Today was final consecutive race day before a day off for the athletes. The Prague city sprints got off to a late start and saw the heats being run under flood lights. The track was tight quarters and who ever was in the lead at the first hair pin after the start would be nearly impossible to pass due to snow conditions and be able determine the pace of the race. We saw this over and over in the quarters and semis. On the back, the athletes actually preferred to double pole the slight down hill instead of skate it.The odds on the leader advancing to the next round was very high as the home stretch was so choppy and loose that it was very difficult to pass anyway.
There were some new names on the podium today in the women’s race. The likes of Kowalczyk and Majdic qualified in 2nd and 4th respectively but failed to make it to the finals. The course conditions didn’t suit Kowalczyk as a big change of pace or turnover that was required to move up placings and she doesn’t possess those type of fast twitch muscles. She failed to make it out of the quarters while Majdic made it to the semis and barely missed out on a lucky loser ticket to the finals.
Even without Majdic and Kowalczyk, the finals was still packed with talent from the likes of Fabjan, Korosteleva, Prochazkova, Saarinen, Follis and Brun-Lie. Korosteleva took the early and held it to the line, winning rather comfortably. In the fight to gain a good position to challenge the Russian to the line, Fabjan stepped on Saarinen’s poles on the final turn before finish line and both went down.
1. Natalia Korosteleva
2. Celine Brun-Lie
3. Alena Prochazkova
Notes: It was also a great race from Norwegian Celine Brun-Lie who grabbed second place, a career best for the 21 year-old. Alena Prochazkova earned the bronze and that result must help ease the pain from yesterday when she fell twice on the same hill, including in the finals to end her medal hopes for the day. Canadian Sara Renner had a rough day at the races and ended up second last in 64th place. There were more casualties to the Tour as Mischol, Traschsel, Slind, Nystad, and Henkel dropped out.
The biggest shock of the day was Northug’s inability to qualify for the heats. This opened the door for those chasing him in the overall classification to capitalize on the bonus seconds and they did just that. After all was said and done, Northug now sits in 5th position 47.3 seconds behind the lead.
After yesterday’s events, Jönsson was out for redemption and he did just that. He took control of every heat and made it look easy and held the lead from gun to wire in every heat. The NRK feed that I was watching cut out and I wasn’t able to watch the final. I can only assume Jönsson took the lead out of the gate, controlled the race until the finish line and put his turbo to the test, like he did in the quarters and semis. It was a great day for Sweden as they had three in the top five with Hellner in 2nd place and the new guy on the scene Theodor Peterson in 5th place. It was also another strong day for Andrew Newell as he racked up some more valuable sprint points as he placed 6th in todays proceedings. The home crowd was also happy as Czech skier Dusan Kozisek just missed the medals and placed 4th.
1. Emil Jönsson
2. Marcus Hellner
2. Simen Østesen
Today’s results are the same as the overall Tour results. Who thought a sprint specialist would be the Tour leader after four stages? Not only that, but two Swede’s ontop of the leader board instead of a pile of Norwegians or Russians.
Notes: The Canadian men had a decent day as Kershaw qualified 8th but ultimately ended up 21st after a slow quarter-final and Harvey qualified 20th and moved up a place to 19th. Grey and Babikov were 47th and 67th respectively. With the 21st place Kershaw himself in 11th overall only 1:31 off the lead and a very good spot for the start of the distance section of the Tour. Today saw a couple German’s in Katz and Seifert dropped out of the Tour.