Falun, Sweden – Claudia Nystad (GER) won the World Cup final 2.5km freestyle prologue, edging Charlotte Kalla (SWE) by 2.7 seconds. Overall World Cup leader Petra Majdic was 5th, and her closest challenger, Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) 3rd.
It was another beautiful day in Sweden, warm and sunny. 70 women competed, and only two did not start. Britta Norgren (SWE) and Esther Bottomley (AUS), the two withdrawals, are now out of the World Cup Finals.
Nystad clearly enjoys the prologue distance. She won this event at this year’s Tour de Ski as well. She was 3rd at the 1.2km time point, near the top of the large climb, 7 seconds down on a fast-starting Kowalczyk. But she turned it on in the second half to claim the victory. The German now sits in 8th overall in the World Cup Finals after two events.
Additional sprint bonus seconds were awarded to the top three finishers – 15, 10, and 5 respectively. Despite missing out on the bonus, Majdic remains in the World Cup Final lead, +7.2 seconds on Kalla. Kowalczyk is third, +11.5, and Anna Olsson (SWE), who finished third in the Stockholm sprint, is fourth, +12.9,
It was not a good day for the Finnish women, who are looking to get back in to the overall World Cup hunt. Riita Liisa Roponen was the lone bright spot in a strong 4th, but Aino Kaisa Saarinen was 21st, Pirjo Muranen 23rd, and Virpi Kuitunen a dismal 61st. Saarinen is still well within striking distance of Majdic for the World Cup Final, but to have any chance on the overall World Cup, she needs to win the 4-event Final, and score strong points in each of the remaining races.
As World Cup points for the individual races are only awarded if skiers complete the entire World Cup Final, FIS is not updting the World Cup standings. Half points will be awarded for each race, and double points for the overall World Cup Final standings. Kowalczk, at this point, has the best chance of unseating Majdic. She will be strong in the pursuit, and will likely try to break away and put significant time on Majdic. With a 100 point lead entering Wednesday’s sprint, Majdic will be looking over her shoulder at Kowalczyk. Majdic did expand her cushion with a victory in the sprint, but the overall World Cup title will come down to the World Cup Final results.
Kikkan Randall finished 31st for the US, just .1 seconds out of 30th, and 28.4 off the pace. with her 33rd in the sprint, Randall is now in 27th in the World Cup Final standings, and strong distance races could keep her in the top 30.
The Canadian team was led by Perianne Jones in 52nd. Daria Gaiazova was 55th, and Sara Renner 58th.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.