Arianna Follis (ITA) won the women’s Tour de Ski sprint yesterday. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen was 3rd and took the overall Tour lead from teammate Virpi Kuitunen.
Follis, who has a solid 17 second lead in the Tour sprint rankings over Petra Majdic (SLO), won both sprint competitions of the Tour, as well as finishing second in the prologue. She is 5th overall, +52.1. After finishing 5th in the 10km classic pursuit, Follis struggled somewhat in the last distance race, finishing 16th. A strong performance in tomorrow’s 15km mass start could put her in position to make a move on the Final Climb.
“It was again an amazing race, I’m really satisfied with it and happy about the victory,” said Follis. “The black shirt (sprint leader) is nice to have! Now we go to Italy, we love it to be at home. I hope I will have a good classical race in Val di Fiemme and then I can push on the last climb.”
Majdic finished second in the freestyle sprint, and is 4th overall, +44.1. Majdic needs to solidify her position in the classic event tomorrow, with strong skaters Follis and Bjoergen sitting close by. Majdic is one of three women to finish in the top-10 in all Tour stages so far, joining Saarinen and Marit Bjoergen (NOR).
Saarinen has an impressive four podium finishes so far and holds a 13.8 second lead over Kuitunen. Kuitunen fared better in this sprint (she was 17th in the first sprint), advancing to the B-Final and taking 8th place on the day. But it was not enough to hold off Saarinen, who overcame the gap that Kuitunen built with her 37 second victory in the 10km classic.
Said Saarinen, “I felt good today. I’m now in the red bib and I’m looking forward to the races in Italy. We are going now directly there, drive all the way to Italy and have tomorrow a rest day. On Saturday we have a Mass start in classical style and then the Final Climb – but I must say I’m not
afraid of it.”
Canada’s Sara Renner was 23rd. She has consistently qualified in the sprints, but has not been able to advance out of the quarterfinals.
“I think I’m old,” joked Renner following the race. “I don’t quite have the snap and can’t find the extra gear to respond to the pace.”
“I think this is a reflection of the training that I’ve been doing. I have really been focusing on distance races and realize it is going to take time and a couple of workouts with Chandra (Crawford) to get back my sprinting legs,” said Renner. “I just didn’t have the wheaties today.”
Despite the early exit, Renner is solidly in 12th place overall. she is 23 seconds out 11th, and 9.7 seconds ahead of Therese Johaug of Norway in 13th.
Racing continues tomorrow with a 15km Classic Mass Start.