Bormio, Italy – The 2007-2008 World Cup season came to a close with a pursuit competition as part of the “mini-tour” World Cup finals. The three day event consisted of a prologue, a mass-start classical, and finally, a free style pursuit, with the start order based on the times from the first two race.
Virpi Kuituen (FIN) wrapped up her second overall World Cup victory by winning the pursuit in a sprint to the line against Justyna Kowalczyk (POL). Kuitunen started with a 2.5 second lead over the Polish star, but Kowalczyk attacked off the line and quickly opened up a gap – leading by 15 seconds at the 6.9km mark in the 10km freestyle race. But Kuitunen accelerated over the las 3 kilometers and was able to overtake Kowalczyk in the finish straight.
A happy Kuitunen was surprised to win the race. “I didn't believe I could win today! The difference was so big at one moment that I didn't think Kowalczyk would lose it. Then, when I started to hear the gap was not increasing and then started to decrease, then I wanted to try (to win) until the final end and it was worth it. Still, 10 meters before the finish line I was not sure whether I can catch Justyna or not, so the feeling when I crossed the finish line was awesome. Today I had to ski the pace my back let me, I had to control it really carefully and go only as fast as I can and still tolerate the pain. I guess that is why I saved some energy, there was no point during the race where the speed would have been too much.”
Kuitunen was referring to back problems that have plagued her over the course of the season.
Claudia Nystad held her start position, finishing third.
In the men's race, Vincent Vittoz (FRA) closed out his season on a strong note, skiing to an easy victory in the 15km freestyle. Vittoz crossed the line 1:10 ahead of Lukas Bauer (CZE). Hometown hero Giorgio DiCenta out-sprinted Italian teammate Pietro Piller-Cottrer to take the final podium spot.
Bauer dominated most of the season and had the overall World Cup title locked up several weeks ago – the first ever for the Czech. “I am very happy about my overall World Cup victory. It is amazing — I had a dream season. The race today was tough, I saw quite soon that I couldn't close the gap between me and Vincent. Now I will celebrate with my team and enjoy this awesome victory — during the season there was not time for that.”
Devon Kershaw (CAN) was the lone North American to race, moving up to 23rd from his start position of 25th. He was only 1.3 seconds out of 18th.
Kuitunen had a secure lead in the overall standings entering the last day, but it was not offocial until she crossed the line.
“These two overall titles are both equally valuable at their own ways” she said. “Last season everything worked and the whole season was like a dream. This season I really had to fight hard to come back after all the sicknesses – I was sick 4 times this season. So the achievement is a different kind, but both are just as great. This time it was just really heavy duty to get the overall title. It was my only goal this season, to win the overall title, and I did it!”
The winners of the final weekend in Bormio/St. Caterina are Virpi Kuitunen and Vincent Vittoz from France. Kuitunen won also her second overall World Cup title, while Lukas Bauer fixed his first overall World Cup victory already 1,5 weeks ago.
Astrid Jacobsen (NOR) finished second in the overall rankings, 297 behind Kuitunen. Justyna Kowalczyk is third 456 points back.
The overall distance World Cup was also won by Kuitunen with 729 points, just ahead of Valentina Shevchenko (UKR, 707 points) and Justyna Kowalczyk (661 points).
The winner of the sprint World Cup was Petra Majdic (SLO) with 609 points. She won the first ever globe for the Cross-Country team of Slovenia. Jacobsen was once again second (570 points) and Kuitunen third (538 points).
On the men's side, the overall World Cup was clearly won by Bauer with 1462 points. In second follows the German RenÃ© Sommerfeldt (829 points) and third, Piller-Cottrer (783 points).
Bauer was also the best in the distance World Cup ranking with 986 points, ahead of Piller-Cottrer (516 points) and Sommerfeldt (494 points).
Ola Vigen Hattestad celebrated his first overall sprint World Cup title. He won by 2 points ahead of Emil Joensson (SWE) and 129 points ahead of his teammate John Kristian Dahl.
The Norwegians easily won the Nations Cup (women & men combined) and also the individual gender rankings — with the men defending the title, and the women reclaiming it from Finland.
Vincent Vittoz crossing the line in Saturday's mass start classic (Photo Credit: Swix Sport)