SWEDEN – It was exactly at the Tour de Ski that Charlotte Kalla had her career breakthrough three years ago, when she beat the overall leader Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) on the final climb up the Alpine hill in Alpe Cermis and thereby secured the overall title for the event. Last season, Kalla skipped the tour in preparation for the Olympics, where she won both gold and silver medals.
“Now I want to race the Tour again. I think it’s a really fun competition format,” the Swedish star told Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen.
That makes Kalla a favorite for the overall Tour de Ski title this year, especially given that her Norwegian rival, Marit Bjoergen, has opted to skip the tour.
“I admit that I have pondered whether to race the Tour, but I think the overall program toward the World Championships is better than what we had leading up to the Olympics. The World Championships are later in the season than the Olympics were, and we also don’t have to deal with the time difference this year,” Kalla explains.
Kalla admits it was hard not to race the Tour two years ago when she wanted to go in defending her title. Illness forced her to peak later in the season that year. Last year, Kalla planned to sit out the Tour, and opted for a training camp in Ponteresin, Switzerland, instead.
“We only watched a few stages on TV, and I really don’t regret not racing then,” Kalla told Adresseavisen.
However, there will be no duel between Charlotte Kalla and Marit Bjoergen in the Tour de Ski this winter. Bjoergen is choosing to stick with her peak program from the Olympic season, which does not include the Tour. By sitting out, she will likely be the only Norwegian female to skip the Tour, as long as Kristin Steira (NOR) can get healthy and recover from her reccurring injuries. Even on the men’s side, Norway will field the top racers, although Eldar Roenning and Martin Johnsrud Sundby are still weighing the pros and cons of racing the Tour. The 2011 Tour de Ski event schedule feature host locations Oberhof (GER), Oberstordf (GER), Toblach (ITA) and Val di Fiemme (ITA).
From langd.se, September 9, 2010 By Kjell-Erik Kristiansen, translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.