finished tactically today in 12th place (last place in the Semi-final), is still the leader of the Tour overall ranking with 27.3 seconds ahead of the today’s unlucky Simen Oestensen (NOR) who lost a ski in the quarterfinal and finished on place 26th. The Olympic champion Evgenji Dementiev (RUS) is on third place 31.1 seconds behind Angerer.
The Silver Bib for the Sprint Ranking now belongs to Tor Arne Hetland. He overtook Canadian Devon Kershaw, who quit this morning the Tour de Ski because he has the flu. Hetland is leading with 73 points ahead of Thobias Fredriksson 68 points and Petter Northug with 56 points.
Tomorrow the Tour de Ski will continue in Val di Fiemme with a 15 km classic race for the ladies and 30 km in classic style for the men with Mass start.
Number of participants/ participating nations: 54 ladies, 69 men/ 21 nations
Weather: sunny, 4Â°C
Snow Conditions: hard packed
Course: Height difference: 16m; Maximum climb: 16m; Total climb: 32m, Length of laps: 580m & 630m;
Tor Arne Hetland (NOR), Men’s Silver Bib & winner of the today’s race: â€œIt was a good race for me as I have not been racing so well until now. I had poor results in Oberstdorf, but finally it came through for me as I am in a good shape. The tracks in Val di Fiemme are very well prepared and in a good condition. What will happen in the last Stage is a big question mark since it will be a new experience for us all and no one is really prepared. It is possible to lose 10 minutes in that last uphill. I have good advice from the Norwegian women’s team about the intermediate sprints for tomorrow, and whether it makes sense to go for the additional seconds there. If I am in a position to do that I will go for it but winning them is not really my goal for tomorrow.â€
Thobias Fredriksson (SWE), second of the today’s race: â€œI was quite surprised about my race today. It was tough but good. After the races in Oberstdorf which I took more as fun as real races, it was nice to be on the podium again. I will stay on the Tour and my goal for tomorrow’s 30km race is not to be overlapped so that I can continue on Sunday. I have not yet seen the Final Climb but I hope that it is not as steep as everyone is saying.â€
Tobias Angerer (GER), Men’s Golden Bib: â€œIt was a surprise to me to keep the Golden Bib today because I thought that Oestensen and Northug will be very strong in today’s sprint. I felt good in the prologue but then decided to take it easy in the semi-final so I lost some seconds there. I am looking forward to the weekend: I am in a good shape and I have good skis. The tracks for the weekend’s races will be very hard however. I am taking it day-by-day for now. I think the decision for the overall Tour victory will surely fall in the last 4km of the Tour in the Final Climb and will depend on who has the best legs. I have inspected the Climb, we drove and skied it down yesterday. It is a very tough course – 400 m gain of altitude in the last 4km – but it is the same for everyone so the best will win.â€
Virpi Kuitunen (FIN), Ladies’ Golden Bib: â€œI am quite happy to take home today’s Bonus Seconds — I think I will need them in the Final Climb! When I broke my pole in the Semi-Final – someone just stepped on it – I thought that all is still possible if I get a new pole rapidly. I did, and it did not matter although it was 5cm shorter than the other one. In the prologue I had still felt quite heavy, but I felt better and better as we raced on. My back hurt but that was not so bad since the sprint is such a short race. Today, the Lucky Loser from the Semi-Finals became the Lucky Winner in the Finals.â€
Marit Bjoergen (NOR), Ladies’ Silver Bib: â€œIt is getting better and better for me. I am now in the second place in the overall Tour rankings and am quite happy about that. I will definitely try my best in the remaining two races to ensure a good final result in the overall ranking. I inspected the Final Climb yesterday in Val di Fiemme and think that it will undoubtedly be really difficult. I am afraid that it is too hard for many of us and some ladies will probably not be able to maintain good pace and proper skiing technique all the way until the top.