Lukas Bauer (CZE) made it back to back victories today in Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski, winning the men's 15km Pursuit in convincing style in front of the home crowd in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic. The 30 year old skied four solo laps of the 3.75km course to win by 47 seconds ahead of a very large bunch sprint.
After such a dramatic women's pursuit, what would happen with the men? However the men's event unfolded in a much different manner to the women's. Bauer started with a 6 second lead over Axel Teichmann (GER), with the main opposition starting on the track 19 seconds back. Third place Hjelmeset (NOR) was soon swallowed up by the chasing pack, leaving Bauer and Teichmann the only skiers out in front. Bauer's lead increased steadily in the first few kilometers, out to 25 seconds at the 2.6km mark, while Teichmann seemed to cruise along with the ever growing pack 3-4 seconds behind him. Over 40 skiers were crammed into the next 30 seconds. Anders Soedergren (SWE) led the pack up to catch Teichmann at the top of the hill on the second lap, while Bauer's lead extended out to 36 seconds. The front of the pack was all stretched out in single file, but still over 30 athletes were within 20 seconds.
Not much happened over the next lap. Bauer's lead blew out to 57 seconds, while the pack began to bunch up more than before. Sodergren stayed at the front the entire time, accompanied by Vylegzhanin (RUS), Piller Cottrer (ITA), and Teichmann (GER). Gaillard (FRA) fell on a downhill, but was up again and rejoined the pack of about 30. Fredriksson (SWE) and Roenning (NOR) lost contact with the main group. The last lap begins and Checchi (ITA) and di Centa (ITA) join Piller Cottrer at the front. Over the top of the hill and then Angerer (GER) and Cologna (SUI) both fell in quick succession on a downhill but still managed to stay in contact with the group. The Italians lead the race for second place down towards the stadium for the final time. Suddenly another fall, right at the front! Piller Cottrer lost balance and brought down di Centa with him! Sodergren hits the front again as they top the rise into the final straight, but then his teammate Marcus Hellner comes storming past to win the bunch sprint and take second. Next Soedergren, Vylegzhanin, and Oestensen (NOR). Bauer? Oh yes, he is already giving interviews while the others are still catching their breath. Most of the overall contenders are in the main group, with the exception of the already mentioned Fredriksson and Roenning, who are 1:32 behind, Legkov (RUS) who is back at 1:51, and Vittoz (FRA) who had a terrible day to end up 3:15 behind Bauer.
Tomorrow everything can change in the overall standings. The winner of the Stage 3 Freestyle Sprint in Prague receives a 60 second time bonus. Bauer normally doesn't qualify for World Cup sprint finals, though he never has had such an incentive. There are plenty of eager contenders within striking distance of the overall lead if Bauer doesn't make the top 30, including Oestensen, Northug (NOR), and even Bauer's Czech team-mates Koukal and Jaks, who are normally stronger sprinters. However, there are also plenty of sprint specialists further down the result list who have been conserving their energy so far and waiting for their chance of glory in the Sprint in Prague. Whose legs will be freshest after two tough stages? We will see tomorrow!
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Bauer Victorious in Tour de Ski Pursuit