Axel Teichmann (GER) won his third event of the 08-09 Tour de Ski, edging Finn Sami Jauhojaervi at the line in the 20km Mass Start Classic in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Dario Cologna (SUI) finished 4th and holds a 34 seconds lead entering the last day.
Teichmann climbed back to the second position overall with a victory that included 50 bonus seconds, the most of anyone in the race. Overall there were five intermediate sprint locations with a total of 1:30 up for grabs. Teichmann needed to be fight for every second to get back into contention for the overall lead. He did just that and will now be chasing Cologna up the Final Climb tomorrow.
“It was a great race and I am happy that I took the victory. This kind of mass start races are interesting and tough for everybody. Now I will try to relax as much as possible and then I hope to have a great race again tomorrow.”
Cologna also had a successful day, gaining 30 bonus seconds, and finishing 4th overall, keeping him solidly at the top of the overall standings.
He is confident heading into tomorrow’s Final Climb. “I had a very good day and I tried to take some bonus seconds. It was an important race today. Today was the 6th race of the Tour de Ski and it was hard but the shape is still good for tomorrow. I am not afraid of the up hill, it is good to start first, I can ski my own race and stay quiet and race my own speed.”
The field remained tight throughout, despite several aggressive attacks. The top nine all finished within 10 seconds of the lead, and 20 skiers were within 30 seconds. At the halfway point, the lead pack consisted of 27 skiers.
Nikolay Chebotko (KAZ) finished third, edging Cologna by half a second. Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) continued to excel in the classic distance events, adding a 5th to the 1st and 2nd of earlier races. Johnsrud Sundby is now 6ht overall despite finishes of 49, 45 and 34. He did claim 10 bonus seconds in today’s race, his first sprint points of the Tour. Jaak Mae (EST) is now the only skier in the top 10 who has not scored any sprint bonuses.
Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) held onto the Sprint ranking lead, starting the race fast and grabbing 15 bonuse seconds at the first checkpoint. He then slipped back and finished 45th over three minutes back. This strategy was critical, however, as Cologna’s big day cut the Sprint lead to 9 seconds. As long as he finishes tomorrow’s race, Hetland will win the Sprint Cup.
Eldar Roenning (NOR) sits in third overall, just over a minute back. Skate distacne races are not his forte and he will have to be on the top of his game to hold off Vasilli Rotchev (RUS) and teammate Petter Northug, both of whom start within 20 seconds. Northug, who has struggled in the classic distance races during the Tour, turned things around with his 8th place finish, but his inability to take any bonus points meant he lost ground on the leaders. The podium, however, is very much within striking distance.
There is less than a minute separating 6th and 16th in the overall standings, so there should be significant changes in the overall standings tomorrow. Said Vegard Ulvang, ”The Tour is getting better and better for every year. The track up the Alpe Cermis is almost the same as last year, but the snow is slower this year because of the cold. When I saw the up hill the first time I was shocked, it was so steep! It will be exiting tomorrow!”
The Canadian men’s team was devastated by a cold that meant an early exit for George Grey, who posted excellent results in the early stages of the Tour. Devon Kershaw suffered to a 38th place finish, +2:01, a valiant effort. He dropped from 7th to 22nd overall and at this point is just trying to finish the event.
“Devon is just hanging on and trying to finish,” said team leader Dave Wood, who added Kershaw racked up a load of World Cup points throughout the Tour and will be in the red group with the top-30 in World Cup points if he finishes the event. “He is racing easy and just trying to survive. It is important for Devon to get into the red group and to finish. We will evaluate how he feels in the morning.”
Ivan Babikov also tired to fight off a sore throat and cold to post a time of 1:00:11.1 and finish 48th.
In order to keep World Cup points earned during the tour, an athlete must finish the entire event. The illness is especially hurtful as double points are awarded for the overall Tour standings. A top-10 overall finish for Kershaw would have given him a significant boost in the World Cup rankings.
Kershaw was forced to withdraw from the Tour the past two seasons due to illness. He has been skiing extremely well, despite early exits from the sprint heats.