It’s a long ways from Norway to China, but that wasn’t slowing down Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) who will be taking home an additional 20,000 yuan for first place overall in the men’s division as the 10th annual China Tour de Ski wrapped up at Shijinglong Ski Resort, in Yanqing, outside Beijing, earlier Monday. Meng Hongliang of China took the women’s overall title.
(The references are to something or someone who loves snow, particularly plants that have grown through a snow cover, and someone fond of Chinese people and customs, respectively. And 20,000 yuan is slightly under $3,000.)
The six-stage tour was heavy on the freestyle sprints, with four of the stages featuring short skate sprints. Monday’s Stage 6 was no exception, as racers once more competed in a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint. This one was not easy, as racers faced a climb of at least 40 meters before the 450-meter mark of the 1.5-kilometer stage. The rest of the lap featured more gradual rolling hills leading up to a downhill finish.
Czech skier Daniel Maka was victorious on the day in the men’s race, winning the final sprint for his first stage victory of this year’s tour. Wang Qiang and Zhu Mingliang, both of China, rounded out the podium.
Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) reached the semifinal for the third time in four sprint stages, finishing seventh on the day. Behind him, Jack Novak (APU) made it as far as the quarterfinals, finishing 16th. Skyler Kenna (APU) was 25th in qualifying, missing out on the 16-racer heats.
It was an all-Chinese podium on the women’s side: Li Xin, Man Dandan, and Chi Chunxue. Li Xin won four out of six stages in this year’s Tour (Stages 1, 4, 5, and 6), but was deemed ineligible for the overall Tour title because she failed to finish Stage 3, the 50 k classic Vasaloppet China.
Behind them, Lauren Fritz (APU) qualified in 12th, but again saw her day end in the quarterfinals in 14th overall.
The overall podium for the tenth annual China Tour de Ski was Meng Hongliang of China, Julia Jansson of Sweden, and Veronika Mayerhofer of Austria for the women. Mayerhofer skied in this country for the University of Utah, and was the FasterSkier Collegiate Skier of the Year in 2015. For the men, the Norwegian Hjelstuen in first overall was followed by Samuel Rege Gianasso of France in second and the Czech Maka in third.
Complete final standings were not immediately available. As of the close of Stage 5, Hendrickson had been eighth overall in the Tour standings, Novak 15th, and Kenna 23rd for the men. Fritz had ranked 15 out of 37 for women.
— Gavin Kentch