Toblach, Italy – Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) took back the red Tour de Ski leader’s bib with a 11.6 second victory over Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) in the 5km classic individual start. Petra Majdic (SLO) was 3rd, 14.8 seconds behind Kowalczyk, and is second in the overall standings.
Kowalczyk, a strong classic skier, and even better climber, had plenty of speed on the 5km course, a distance only contested on the World CUp circuit in the relay. She started fast, and maintained her pace, holding a 7 second lead at the 2.2 km mark.
“It was a great race today for me,” said Kowalczyk. “I did not have any special strategy for today. I only to wanted to go fast and have a good race. 5 km classic is my favorite distance and technique so it was a good day for me.”
She now holds a 14.1 second lead over Majdic in the overall standings.
“I have had some troubles with my leg,” Majdic told the press. “We are trying to heal it as fast as possible, but with this tough program it is not easy. But it is getting better.
“It was really fast today. All of us went full throttle from the start. Justyna was born for 5km, and as I do not run many relays I am little out of pace in the 5 km distance so it was not an easy race for me.”
Arianna Follis (ITA) the winner of yesterday’s pursuit, remains in the hunt. She finished 6th today, +27.3 seconds, an excellent race for the Italian. She is a stronger skater and knew today’s event would not be her best. But she stayed close enough to stay on the podium, and within striking distance of Kowalczyk.
Saarinen is 4th overall, 12 seconds behind Follis, and 35 out of the lead. At this point, barring something extraordinary, the overall winner will come from one of these four women. Alena Sidko (RUS) is 5th overall, a full 2:26 back.
Norwegian Kristin Stoermer Steira, who fell out of contention with a rough race yesterday, was back in form, finishing 4th, 9 seconds behind Majdic and just 1.5 ahead of teammate Vibeke Skofterud. Steira is 6th in the overall.
Sara Renner (CAN) finished 19th in a solid race, and maintained her 21st position in the overall rankings. Renner has been consistent over the course of the Tour, and the season as a whole, but has yet to show medal-winning form.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.