The conditions were seemingly perfect as it was sunny and blue skys with the temperature hovering around -4°C. The races were fast with the winning times of 23:14 for the men over 10km and 12:37 for the women over 5km. Today was a chance for those classic specialist take a bite out of the lead times if they had good races as the only thing that the athletes informed on how they were doing was splits rather than the racers around them. There was not really a lot of opportunity to see the racers as there was only three different cameras set up a long the course, the start, the 2.2km check and the finish.
Daniel Rickardsson took his first ever World Cup victory as he edged out Lukas Bauer by 1.7 seconds. Northug was third while Teichmann’s master pacing had him end up in fourth even though he was already 15 seconds down and in 37th place at the 2.2km time check. The field has gotten smaller and smaller and today saw only 58 racers cross the finish line. That’s 30 less than the 1st stage in Oberhof. Devon Kershaw was having a great run, sitting in 8th at the 7.2km mark. Then everything unfolded, somehow Kerhsaw’s binding broke in the last couple kilometers and he lost almost 48 seconds in the final ending up in a frustrating 37th place. After the race, Rickardsson had this to say…
I am very happy about my race today. It is my first victory on the World Cup level so it is amazing. My tactics was to race fast in the first lap and maintain speed in the second one as well.I felt quite in the good shape in the morning. Usually I amstronger in classic technique. The next race on Saturday is in classic technique too so I could be in a good shape there as well. The final climb is very tough so we will see.
Right now the Swede sits in 5th overall, it’ll be tough, if not impossible to make up anytime in the 7th stage as it’s a mass start. If any break aways are attempt, there’ll be those who will do everything to reel the skier back in as to not lose anymore time in the overall classification. The past couple years in the Tour he has been 24th and 47th, so as long as he skis decent races in the last two stages, he should set himself up nicely for a career best. The top eight in the men’s division are now separated by slightly less than a minute which will make for an interesting finish to the Tour.
1. Daniel Rickardsson
2. Lukas Bauer
3. Petter Northug
Notes: Alex Harvey had another great race, cracking the top 10 to finish in 9th. With the result, he now sits in 19th overall which places three Canadians in the top 20. Kershaw is 16th despite today’s result while Babikov is 12th. Another Russian left the Tour today, Pankratov had fallen victim to the sickness that seems to be sweeping through the men’s Russian team.
The race was lead from wire to wire by Justyna Kowalczyk. In a race of this distance, it was surprising to see her open up the gaps she did. By 3.1km, she already had over a 12 second gap on the next fastest skier. Aino Kaisa Saarinen had a good race and finish in second while Petra Majdic rounded out the podium and was 15 seconds behind the Pole. With the win, Kowalczyk reclaimed the overall lead while Follis slipped to 3rd overall. Kowalczyk talked about the race saying…
It was a great race today for me. I did not have any special tactics 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. I like Toblach very much. Tomorrow we have a rest day so I will have time to think about the mass start competition in classic technique on Saturday in Val di Fiemme. There a lot girls who can still fight for the overall victory. Petra Majdic, Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Arianna Follis. Everything is still open and there are tough races ahead of us.
It’s too bad there weren’t more talented skiers from Poland to make a competitive relay team because Kowalczyk would make a lethal lead out skier. With her hard-as-nails way to racing, she would absolutely tear teams apart with her ability to push through the pain.
Majdic spoke after the race and mentioned that she has been having trouble with her leg lately, perhaps some sort of muscle related injury and how it’s difficult to heal with the limited amount of time before races. We’ll have to keep note and see how that progresses.
1. Justyna Kowalczyk
2. Aino Kaisa Saarinen
3. Petra Majdic
Notes: Even though it was reported that Johaug had dropped out of the Tour yesterday, she was in the tracks today. I’m not sure if the coaching staff had a change of heart or if the young Norwegian pleaded her case to show she deserved one more chance. Either way, she finished a mediocre 30th place today and I expect that the Norwegian staff will be urging for her to go home and train now. Two more athletes dropped out including Olga Rotcheva and Belorussian Ekaterina Rudakova.
Til Next Time.