Petter Northug (NOR) won the final Tour de Ski Sprint in Nove Mesto (CZE). Northug bested teammate Tor Arne Hetland and Italian Christian Zorzi in the 1.2km freestyle event. A third Norweigan, John Kristian Dahl, finished 4th.
“I’m for sure happy about my victory. My tactic was to ski as fast as possible and try to take
the lead to avoid accidents. I had good skis and the courses fit’s me well here in Nove Mesto,” said Northug.
Entering the Tour, Northug was considered a contender for the overall title, but his classic skiing has not been strong, and he has struggled to crack the top 30 in the distance events. But with the bonus seconds earned in this sprint, Northug has climbed back into contention, and now sits in 4th overall, 48.5 seconds behind the leader, Dario Cologna (SUI). If he can stay with the leaders in tomorrow’s mass start classic race, Northug could be in position to make a move in the Final Climb, a freestyle race.
Hetland leads the Tour sprint rankings, holding a lead of 11 seconds over Northug. Sprint bonus seconds will be awarded in the mass start race at various intermediate points. With plenty of seconds up for grabs, Hetland’s lead is far from safe. Vasilli Rotchev (RUS) and COlogna both are within 24 seconds.
“I was happy with today’s race,” said Hetland. “But it is not so good when you perform like I did in the qualification. When you are behind like that you get the inner track, it is more difficult to move forward.”
Cologna continued to post consistent results. His 5th place finish extended his lead on Rotchev, who finished 7th and is now +23.5.
“It was great to reach the final. I defended my overall lead and even increased it and now I
can look forward to the last stages.”
The winner of the last distance race, Axel Teichmann (GER), managed to qualify for the heats, but was knocked out in the quarterfinals and finished 23rd. Despite performing better than in the first sprint, where he failed to qualify, Teichmann slipped to 5th overall and is nearly a minute back.
Eldar Roenning (NOR) has climbed steadily in the standings, finishing 6,6, and 9th in the last three events and is now 3rd overall. He is a significant threat in the mass start, but the Final Climb will not play to his strengths.
Canadian Devon Kershaw had another successful qualification run, placing 5th, but was once again frustrated in the heats. He was eliminated in his quarterfinal and finished 17th. His result did move him up to an impressive 7th overall, +1:26. The overall standings remain tight and 10 skiers sit within 30 seconds of Kershaw. The mass start classic will be very important and it is quite possible that he could pick up bonus sprint seconds during the race.
The importance of the sprint bonuses show in the overall standings. The top-10 all qualified for the heats in this sprint, and all but Teichmann also qualified in the first sprint.
Racing continues tomorrow with a 20km mass start classic.