UPDATED: Norway’s Ingrid Flugstad Østberg had been leading the women’s portion of the annual skiing endurance contest known as Tour de Ski in the Alps, until she had a problem with her ski pole on Tuesday. Stina Nilsson of Sweden seized the opportunity to surge forward and won her career’s first long-distance race. Russian skier Sergey Ustiugov, meanwhile, is leading the men’s competition.
“This is exactly the sort of thing that’s not supposed to happen,” an upset Østberg told state broacaster NRK. She’s been one of the favourites to win Tour de Ski after it was dominated for years by fellow Norwegians Marit Bjørgen and Therese Johaug. Bjørgen, however, is still in a comeback phase after having her first child last year and Johaug is suspended on contested doping charges. Tuesday’s race had a broad representation of nations competing, and Norway was no longer dominating.
Østberg got a new ski pole but failed to win a spot on the winners podium, reducing her chances of winning the overall Tour. Jessica Diggins of the US finished second behind Nilsson while Heidi Weng of Norway was third. Nilsson’s victory was surprising because she’s better known to excel in sprints, rather than the 10-kilometer portion of Tuesday’s Tour de Ski in Oberstdorf in Germany.
The men competed in a 20-km race later in the day, with Russian skier Sergey Ustiugov in the lead after the first two races. He hung onto it in the third race Tuesday after Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who won Tour de Ski last year, skied the wrong way and didn’t manage to get back on the right track quickly enough.
The Tour de Ski started on New Year’s Eve and runs for nine days at various locations in Switzerland, Germany and Italy.