Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Therese Johaug have become the first Norwegians to take out the Tour de Ski in the event’s seven year history. Both came home strong in the final men’s and women’s stages on Sunday, winning the day’s races and the overall cross country skiing tour title.
Day seven involved a grueling climb up the “monster hill” to the top of the Alpe Cermis ski slopes in Val di Fiemme, Italy. The women’s event was held first. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported it became a showdown between teammates, with Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen beginning the leg with a 24 second head start on Johaug. Uhrenholdt Jacobsen held the lead for the first few kilometres, but Johaug made up the difference by the start of the brutal hill climb.
Johaug had previously shown form on steep stages and again dominated on Sunday, finishing 20.4 seconds ahead of Uhrenholdt Jacobsen. Heidi Weng crossed the line two minutes and 30 seconds after Johaug, making it a podium triple for Norway.
“It’s a dream come true, to be the first Norwegian to win the Tour de Ski,” cried Johaug. “Many thoughts go through your head when you cross the finish line. You’re quite tired, and many of your thoughts go to how much you’ve sacrificed through life. Now it’s absolutely worth it.”
Uhrenholdt Jacobsen was proud of her day’s performance and the second place finish. “I’m number two behind Therese,” she told NRK. “Who’d have thought it? Not me at least! I’m super proud to get to take one of these glass lumps home.” Third place winner Weng said it was amazing to have three Norwegians on the podium. “Now I’m going home to eat everything I come across!”
Heavy snow didn’t deter
Conditions deteriorated by the end of the women’s event, and the men faced the monster hill in heavy snow. Sundby began the race with a 48.5 second lead on fellow Norwegian Petter Northug, and faced the added challenge of having to plow through fresh snow on the track. By the time the frontrunners reached the base of the hill, Sundby still held pole position while Chris Jespersen had passed Northug and taken a 30 second lead on his countryman.
Sundby powered up the slope to cross the finish line well clear of any competitors. Jespersen finished 36 seconds later, securing a surprise second place podium position in his first time at the tour, before Austria’s Johannes Dürr beat out Northug for third place.
“This is a clichéd interview, but I have an incredible amount of people to thank for this,” said a tearful Sundby after the race. “I think everyone back home, you know who you are.” Jespersen said he’d hoped to win, but was proud to finish second. “When it happened as it did, it was settled in the long run. Then I had to try to take second place.” NRK reported it was a disappointing finish for Northug, who has overshadowed his team mates in past years but has had a poor start to the season so far.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg took to Twitter to congratulate both Johaug and Sundby on Norway’s first Tour de Ski victories. The Norwegian skiers are now eyeing Olympic gold in Sochi next month.