Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) is setting the standards for the 2016 Tour de Ski. Race by race. Podium by podium.
On January 1, Østberg started her run for the Tour de Ski podium by posting the fastest qualifier time in the women’s skate sprint race in Lenzerheide (SUI), which opened the tenth anniversary version of the cross-country stage race. At the end of the day, Østberg pulled in to a strong third place in the sprint final and put her self on the podium at the first possible opportunity in 2016.
From there, Østberg just kept climbing spots on the podium, and she concluded the first part of the Tour on the top of the overall list with a 14.1 second lead to Therese Johaug (NOR).
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On January 2, the Tour continued with classic distance races for stage 2: 15km mass start for women ad 30km mass start for men. Østberg picked up right where she left after the first stage, and was back on the podium again with a strong second place in the second stage.
“It was maybe my best 15km classic race ever. I am really happy about today’s second place. I tried to be focused and calm and ski my own competition. I have to do the same thing tomorrow,” Østberg said after her race.
Sunday January 3 featured 10km and 5km skate pursuit races for men and women, respectively, the last of the three Tour de Ski stages in Switzerland. Østberg started 4.5 seconds behind Therese Johaug in the overall classifications, but won the race by 14.1 seconds, which leaves her in first place overall with a 14.3-second lead including bonus seconds for winning.
“Now I deserve the red bib. It was really hard today. My legs were really tired at the end. It was my plan to catch Therese early and do my best. I am looking forward to the rest day,” Østberg said after the 5km race on Sunday.
Weng had a rougher start to her Tour de Ski this year, but was content with her 5km skate race on Sunday, where she posted her second podium finish in three days.
Heidi Weng (NOR) was third in the classic mass start on Saturday, and third in the skate race on Sunday.
“I wanted to be relaxed and no to start too fast on the first climb. But my legs were very stiff. I tried to keep the pace not to lose many seconds on Charlotte (Kalla). I was surprised in the finish that the gap on Ingvild and Therese did not grow that much,” Weng said after her race on Sunday.
In the men’s 30km classic on January 2, Didrik Tønseth (NOR) also pulled off a strong race in the tough conditions, and put him self on the podium with a third place.
“It was a good race. I had good skis with a good grip. It was difficult snow conditions out there,” Tønseth said after his race.
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Monday January 4 is a rest day as the Tour de Ski now moves to Oberstdorf (GER). The Tour stays in Germany for two stages: classic sprint races on January 5 and classic mass start races on January 6. Women ski 10km and men ski 15km in the mass start events.
Thursday January 7 is the second and last rest day in the 2016 Tour de Ski.
Finally, the Tour travels to Italy for the last three stages: January 8 features individual start skate races in Toblach with 5km for women and 10km for men. The classic mass start races in Val di Fiemme on January 9 with 10km for women and 15km men set the stage for the final monster stage: The 9km Alpe Cermis uphill pursuit on January 10.