Otepää, Estonia – Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) showed no signs of fatigue after winning the Tour de Ski, edging a fresh Marit Bjoergen (NOR) by 4.2 seconds in the 10km individual classic this morning.
Kowalczyk led at every time check and held off a hard-charging Bjoergen. Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) claimed 3rd, just under 30 seconds back.
Bjoergen skipped the Tour de Ski to focus on the Olympics, and is still in good form – but not good enough to get by Kowalczyk.
“I felt good today but I am also really tired,” said Kowalczyk. “I had a cold after the Tour de Ski and here I did not think I could win today. But this is my special place, this is Otepää. This track is the hardest track in the world.”
Kowalczyk increased her overall World Cup lead and will not take any time off before the Olympics, racing the sprint tomorrow, then to Rybinsk, Canmore, and the Olympics.
Bjoergen raced for the first time in weeks and was pleased overall.
“It was a good race for me,” she said. “I have not competed since Rogla, so it was a good start again – the feeling is good and I think the shape is very good. I did a lot of training during and after Christmas and this is a good start back into the competitions. I will compete tomorrow and next week we have national championships, so I am not going to Rybinsk.”
Saarinen also has battled illness since the Tour, but still managed the podium. She started fast, before struggling in the middle section. She got it back together for the final push and edged out Charlotte Kalla by 2.5 seconds. Like Bjoergen, Kalla also skipped the Tour, and is building toward the Olympics.
Petra Majdic (SLO), the Tour de Ski runner up, finished 5th, and Virpi Kuitunen (FIN), a surprise withdrawal from the Tour was back in action finishing 6th.
Gaiazova Posts Best Distance Result
Dasha Gaiazova, the lone North American woman to start, matched her best World Cup finish, taking 20th place. Her 77 FIS points virtually tied her performance last spring in Falun where she finished 52nd.
Today’s field was not as deep as the standard World Cup. With the Tour de Ski ending just a week ago, and the Olympics around the corner, many skiers are focusing on rest and training.
Gaiazova was 32 seconds out of 15th and skied a consistent race. Overall she was 2:36 behind Kowalczyk.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.