Editor's Note: The results viewable directly on both the FIS and Tour de Ski websites are incorrect, reporting inaccurate times. The actual results are viewable on these sites as official PDFs. The links at the bottom of this article go to the correct results.
Last year's Tour winner Kuitunen started the 10-day event off where she left off last year, winning the women's 3.3km prologue by .7 seconds over teammate Aino Kaisa Saarinen. Justina Kowalcyzk (POL) took third, 1.9 seconds behind Kuitunen. Marit Bjoergen (NOR) was fourth and Seraina Mischol (SUI) took fifth +13.0 seconds. Times were extremeley close – not surprise given the short distance.
Kowalcyzk was first at the lone checkpoint at 2.2km – 7 seconds ahead of eventual winner Kuitunen.
Said Kuitunen “I’m satisfied with my victory today. Victory in the first race gives some extra self confidence. Of course, I have a tactic for tomorrow, but I will not talk about it. I’m prepared for the Tour and am in good shape.”
Bauer, off to a strong start this season, edged overall World Cup leaper Axel Teichmann (GER) by 1 second. Norweigan classic specialist Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset took third. +3.3 seconds. Sami Jauhojaervi (FIN) was a mere .2 seconds behind Hjelmeset in 4th, and Swede Mats Larsson rounded out the top five.
Bauer was fourth at the 2.2km checkpoint, 5 seconds behind Dnitrij Liashenko (RUS) who finished in 7th place, +8.5 seconds.
Bauer was pleased with his race and also refused to divulge his strategy for tomorrow's pursuit, saying “I am very happy about the first position in the first race of the Tour. Before the race I was hoping to be top five, I thought that the race was too short for me, but now I will be first out tomorrow. I will see if I will go out hard, or if I will wait for the others.”
Hjelmeset was also pleased, but has no illusions of maintaining his high ranking. “I liked this race, in the intermediate time I was a few seconds ahead of the others, but they were very strong in the end. Tomorrow’s race will be good for me, I’m a good hunter (smile). But actually, I’m not a good free technique skier so I will try my best. I have no plan for the race tomorrow. For the Tour in the overall, my goal is it to make good classic races.”
Canadian Devon Kershaw finished 25th, 23.6 seconds behind the leader. While a solid result, many had picked Kershaw as a dark horse for a podium. He is a strong sprinter and has shown high speed in the first portion of longer events. Teammate David Nighbor was 37th, +30.9 seconds. This is an excellent result for Nighbor, who is relatively new to World Cup racing. He finished a distant 71st in Dusseldorf at the World Cup opener.
“I was able to ski relaxed and I’m happy that I’m in a good spot for the rest of the Tour,â€ said Nighbor, who wasn’t overly surprised with his strong result. â€œI didn’t think that much of where I wanted to place today because I didn’t have many expectations. I knew if I skied like I did in training then I would be okay. I’m feeling confident like when I race in North America and it was a good day.”
The top three also get bonus seconds at the finish – 15 seconds for first, 10 for second, and 5 for third.
Racing continues tomorrow with a 10/15km freestyle pursuit. This pursuit will be run in the format commonly used before the introduction of the duathlon. Skiers will start in the order of finish today, handicapped by their finish time. First across the line wins.
Lukas Bauer (CZE) (Photo Credit: Fischer Skis)