Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) won the Tour de Ski Freestyle Sprint in Prague, Czech Republic. Hetland bested Vassili Rotchev (RUS) and Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA) to take the victory and claim an addition 60 bonus seconds.
In the Tour de Ski sprint competitions, bonus seconds are awarded to the top 30 finishers on a scale with first receiving 60 down to 1 second for 30th.
Hetland was pleased with his race, but has no illusions of competing for the overall win.
“It felt really good today. I like Prague, I had a good race here last year, and this year I won. I raced well in Düsseldorf, and now I raced well here, so finally I am in good shape, but it is an eternity for me up to the lead in the overall standings, so I do not think that is possible for me. But there is still one more sprint race.”
The 34-year old Hetland is known primarily as a sprinter. He has three World Cup podium finishes in four sprint starts this season. But he is no slouch in distance events, and while his 44th in yesterday’s pursuit set him back somewhat, a strong distance race could put him in position to battle for a top-10 finish. He currently stands in 27th place overall, and leads the Tour sprint rankings.
Rotchev’s performance moved him up to second overall, 15.4 seconds behind leader Dario Cologna (SUI). The Russian qualified in 2nd and maintained that position through the heats, picking up 56 bonus seconds. He was 8th in the prologue and 24th in the pursuit.
Cologna finished the sprint in 8th, 2nd in the B-Final to Peter Northug. Tha man that Vegard Ulvang picked as his favorite for the tour continues to show his versatility and consistency with finishes of 2, 6, and 8 in the first three stages.
“I am very satisfied with my eight place today and happy to still be in the red shirt of the overall lead,” said Cologna. “Now we have a rest day and can relax a bit. I have to ski fast in Nove Mesto, there are many strong skiers behind me.”
Northug, who slipped in the standings in the classic pursuit, climbed back to 5th overall, 28.1 seconds behind Cologna.
Today’s 3rd place finisher, Gaillard, now sits in 3rd overall, less than 3 seconds in back of Rotchev, and 2 seconds ahead of Finn Sami Jauhojaervi, who took 4th today.
Axel Teichmann (GER), winner of the prologue, and second overall after the pursuit, failed to qualify for the heats, dropping him to 10th overall, +48.1. This shows the importance of the sprint bonus seconds.
Devon Kershaw (CAN) qualified first setting himself up for a successful day. UNfortunately he crashed in his quarterfinal and finished 26th on the day, dropping him from 3rd overall to 11th, +58.1. George Grey (CAN) also qualified for the heats and finished 19th. His performance did not have a major impact on his overall standing. He is just outside the top-30 in 34th. Fellow Canadian Ivan Babikov finished 57th in the sprint and is in 32nd overall.
Said Kershaw following the race ”It was very tight but I felt good. What happened was that I made the move on Heller (SWE) too early, and I slipped on some ice so we both fell. I am very disappointed at the moment, but I have to recover quickly. There’s a 15 km race just around the corner.”
Defending champion Lukas Bauer (CZE) is in 22nd, +1:16, and does not appear to be in position to hold on to the title for another year.
You can watch today’s sprint on Universal Sports starting at 3:50PM EST.
All other Tour de Ski events are available as well. View the full schedule page here (Nordic events are mixed in with Alpine, so you will have to scroll down to find the most recent races).