Tomorrow could be the most exciting finale to a Tour de Ski we have ever seen. There are 30 seconds separating Majdic and Kowalczyk while Northug and Bauer have eight seconds between them; a gap like that will be fairly useless as I can see Bauer catching Northug within the first couple kilometers. The other interesting battle will be the race for the men’s final podium spot. There are five athletes starting tomorrow stage all within 28 seconds of each other. If they bunch up before the ascent up Alpe Cermis, there will be some great action going on behind the fight for this years title.
In case you have been living in a box with regards to World Cup skiing the past five years, here is an image that will scare the crap out of anyone that has strapped on the skinny skis.
Northug’s game plan for tomorrow is rather straight forward; “My tactics for tomorrow will be faster than Lukas and be the first on top of Alpe Cermis. It’s another matter entirely if he actually successfully executes it. Prior to the Tour, Northug wanted to have a minute lead on any competitor prior to the final climb. He doesn’t quite have that time luxury and will have to dig hard to stay with Bauer because you know Bauer will not be waiting around for a sprint finish. Even Norwegian trainer Morten Aa Djupvik said that he would tip Bauer as the winner for tomorrow if he didn’t know the capabilities of Northug as an athlete… interesting.
A Facebook has been created to give a “bounty” to the first Swedish athlete outsprint Northug. The group is called “100 kr per edlem till den svensk som kan spurta ner Northug!” Roughly translated, “100 kroner (approx $20) per person to the Swede who can sprint down Northug!” It was created on Wednesday and due to widespread publicity, it has grown to 947 members. Though reading through the comments, it seems half of the members are Norwegian beeking the Swede’s because they are sore losers and that Northug will never be beaten by a Swede. Rather humorous in my opinion. Just some more fuel to the flames I guess.
Also, in the world of Northug, tonight he won “Male Athlete of the Year” and “Name of the Year” at the Norwegian Sports Gala. Since the awards were given out a night, Northug had already gone to bed and the awards were accepted on his behalf by Morten Aa Djupvik. Perhaps this is the spur that the Norwegian needs to get the job done tomorrow.
The bookmakers have Kowalczyk (1.44) and Bauer (1.65) pretty heavy favorites to take away the titles. Those odds are not very generous for those laying money down but I can’t say I disagree. Prediction time:
1. Justyna Kowalczyk
2. Petra Majdic
3. Arianna Follis
1. Lukas Bauer
2. Petter Northug
3. Dario Cologna
Til tomorrow, let the best skier win.