Val di Fiemme, Italy – Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) staged a come from behind win to win her first Tour de Ski. the defending overall World Cup champion overtook Petra Majdic (SLO) and skied away with 800 meters to go.
Kowalczyk started 34 seconds behind Majdic, a gap created by Majdic’s fine performance in yesterday’s mass start. The Pole slowly closed over the first 6.5 kilometers, and one kilometer later she was on Majdic’s tails.
Looking stronger, she stayed in 2nd for some time, and then with less than a kilometer to go, she stepped out and attacked, opening a gap. Majdic did not surrender, and kept pushing, but she couldn’t match Kowalczyk and had to settle for 2nd, 20 seconds back.
“It was a tough race and I tried to attack Petra quite early but I couldn’t make it, so I stayed behind for a while,” said Kowalczyk. ” At the end, I could manage the take over and even gain a couple of seconds.”
She continued, “I’m very happy about my victory. The Tour de Ski is on of the biggest events in Cross-Country Skiing!”
Majdic was not disappointed to finish second. Always upbeat, she felt she skied one of her better hill climbs.
“I am very happy about my second place today! I feel perfect. It is the end of Tour de Ski. I made it so I am very happy. Today it was one of my best Final Climbs ever. I felt very good, relaxed and easy going and I enjoyed the race very much.
“I did not expect that Justyna will attack in the uphill. I even felt that she started to lose, but she came back and attacked. She was faster in the curves and that made the difference. I knew she had one of the fastest times last year so I am very happy with my result. The Final Cimb has a special value to Cross-Country skiing. We get a lot of attention for our sport.”
Arianna Follis became the first Italian to stand on the Tour podium, capturing 3rd in front of the home crowd. She held off Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (FIN).
“I am very satisfied with my race today. It was very hard and tough race for me. Aino Kaisa Saarinen was very close and she was attacking strongly. I am happy I could claim 3rd place here in Italy.”
Saarinen closed within 10 seconds of Follis with 900 meters to go, but the Italian had more left in the tank, doubling the gap by the finish.
Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR) posted the fastest time of the day, 3 seconds ahead of Riitta Liisa Roponen (FIN). Steria finished 5th and Roponen 6th. Roponen started 16 seconds behind Steira and quickly closed the gap. The two worked together throughout the race, before Steira put on a Surge in the final kilometer, breaking the Finn.
Sarah Renner (CAN) finished 18th, losing just one spot in the Final Climb.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.