Norwegian cross country skiers have dominated in the men’s and women’s events on day five of the Tour de Ski. Martin Johnsrud Sundby had no trouble defending the leader’s jersey, winning the men’s 35 kilometres on Friday, while Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen had a surprise win in the women’s 15 kilometre pursuit.
Sundby had a 32 second head start going into the race on Swede Calle Halfvarsson, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). His lead on the pack only increased throughout the longest stage of the tour, from Cortina to Toblach in Italy.
Fellow Norwegians Chris Jespersen and Petter Northug stayed amongst the pack dragging down the pace, before Northug made an epic sprint to take out second place, stealing race points from Sundby’s closest competitors.
“I’m hugely grateful for the job the guys do,” said Sundby, celebrating after the race. “It may well be that both Petter and Chris had power to catch me up today, but they choose not to do that for the sake of me getting ahead. I owe them a hug at least!”
End in sight
With two races left in the tour, Sundby has his eyes on the prize. “I have an all-time opportunity now,” he told NRK. “It’s a little frightening. It’s not easy to be hunted down by the wolf pack that follows behind. I have never been as nervous as I was before the race today.”
Northug’s second place finish on Friday propelled him into second position overall, but he was not sure after the race if he’d complete the last two stages of the tour. His focus is on preparing for the Sochi Olympics. Northug said he’d at least attempt Saturday’s 10 kilometre classic, before deciding whether to contest the final race to the summit of Italy’s Val di Fiemme on Saturday.
Norwegian women neck and neck
Meanwhile in the women’s event, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen had an upset win when she held the lead for the entire 15 kilometre ahead of fellow Norwegian Therese Johaug. She joked after her win that she’d run out of race suits, because she’d only planned to compete in a couple of races. With two events to go, Uhrenholdt Jacobsen is in line to become the first Norwegian to win the Tour de Ski.
“It’s very much about what’s between your ears,” Uhrenholdt Jacobsen explained. “If you’re in good humour and mange to focus on the right things, you manage to perform that much better.” She had a 43.7 second lead on Johaug going into the last two days. The final leg involves a steep ascent, where Johaug has traditionally fared well.
Similar to the Tour de France cycling race, competitors in the Tour de Ski accumulate points after each leg. This year’s event consists of seven races over nine days, across courses in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. A prologue, sprints, pursuit, interval start and mass start races make up the program. Women’s races are shorter, but both are held on the same courses.