Prague, Czech Republic – Natalia Korosteleva (RUS) won the fourth stage of the 2010 Tour de Ski, and her first ever World Cup race, riding a late charge in sloppy conditions in Prague.
Korosteleva won an exciting final with numerous lead changes and one major crash. Slovenian Vesna Fabjan, the top qualifier, led early followed closely by Korosteleva, Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) Celine Brun-Lie (NOR) and Arianna Follis (ITA).
Fabjan crashed on one of the tight corners, taking her out of contention. Follis moved into the lead, but Korosteleva used a strong spurt to take over the top spot and ski away to the victory.
“The course was really tough,” Korosteleva said following the race. “But my skis were good and I am very happy.”
Despite sitting in 5th overall, she is withdrawing form the Tour as planned.
Brun-Lie skied to a clear second, her second World Cup podium finish. She was followed by Alena Prochazkova (SVK), who bounced back from two identical crashes in yesterday’s classic sprint. Follis crossed in 4th.
Saarinen settled for 5th, but that was good enough to move her into the top spot overall.
“It was a difficult race,” she told reporters. “I thought when I inspected the course that it would be tough with lots of crashes.”
Saarinen’s rise to the top was aided by subpar results from Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and Petra Majdic (SLO). Kowalczyk qualified well, but failed to advance out of the quarterfinals. She favors courses with significant climbs, so was not expecting a storng result today.
Majdic was disappointed to finish 7th after winning yesterday.
“The race was tough. Honestly I do not like City Sprints. The best should win and in City sprints often luck is playing a role,” she said.
The only overall contender not to qualify for the heats was Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR). She finished 33rd, but an appearance in the heats was not likely. She had never advanced in a skate sprint before.
“I just have to take it with a smile and turn it around in Toblach.”
Steira did gain the advantage of extra recovery, and less racing, and she is still in 6th overall.
Sara Renner (CAN) struggled to 64th today, finishing just one place out of last.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.