The winners of this years Tour de Ski showed no signs of slowing down as both Kowalczyk and Bauer took the classic victories. It was an important race for many nations as this was the last chance to determine selection for the distance racers going to Vancouver in three weeks time.
It’s a head scratcher how Kowalczyk is not tiring yet this season. She showed no signs of weakness of ill-affects of the Tour as she managed to grab another World Cup victory. Early on, Magdalena Pajala from Sweden was the pace setter and had a great race as the 21-year-old Swede ended up 17th. This was the first time she has actually made the points outside of the Tour de Ski. Bjørgen looked extremely strong today, especially going up the big hill at the 2.3km and 8.3km time check. It appeared that the Norwegian was going to take the win, but Kowalczyk managed to find enough to hold off Bjørgen as she had a strong second half and was closing in on the Tour de Ski winner in the last half of the race. It’s beyond me how Kowalczyk is not exhausted the crazy thing is that she is planning to race in Rybinsk and Canmore in the run up to the Olympics.
There some great analysis done by WorldofXC.com of todays women’s splits and a really interesting read.
1. Justyna Kowalczyk
2. Marit Bjørgen
3. Aino-Kaisa Sarrinen
Notes: Ishida had another great race. This Japanese skier has a strong future and it’s good to see an Asian country have a skier able to be competitive in the field amongst the classical ski. Canada had a lone entrance in Daria Gaiazova who has dominated the Nor-Am circuit back home and had a very good race today finishing in 20th.
Today showed how important home field advantage is to the Estonians. Both Veerpalu and Mae had seasonal best by both hitting the podium. Kokk and Rehemaa were 17th and 19th to out four Estonians in the top 20. However, they were denied by Bauer as he completed his Otepaa hat-trick. Other than Bauer, the top 11 places in todays race were dominated by three countries; two Estonians, five Russians, and three Norwegians. We saw new names to the leaderboard, particularly the Russians Artem Zhurko and Egor Sorin. Alexander Kuznetsov was the early leader but failed to keep the pace as you can read over at WorldofXC.com. Jaak Mae had a late charge in the last 2.7km and managed to move up from fifth to the bronze medal to deny any medals to Russia on the day.
Bauer makes it look so easy, it’s so fluid and smooth that it looks like he’s on a Sunday ski when in fact he’s destroying some of the most fit athletes on this planet. Veerpalu was the only one to be able to keep pace but due to his slower start, he was unable to pull all the time back to take the victory.
1. Lukas Bauer
2. Andrus Veerpalu
3. Jaak Mae
Notes: Graham Nishikawa was Canada’s top skier today in 32nd and had a fast start to the day as he was in 10th at the 2.3km time check but failed to hold the pace. Martin Johansson had a great race as the Swede tied for 14th in todays race and held the leaders spot at the finish for a while before being taking over by Artem Zhmurko. Svartedal was the top Norwegian today in sixth and it’ll be interesting who will be going to Vancouver as part of the Norwegian team.
Tomorrow sees the very exciting Otepää sprints take place. Jönsson is favourited to win (3.30) over Hattestad at (4.20) which is suprising. This years race will take place in the classic style. On the women’s side, Majdic is the favorite at 2.20 while Kowalczyk is at 2.80 and Bjørgen at 4.30.
We’ll see 16 seeded females in the field of 57. I’m quite excited to see how Hanna Falk gets on tomorrow, quite the fun skier to watch and with a slightly deeper field tomorrow there should be some interesting heats. The men’s field will be much strong than todays as there will be 19 seeded skiers in the 68 field. Predictions:
1. Petra Majdic
2. Marit Bjørgen
3. Hanna Falk
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad
2. Emil Jönsson
3. Jon Kristian Dahl