FIS Tour de Ski Recap: A Tour of Firsts
The 8th edition of the Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski with performance by Craft Sportswear came to a close leaving many with great memories from the seven days of competition. For this Tour de Ski, it was one of many firsts.
At the beginning in Oberhof, (GER) where warm weather and rain resulted in a last minute format change Canada went 1-2 in the men’s opening prologue stage for the first time in the history of Cross-country skiing at the World Cup level. In the ladies prologue, Sylwia Jaskowiec (POL) recorded her first ever podium with a third place result.
The following day in the free technique sprint competition Swedish athletes topped both podiums with Hanna Erikson and Calle Halfvarsson recording their first World Cup wins of their careers. For Halfvarsson it was also his first individual podium.
For stages 3 and 4 the Tour travelled for the first time ever to Lenzerheide (SUI) where the athletes and spectators were treated to clear skies, and beautiful sunshine. Here as well the “firsts” just kept coming. Stage 3 was another free technique sprint and Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg and the USA’s Simi Hamilton both earned their first World Cup victories. For Hamilton it was the first time he had ever made a sprint final and he became the first US male to win a World Cup in the past three decades since Bill Koch last stood on the top step in March of 1983.
After stage 3 the Tour leader Marit Bjoergen (NOR) was forced to withdraw from the Tour due to illness, and after her sprint result, Flugstad moved into the overall Tour lead. On the men’s side Alex Harvey retained the Tour lead for the third stage with a second place finished behind Hamilton, but would lose it the next day to Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) who kept it until the end of the Tour.
Stage 4 was the 10/15 km classic mass start competition and again another first time winner was on top of the podium with Kerttu Niskanen’s (FIN) win in the 10 km. In the men’s 15 km Alexey Poltoranin (KAZ), who is always a threat to win in the classic technique, recorded his first win of the season. As well, Hannes Dotzler (GER) and Stanislav Volzhentsev (RUS) both stood on the podium for the first time respectively in second and third position.
For stage 5 the Tour left Switzerland and headed to Toblach (ITA) for the longest stage of the Tour. The ladies’ skied a 15 km free technique competition and the men the 35 km point to point event from Cortina-Toblach. For Astrid Jacobsen and Martin Johnsrud Sundby, both the Tour leaders for stage 5 it was their first wins of the Tour. Jacobsen held off a hard charging Therese Johaug (NOR) and Sundby skied solo from start to finish in a gutsy effort to retain the Tour leader of almost one minute heading into the final stages. One of the big stories of the day was that of Johannes Duerr (AUT), who skied from 34th place to 6th in the finish on the way to recording the fastest time of the day.
The final two stages took place in Val di Fiemme (ITA) where the weather again turned to a rain/snow mix for both days of competitions, creating challenges for the many service teams. Stage 6 was the 5/10 km interval start classic competition, which saw athletes testing both wax-less and klister skis. On the ladies’ side eight athletes from 2nd and 10th place were separated by just +15 seconds. Johaug dominated the event winning by +14 seconds. The top 7 included four athletes from Finland and three from Norway.
In the men’s 10 km classic, Petter Northug Jr. notched his first win in the Tour on almost the identical course to where he won the 15 km classic competition at the World Championships just less than one year ago. His victory also brought him to within 50 seconds of Sundby for the overall lead, setting up a great battle for the final stage.
The final stage up Alpe Cermis provided yet another great conclusion to the Tour de Ski. For the fifth time in the Tour history there was a lead change. In this case, it was on the ladies’ side where Johaug closed 23 seconds on Jacobsen half way up the big climb to claim her first Tour victory as well as recording the fastest split on the stage for the sixth time. Jacobsen fought hard and held on for second with the second fastest time of the day. In third, completing the sweep for Norway was Heidi Weng. This was the first time one team has swept a Tour de Ski overall podium.
On the men’s side, Sundby dug deep to hold onto his Tour lead and join Johaug as the only two Norwegians to ever win the Tour de Ski. Chris Jespersen a quiet surprise for much of the Tour climbed his way into second place, overtaking Northug at the halfway mark. But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was Duerr, known as a great climber already but will be forever known now for his climb this year as he broke up the Norwegian sweep to take the final position on the overall podium. He made up more than two minutes on Northug Jr. to claim third.
With the 8th Tour de Ski now completed there were many great memories created by many of the stars of the future in cross-country skiing. Some other facts of note regarding the Tour’s 8 year history. There are now only 5 athletes that have started and completed all 8 Tours (Petter Northug Jr. NOR, Giorgio di Centa ITA, Jens Filbrich GER, Riitta-Liisa Roponen FIN and Valentina Shevchenko UKR). In total 5 athletes recorded first ever World Cup wins, and 11 different countries (Italy, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Canada, USA, Kazakhstan, Finland, Russia, Austria) were represented on the podium in the 14 competition days in this 8th edition of the Tour.