Nothing comes for free on the Tour de Ski. After six stages, attrition is becoming a major factor for the competing athletes. The difficult 10-day event can have that effect – every year, dozens of skiers drop out as illness, injury, or just plain fatigue take a steep toll.
For the men, 30 have already retired.
This year, the Germans have been especially hard-hit – a whopping nine of their men have pulled out of the event. While their starting contingent starting of 12 was quite large, and few skiers were planning on going the distance, the loss of Tobias Angerer in stage 2, Tim Tscharnke in stage 4, and finally Axel Teichmann in stage 5 leaves the Germans with a skeleton crew. Just three athletes remain, led by Jens Filbrich in 21st, and Tom Reichelt in 23rd.
As only distance stages remain, the sprinters have started to head home as well. Renato Pasini (ITA) has left, Peeter Kummel (EST), and big-name Swedes Emil Joennsen, Jesper Modin and Johan Olsson have bowed out as well. And American Andy Newell will skip the final stages.
One other big name to depart is Sami Jaeuhojearvi (FIN). After a very good start, and some excellent finishes, the diminutive Finnish classic skier is headed home.
The Russians are taking a beating too – the overall World Cup leader, Alexander Legkov, as well as sprinters Nikolay Morilov and Alexei Petukhov have pulled out.
Meanwhile, the women have been reduced by 18, a number that results in just 39 women remaining in the Tour.
Just like the men, the German women have been hit hard – six have opted out. Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle didn’t even start due to illness, while young sprinter Hanna Kolb left before stage 4, and Stefanie Boehler headed home just before stage 5.
Both Japanese women, Masako Ishida and Madoka Natsumi, have dropped out as well. The Russians have lost three, most notably Yulia Tchekaleva, who was the surprise of the early World Cup period.
Sprint stars Vesna Fabjan (SLO) and Magda Genuin (ITA) have packed their bags as well.
Thus far, Newell is the only North American athlete to drop out, and as just two stages remain in the Tour – a classic mass start distance race, and then the Final Climb – barring disaster, it’s unlikely others will pull the plug.