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Exciting start for FIS Tour de Ski 2013
The 7th FIS Tour de Ski is now at its halfway point. After a rest day on 2nd January, there are four action-packed race days remaining. After the first three stages of the Tour, all the favourites are either leading or within striking distance. Three-time champion Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland has a 50 second lead over challenger Theresa Johaug of Norway who will start second in the 15km pursuit on 3rd January. Third through tenth position in the ladies’ field is separated by just 52 seconds so the podium positions are still wide open.
In the men's race, Tour favourites Dario Cologna (three-time champion) of Switzerland and Petter Northug of Norway are separated by less than 7 seconds. Just two seconds ahead in the lead is Maxim Vylegzhanin of Russia.
There has been much to cheer about from each individual stage. Kikkan Randall of the USA has won two of three stages so far and sits in 5th overall. Germany's Denise Hermann has been a bright spot for the German ladies’ team all season and currently sits in 4th position just +4.4 seconds from the podium. Best known for her sprinting, she skied to a 4th place finish twice. Finland had five women ladies in the top 10 after stage two in Oberhof (GER), and still have all five in the top 14.
One of the big stories on the men's side was the strength of the Russian trio Vylegzhanin, Alexander Legkov, and Ilia Chernousov during stage 2 in Oberhof. Vylegzhanin and Legkov pulled away from the lead pack and battled neck and neck to the line for a photo finish. Sprint star Emil Joensson (SWE) won the opening prologue stage and looked primed to win again in the stage 3 Val Muestair (SUI) sprint on 1st January, but tangled in the final to finish in 6th. Norway's Finn Haagen Krogh won his first World Cup sprint at on stage 3.
Despite warm and challenging weather in Oberhof, there were 9,000 spectators around the course for the Stage 2 pursuit style classic races. The first stop in Switzerland for the Tour de Ski was a huge success with more than 6000 on-site fans in Val Müstair and over 1 million viewers tuning in in Norway, and more than 3 million in Germany.
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