Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) skied to a dominating victory in the Women’s 9km Individual Start Classic Race in Nove Mesto this morning. Kuitunen held a 12 second lead by 3.4 kilometers, and went on to win by 37.6 seconds over teammate Aino-Kaisa Saarinen. Marit Bjoergen was third, 12.3 seconds in back of Saarinen.
“This was a good day for me, it is not often when you can have a day like this. It was pure joy from the beginning to the end. It was a long day for me because of the men’s race starting first, I had to kill the time with eating, eating again, read some magazines and sleep for not thinking so much. From the start I felt great, I could use all the power to just glide and enjoy, the tracks were super and the audience was great. Tonight we will have a small and effective party at the hotel.”
Kuitunen is first in the overall standings with a small 5.6 second lead over Saarinen. Bjoergen is third, 23 seconds back. Tomorrow’s sprint will play a major role in the standings. Nine of the top 10 in the overall standings finished 12th or better in the first sprint – the only excpetion was Kuitunen in 17th. With the standings so close, none of the top skeirs can afford an early exit.
“It was okay today, not the best skiing from my side; I skied for a good position,” said Saarinen. “Tomorrow in the sprint I am hoping for a good race and that I will do well, it is important for me to get good result and many bonus seconds. It is very good with two Finish ladies in the top. I wish you all a Happy New Year!”
The top five in today’s race mirrors the overall standings, with Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) in fourth and Petra Majdic (SLO) in 5th. Both are within striking distance, but the final climb will not play to the strengths of either woman.
Araianna Follis (ITA) who led the tour entering this stage was 16th, her worst result so far, dropping her to 6th overall, just over a minute back. She does still lead the Tour sprint standings.
Canada’s Sara Renner continued her excellent Tour, just missing the top-10 with an 11th place finish. Renner was 7th at 6.4km but was unable to maintain the pace.
“Getting into the top-10 here was my goal and I am just so close to that so I am very happy,” said Renner, who is also competing in her first full season back since having a baby following the 2006 Olympics. “I have come such a long way since last year so and I am very consistent so I have to be pleased.”
Renner continues to have a stranglehold on 14th spot in the overall standings of the Tour de Ski, which wraps up on January 4 in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
“Every time there is a classic race I have a chance (to make a move on the field),” said Renner, who is enjoying the strong camaraderie and positive vibes running through the Canadian squad this year. “The girls will be getting tired and trying to weather the travel so you have to capitalize where you can. I have a lot of improvement to do in my sprint racing so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Racing continues tomorrow with the final sprint of the Tour.
Watch today’s race right now on Universal Sports!
Women’s 10k from Nove Mesto CZE:
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