Both Petter Northug and Marit Bjørgen ended up losing their chance to win the overall Tour de Ski on Sunday, although Bjørgen did better than Northug. She placed second once again behind arch rival Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, while Northug had to settle for third place.
Northug, known for his penchant for teasing the Swedes, also had to see himself beaten by a Swede, when Marcus Kellner placed second overall in the men’s competition. Dario Cologna of Switzerland won the multi-stage Tour that involved skiing competitions over the past 11 days.
Both Northug and Bjørgen had set their sights on winning Tour de Ski for the first time, after winning many events at last winter’s Nordic skiing world championships in Oslo. Northug had claimed that winning the Tour de Ski was his most important goal this season.
When he started falling behind Cologna earlier this week, it was Bjørgen who seemed most likely to become the first Norwegian to win the Tour de Ski. But she also failed to beat her main rival although Norway made a good showing with both Bjørgen and teammate Therese Johaugen on the winners’ platform after Johaugen placed third.
Bjørgen lost Tour de Ski by 28 seconds and her coaches blamed a sore throat and flu-like illness that allegedly weakened Norway’s ski queen for the Tour that began a week later. Bjørgen herself said she “should have done better” in the early competitions of the Tour.
Kowalczyk, meanwhile, won the gruelling Tour for the third time and has proven her ability to maintain a high standard through the entire 11 days. She’s also strong in the tough uphills on the Tour, and won its first three stages. Bjørgen went on to win the next four in a row, but never quite made up for Kowalczyk’s opening performances.
Northug didn’t manage the tough uphills either and Cologna proved to be the Tour’s “Iron Man” once again. He’d been leading the overall tour and Northug had admitted to losing his chance for a Tour victory as early as Thursday.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the goal area at the top of the last uphill, Alpe Cermis, looked more like a battlefield with fallen soldiers than a sports arena, after most of the skiers collapsed, threw up and were generally dazed after the race. Some couldn’t get up from the snow for as long as 10 minutes, utterly spent. Devon Kershaw of Canada told NRK that “it was hell, nothing less,” adding that cross-country skiing “doesn’t get any tougher than this.”
Northug realized he couldn’t overtake Cologna “and it was ‘good-night,'” he told NRK. He said he was so exhausted when the race was over that he didn’t know where he was.
“The Tour is tough,” Northug said. “Most of us are glad it’s over now.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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