Renato Pasini (ITA) and Valentin Novikova (RUS) lead the four stage international Russian Sprint Tour after two events. Pasini and Novikov won the first race, an “extreme” sprint that reportedly featured an alpine style descent. Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and Emil Joensson (SWE) won the 3.5/4.5km “knockout” pursuit today.
Pasini won the 1100 meter sprint after qualifying in 7th. The course took top qualifier Robin Bryntesson (SWE) just 1:37.65 to complete. Full elimination heats were then held with Pasini advancing to the final along with Bryntesson, Joensson, Dusan Kozisek (CZE), Nikolay Chebotko (KAZ), and Igor Usachev (RUS).
Pasini came out on top, edging Usachev by .6 seconds. Bryntesson took 3rd, just .03 seconds behind Usachev. There was likely a crash as the next three skiers were nearly 10 seconds off the podium.
Bryntesson is racing his 3rd Sprint Tour and was pleased with his podium finish in the opening race after breaking a ski in the event last year.
“This is my second time here. The year before I was a little unlucky – I broke the skis. Today I tried to be careful, and was third.”
Add Usachev, “”I liked the track and my skis were good. I fought to the end, and it is a success, to be very close to first.”
Novikova skied to a convincing win in the women’s final. She was well clear of the field, winning by 3 seconds over Italian Gaia Vuerich.
Novikova won qualifying by an impressive seven seconds as many of her competitors were cautious on the challenging downhill. Kowalczyk was 3rd and Vuerich’s sister, Valentina was 5th.
With only nine women in the race, all qualified and advanced directly to the semifinals.
Said Kowalczyk “The course was hard. The route is not for me. For me, better up than down, but for the spectators it was interesting to watch. We will see what happens next. I am happy with my third place today.”
The racers appear to be relaxed and enjoying the spring competition. At the press conference there was much talk of singing and dancing on the podium.
The second race, described as a “knockout” pursuit, ended with Kowalczyk and Joensson on top. It is not clear what the exact format is, only that the distance was 3.5km for women and 4.5km for men. Apparently skiers raced twice.
Martin Cook (CZE) was 2nd in the men’s race and Mykoloa Bolotov (RUS) 3rd. Pasini took 5th behind Russian Olympian Nikloay Kriukov and Bryntesson was 6th.
Pasini maintained his position at the top of the overall standings.
In the women’s race Kowalczyk bested Novikova and Pauline Medvedev, with Vuerich taking 6th. Novikova also held onto th eoverall lead halfway through the Sprint Tour.
After a day off, racing continues with a standard classic sprint, before ending with some sort of pursuit.
I apologize for the lack of clear information, but there are no details available on the race formats. It certainly seems like a unique and interesting event…