The Aple Cermis is becoming a place where no one is safe. Not only is it a daunting task, but more often than not, the athletes are surrounded by other who want to get to point B before they do. It doesn’t matter if you have almost 30 seconds on your closest competitor, it seems no one is safe within a minute of each other. All that matters is if you can beat them to the top. Today was another classic example of this as the Tour leaders coming into the final stage were different than the ones that won this years edition of the Tour de Ski. Kowalczyk rolled up the sleeves (literally), put on the hard hat and went to work and successfully won her first Tour de Ski title. Bauer on the other hand, dismantled the best all round skier in the world for the second day in a row to take his second Tour title in three years.
At 1.7km, Majdic had actually gained a couple seconds on the chasers, but all that was erased by the next time check at 3.5km. Early on, it was actually the race for 5th that was the most interesting between Sidko, Størmer-Steira, Longa, Roponen and Savialova. They had quickly bunch together and actually saw Stormer Steira surprisingly stuggle to keep with that group.
At 5.6km, it was the same story for the top three with no real movement, but the important thing was now that Kowalczyk could see Majdic and Follis could see the Pole. Only 900m later, Kowalczyk had alredy gained eight seconds on the Slovenian as they were starting the final ascent.
It was slighty before the 7.4km time check that Kowalczyk got onto the heels of Majdic and you knew the Pole could taste blood. However, instead of immediately attacking, she just stayed behind the big Slovenian and bided her time. As soon as they past the 8.1km time check, Kowalczyk made her move and attempted to pass Majdic. It took a while due to the crawl that they were going at, but she eventually took over and never looked back. You could tell Majdic was broken and Kowalczyk easily opened up a fair gap. With 200 meters left, Kowalczyk had secured the victory but in typical fashion pushed it all the way until the finish only to crumple into an exhausted heap of athlete.
Størmer-Steira had a strong race to take 5th overall. It was close between her and Medvedeva for fastest time of the day as the Russian was the big mover of the day going from 22nd to 12th.
4th Edition of the Tour de Ski
1. Justyna Kowalczyk
2. Petra Majdic
3. Arianna Follis
Though Majdic didn’t win the Tour this year, she can take comfort knowing that she won the sprint ranking by a margin of 1:04 over Arianna Follis. This is the second year in a row that Majdic has was the sprint title. All the athletes who made the podium were ecstatic with there performances over the past 10 days and will now be resting up for the upcoming World Cup. While Majdic and Kowalczyk will be going to Otepää, Follis will be skipping that weekend but will continue World Cup racing in Canmore.
This is the first year in Tour history that a Finnish skier has not been on the podium; more specifically, the first time Kuitunen hasn’t been on the podium.
Stage 8 Results
1. Kristin Størmer-Steira
2. Riitta-Liisas Roponen
3. Evgenia Medvedeva
Notes: This years results for the fastest time up Alpe Cermis were extremely tight as 3.9 seconds seperated the podium for the
day. Sara Renner had a very successful Tour de Ski this year and finished in 18th.
Northug started with an eight second lead but was predictably reeled in by Bauer over the first 2.7km. The chase group that consisted of Teichmann, Cologna, Hellner, Rickardsson and Gaillard quickly formed to fight for the last podium place. At 4.5km, it was Bauer who took the lead and was controlling the pace. Behind the leaders and chase group, many micro-groups of two to three skiers were forming including an enticing twosome of Babikov and Heikinnen who would be challenging for the time of the day.
At the base of the Alpe Cermis is where all the action started to happen. Lukas Bauer seemed to turn the screw and easily pulled away from Northug. Northug looked exhausted with his head already dropping and bobbing around. By 7.5km, Bauer had a 13.6 second lead and that lead was extended to 42.6 seconds by 8.4km. The chase group had its own drama and Teichmann was dropped at the base of the climb while Rickardsson was able to hang on until about 8km.
With 900m left, Bauer had secured his second Tour de Ski victory in three years as he was 1:03.8 ahead of the pre-Tour favourite. At the base of the finish lanes, Bauer did a quick shoulder check to make sure Northug was nowhere to be found and stopped to grab the Czech flag and skied it proudly over the finish line to collect his second Tour de Ski victory in the past three years.
It was not long after Northug came across the finish line that the sprint for 3rd place came storming to the finish. Cologna started his sprint very early and showed some impressive skiing to keep the pace going to the dismay of Gaillard and Hellner as they eventually melted away to give Cologna 3rd place overall.
Bauer made today’s stage look easy as he seemlessly glided up the Aple Cermis while other athletes looked like a Raggedy Ann dolls as they climbed to the finish. Not only did he show devestating form, he also showed a lot of class as he waited for Northug and Cologna to congratulate them on a job well done before he started celebrating his victory.
4th Edition of the Tour de Ski
1. Lukas Bauer
2. Petter Northug
3. Dario Cologna
Even though Northug failed to win the Tour this year, he did win the sprint rankings for the second time in his career. A little consolation for all his hard work in this years Tour.
Stage 8 Results
1. Lukas Bauer
2. Marcus Hellner
3. Jean Marc Gaillard
What’s truly amazing about Bauer winning today’s stage is the fact that he slowed down to pick a Czech flag from the crowd and skied the last 100 or so meters non chaluantly while Hellner and Gaillard skied hard the whole race and sprinted the last couple hundred meters! Truly, some inspiring skier and a definite medal threat for the Olympics in all distance events.
Notes: The Canadian men had their best Tour de Ski results ever. Babikov picked up one stage win and a fourth place up the Alpe Cermis to ski his way to 9th overall. Despite all the back luck, Kershaw still finished in 16th and Harvey finished off his first Tour with a very strong 22nd overall.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more wrap-up from this years Tour de Ski.