Arianna Follis (ITA) was the winner in the Tour de Ski freestyle sprint race, held on a 450m course in Prague's famous old town. She claimed victory after posting the fastest qualification time, ahead of the Tour favorites Marit Bjoergen (3rd place) and Virpi Kuitunen (fifth place). Pirjo Muranen (FIN), finished 2nd, earning her first individual podium finish at the World Cup level since January 2005. Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland took fourth, equaling her best sprint result.
Marit Bjoergen remains at the head of the overall Tour ranking, with a total time of 36:25.6. Arianna Follis is now in second place 9.4 seconds behind Bjoergen, and Justyna Kowalczyk is third, 22.0 seconds behind Bjoergen.
Arianna Follis leads the Sprint ranking, and thus wears the Tour silver bib, 1 second ahead of Virpi Kuitunen, and 4 seconds ahead of Pirjo Muranen.
In the men's race, 21-year old Nikolay Morilov of Russia, the brother of Natalia Korosteleva, took his first Tour Stage victory. It was his first podium finish at the World Cup level. Norwegian Simon Oestensen took second place. Tor Arne Hetland, who won the qualification rounds, took finished third. The men's sprint final was a fight between Norway against Russia; Andrey Parfenov (RUS) finished fourth, Petter Northugh (NOR) finished fifth, and Maxim Vyleghanin (RUS) finished sixth.
The leader of the Tour de Ski is now Simen Oestensen with a total time of 47:27.2. Lukas Bauer (CZE) is second, 12.1 seconds back, and Tor Arne Hetland is third, trailing Oestensen by 14.9 seconds.
In the sprint ranking of the Tour, Nikolay Morilov is in the lead with 1 minute. Simon Oestensen and Tor Arne Hetland are 4 and 8 seconds back, respectively .
Tomorrow brings the first rest day of the Tour. The Tour de Ski will then move the Nove Mesto na Morave, where the fourth stage will be a pursuit with a handicap start based on the current Tour Overall Standings. It's the first time ever that the Cross-Country World Cup will race on the New Year's day.
Marit Bjoergen, NOR (Tour leader)
It has been a long day, but I'm satisfied. I didn't have a good start but got better and better. My goal was to beat Kowalczyk and I did. Follis was very strong today so I'm very satisfied. Maybe Follis and I can do a good job together in the next race and gain lots of seconds.
Arianna Follis, ITA (Lady of the day & Sprint leader)
My tactic today was to try to start first and to go on till the finish. I don't think I'm one of the favorites for the Tour, it is so long and today is only the third day. There are many days left. I think my chances to beat Kuitunen are small.
Simen Oestensen, NOR (Tour leader)
Tour de Ski is the biggest competition this year, so it's really fun to manage to take the golden bib. When Bauer didn't make it to the quarter finals, I realized that it was possible.
Tomorrow I will train in the morning, otherwise just relax as much as possible, watch a movie and enjoy the day. We will probably have a calm New Years Eve. I think one reason why Norway has a strong team is that we are well prepared and that we have a good spirit within the team, we have fun and I think that is important.
Nikolay Morilov, RUS (Man of the day & Sprint leader)
This victory is great for me, I'm happy. It was a very interesting race with a lot of chances. I have high ambitions for the future. I come from a skiing family, my parents are both ski trainers and Natalia Korosteleva, who finished 10th today, is my sister.
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