For the third stage of the COOP FIS Tour de Ski performance by Le Gruyère, the FIS Cross-country family had moved on to last seasons World Championships venue at Oberstdorf. After one rest day in between Lenzerheide and Oberstdorf, a 15km and 10km Mass start in Free technique was on schedule for the last race of the year.
Men’s 15km Mass Start
The men headed onto the course first. Due to some days of rain that were followed by warm temperatures, the course preparation needed special care. Nevertheless, for the Men’s 15km the track was set and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo (NOR), as the current leader was the head of the group. In the first three laps, no one attacked or made a move to stretch out the field.
Until Alexander Bolshunov (RUS) picked up speed in the famous Burgstall uphill. Not all could keep up with the pace and only Bolshunov, Andrew Musgrave (GBR), Klæbo and Sjur Røthe (NOR) were left for the final stretch. The decisive point came in the long, tricky final downhill back into the stadium where Johannes Høsflot Klæbo manage to ski a gap to the three athletes following on his heels. “I wanted to be up front at the final point coming back into the stadium but I knew the others were coming up close. Everyone was very careful out there and it really was quite icy but it ended all well so I am of course very happy with my result,” stated the defending leader of the Tour de Ski standing in the finish.
Second over the finish line was Alexander Bolshunov who also celebrated his 25th birthday today. In a finish Sprint, he claimed the second rank just before Sjur Røthe and Andrew Musgrave. For Røthe, this very important result in regards to one of the last spots left in the Norwegian team for Beijing 2022 was long awaited.
“I felt quite strong during the race. We had kind of a slow start and with the quite icy track in the first lap, I focussed just to stay on my skis and not to break a pole. In the third lap at Burgstall Bolshunov attacked and I am happy that I could stay with him but in the final Sprint I felt my legs were tired. But I am super satisfied to get my first podium of the season.”
Women's 10km F Mass Start
The women's race was by no means less of a thriller. The leading group was difficult to spread apart. Distance superstart Frida Karlsson (SWE) shared the pace setter role with her team colleague Ebba Andersson. But of course also last seasons Tour de Ski winner Jessie Diggins wanted to be a part of the front row and pushed hard. This chase - in combination with the very fast track - resulted in a super fast comeptition.
Frida Karlsson endured two unlucky moments with two falls but nevertheless got back in the game immediately. Karlsson came back to the head of the group and took over the lead in the final lap, even managing to ski ahead in the long downhill. Diggins however had her eyes set to possibly reclaim the yellow bib and the Tour lead and went all-out. In well known Diggins style, she managed to pass by Karlsson and crossed the finish line before the Swede and Tatiana Sorina (RUS) who managed to take in the third place, just before Ebba Andersson.
"It was cool because it was anyones race and you didnt know how it was gonna finish. I have to say I have the best skis in the world, they worked amazing. We have the best team in the world who work so hard and they gave me some absolute rockets. Being able to trust the draft and trust my skis. When we win, we win as a team. Really it was a fight for every second because it is a Tour."