The 2010 Tour de Ski concluded on Sunday with the famed Final Climb. Lukas Bauer (CZE) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) skied to victory in the 4th edition.
The men’s race lacked some of the expected drama at the top. While the race set up perfectly, with Petter Northug (NOR) and Bauer starting just eight seconds apart, but Northug looked tired from the start and was no match for for the 2008 winner. The race for third was plenty exciting, however, with Dario Cologna (SUI) taking the final podium place in a powerful move over the last 800 meters.
Some skiers were concerned that the Tour would favor sprinting too much this year. Bauer obviously proved that this was not case. As in 2008, he won the overall without qualifying for the heats in either sprint. One also wonders if Northug expended too much energy early in the Tour, especially in the classic sprint, where he finished second.
The women’s race featured more suspense as Kowalczyk slowly closed on leader Petra Majdic (SLO) over the first half of the race. She eventually caught the Slovenian and used an impressive push to open up a gap with less than a kilometer to go. Arianna Follis (ITA) held on to third as Aino Kaisa Saarinen came charging from behind.
Northug and Majdic easily took the Tour sprint titles, bouyed by strong performances in Saturday’s mass start races. Many sprint bonus seconds were available at intermediate points during that race.
Norway captured the Tour team competition 1:40 ahead of second-place Italy. Finland was third, 4:21 back.
Back to the World Cup
There is no rest with World Cup races this weekend in Otepää, Estonia. Petter Northug (NOR) despite losing out in the Tour overall, holds a commanding lead in the World Cup standings. He is 397 points ahead of Bauer. Marcus Hellner (SWE) in third and Cologna in fourth are both within 50 points of Bauer.
The women’s overall World Cup is much closer with Kowalczyk just 67 points ahead of Majdic. Saarinen is third, 300 points out of the lead.
Northug and Kowalczyk have already earned nearly $200,000 in prize money this season.
Norway also leads the Nations Cup – the season-long World Cup team competition. They hold a commanding lead over Russia, despite the Norwegian women slipping to second.
On to the Olympics
The Otepää World Cups will serve mainly as either Olympic preparation or Olympic qualifying. It is the last opportunity for many to gain an Olympic berth.
There is no question that the Olympics are the primary goal. Axel Teichmann (GER) told reporters that he did not care if he finished on the podium in the Tour – he wanted an Olympic medal. With just a month to go skiers will be trying to find the perfect balance between recovery and sharpness.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.