Axel Teachmann skated to a convincing victory in the opening stage of the 2008-2009 FIS Tour de Ski. The German star covered the 3.3km course in Oberhof, Germany in 7:11.8, a significant 8.2 seconds ahead of Dario Cologna (SUI). Teichmann, a former World Cup Champion, started slowly, as is often the case, sitting in 14th at 1.3 kilometers, 3.3 seconds behind Cologna.
“I felt very comfortable today, I pushed it hard in the beginning,” said Teichmann. “I stayed really relaxed in the finish area, I heard that Cologna was before me in the start, but the plan for me with this day was to stay on the podium. It is a big advantage to race before the crowd and fans here at home in Oberhof”
Both Teichmann and Cologna are considered favorites in the Tour due to their strength in both techniques and all distances. The two cemented this status with their strong performances today.
Cologna was 4.8 seconds ahead of third place finisher, Petter Northug (NOR). Northug, the winner of the Tour de Ski Sprint Cup last year, is also expected to challenge for a top spot.
Said Northug, “I did not have a very good start today, but for tomorrow when I am top three I will be calm at the start. The plan today was to go out hard. I feel that I can go faster when my body gets in better shape. Axel was skiing the whole race very fast today, maybe he had super skis!”
Aivar Rehemaa (EST), an eight year World Cup veteran, was the surprise of the day, holding the leader’s position through the early finishers, and ending up in an impressive fourth. Rehemaa had never finished in the top-10 in a World Cup race, his previous best being a 14th earlier this year.
Canadian Devon Kershaw started his Tour on a strong note, rounding out the top 5, 13.8 seconds behind Teichmann, and just .8 seconds out of third. His teammate George Grey also turned in an impressive performance, finishing 9th and giving the Canadians tow in the top 10, a feat matched only by the Germans.
“Today was one of the highlights of my year for sure, but I cannot get to excited. This is only seven minutes of an event that will be about four-to-five hours of racing so I have to stay calm,” said Kershaw. “With this type of event, I don’t have a week to celebrate this result because I have to get ready to compete again tomorrow. It is so important to not celebrate the small victories or get upset about the bad results because you don’t have time. But this is very good for my confidence to know my shape is there.”
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