Toblach, Italy – Daniel Rickardsson (SWE) skied to a narrow 1.7 second victory over Lukas Bauer (CZE) in the men’s 10km classic as the 2010 Tour de Ski continued in Italy.
Rickardsson, who had never finished on the World Cup podium, battled with Bauer for the entire race. The pair held the top two positions at every intermediate time check. Rickardsson held the advantage, starting 30 seconds in back of Bauer, enabling him to get constant splits off the 2008 Tour winner.
“I am very happy about my race today,” said Rickardsson. “It is my first victory on the World Cup level so it is amazing!”
Petter Northug (NOR) finished 3rd, +6.2 seconds, and extended his overall Tour lead to 20 seconds over Marcus Hellner (SWE). Hellner finished 5th on the challenging 2x5km course.
“I am very statisfied with today’s race. I started from behind so I had a good overview. In the middle of the race I was feeling a bit tired but felt better as it progressed,” said Northug.
“I did not feel that I was one of my best races, but in relation to my competitors, it was very good,” Northug continued. I had expected that it would be closer and would have been happy if I had a 5-10 seconds on Cologna. I had not imagined that it would be half a minute.”
Rickardsson, a stronger classic skier, started fast and maintained his pace, sticking to his pre-race plan. “My strategy was to race fast in the first lap and maintain speed in the second one as well. I felt quite in good shape in the morning, and usually am stronger in classic technique. The next race on Saturday is in classic technique too so I could do well there as well. The final climb is very tough, so we will see about that.”
Conditions were excellent, with a firm track and temperatures around -3 centigrade. Blue skies and a large crowd made for a perfect day of racing. Despite the relatively short distance, the field was spread out due to the tough course and the individual start format.
The other top contenders for the overall tirle stayed in contention. Axel Teichmann (GER) skied his usual race, starting slowly – ranked 28th at 3.1km – and skiing up to 4th place. Hellner took 5th, and Dario Cologna (SUI) finished 8th. COlogna was in 4th at 7.2km, but faltered, dropping back significantly.
In the overall standings there are seven skiers with 35 seconds of Northug. With many bonus seconds available in the mass start, and then the unpredictable Final Climb, anything could still happen.
Teichmann is 3rd, +29.5, with Cologna just .2 seconds behind him. Next is Rickardsson, followed by Matti Heikkinen (FIN), who moved up with a strong 6th place finish in today’s race. Bauer rounds out the top 7, just 34.8 seconds back.
Canada Strong Again, More Bad Luck for Kershaw
Alex Harvey led the Canadian team, finishing 9th, 42 seconds back in his best race of the Tour. The performance moved him up to 19th in the overall standings. Ivan Babikov is 12th overall after finishing 18th today, and George Grey continues to close on the top-30 despite a tough crash today and a 44th place finish. He is 32nd overall, but is 2:30 out of 30th.
Devon Kershaw continues to run in to bad luck in the Tour. In the past he has fallen ill on an annual basis, sabotaging strong starts. He entered the day in good position, and the 10km classic is one of his best events. Kershaw was ranked 8th at 7.2km but broke a ski and slipped all the way to 37th.
He is still ranked 16th overall, but had he finished today in the top 10, his overall ranking would have been around 10th, within striking distance of the podium.
Rest Day Tomorrow
The seconds and last rest day of the Tour is tomorrow. Racing continues in Val di Fiemme with a 20km Mass Start.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.