The Finnish team claimed bragging rights in the inaugral Tour de Barents as Riitta Liisa Roponen and Sami Jauhojärvi took the victories in the four event stage race in northern Finland and Norway.
Roponen entered the final stage – a handicap start of 8.8 kilometer – with a 15 second lead on Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR). After being defeated by Steira in the classic sprint Roponen did not leave anything to chance at the end, stretching the gap to over a minute.
Despite struggling on the hilly course, Steira easily held on to 2nd place. Kamila Rajdlova (CZE), on the strength of the 2nd best time of the day, skied up from 5th to claim the final podium spot.
World Cup skiers Pirjo Muranen (FIN) and Katerina Smutna (AUT) finished 4th and 5th respectively.
Jauhojärvi used an impressive performance in the opening race of the Tour to build an insurmountable lead. He started with 1:09 on Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA) in the 13.2km handicap final. Gaillard managed to knock 30 seconds off, but was unable to close the rest of the gap and settled for 2nd.
Martin Bajcicak (SVK) skied the fastest race of the day and overtook Tour de Ski champion Lukas Bauer (CZE) for 3rd place.
Andrew Young (GBR) finished 3rd in the Junior men’s event, getting edged at the line by Daniel Stock (NOR). Finn Haugen Krogh (NOR) took the victory by 1:39.
Susanne Saapunki (FIN), starting 3 seconds down on Eeva Palosaari (FIN) crushed the Junior women’s field by 1:36.