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Britain’s Andrew Musgrave on His Tour de Ski

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – FasterSkier caught up with Britain’s Andrew Musgrave for a quick interview after his efforts in the penultimate stage of the 2012 Tour de Ski. Like Norway’s Eldar Roenning, Musgrave has had some help on the Tour from his brother.

Legkov Notches Fastest Men’s Time Up Alpe Cermis

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – A pair of men who had a pair of the worst days in Saturday’s Stage 8 of the Tour de Ski here had the two best days in Sunday’s Stage 9 – the Tour’s final climb up the Alpe Cermis.

Alexander Legkov (RUS) and Maurice Manificat (FRA) finished first and second in the contest for best time in the final climb, in nearly a dead heat. Legkov finished in 30:38.2 and Manificat in 30:38.3, with Marcus Hellner in third place another second back, in 30:39.9. (The reason the three men weren’t the first to the finish line is because Stage 9 was a handicap-start, with athletes placed higher in the overall standings getting a head start.)

While Hellner started in third place and used his result to climb to second in the overall Tour standings, Legkov and Manificat weren’t situated as well at the start of the day, thanks to nightmare races in Stage 8 here on Saturday.

Legkov had problems with his skis and wax, while Manificat struggled with his body.

After the race on Sunday, Manificat told FasterSkier he had “better legs, and good skis.”

“Yesterday, it was a day without, as we say in French. But it’s like that—the Tour is very long, and you need to be at 100 percent,” he said. “All works today, and so, I finish on good things, and it’s good to continue the season.”

Link to results.

Cologna Wins Third Tour, Hellner Breaks Northug for Second

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – Dario Cologna (SUI) won his third Tour de Ski, title easily holding his signifcant lead on the way to the top of the Alpe Cermis.

With a lead of 1:22 entering the 9km stage, there was little doubt that Cologna would win, but the race for second was another story.

Cologna on the Final Climb.

Northug headed out 40 seconds up on Marcus Hellner (SWE) and Devon Kershaw (CAN). The two worked together on the flat, before Hellner attacked headed into the climb. Kershaw fell off the pace, and the Swede quickly closed the gap on Northug.

If Northug has one weakness, it is the final climb, and Hellner easily outdistanced him.

Kershaw held onto fourth and his teammate Alex Harvey placed 12th.

Alexander Legkov (RUS) posted the fastest time of the day, besting Maurice Manificat (FRA) by .1 seconds. The tow men were in contention for second until Saturday’s 20k mass start. The two struggled, falling back in the standings.

Hellner had the third fastest time, 1.7 seconds behind Legkov.

Italian Roland Clara was fastest on the hill itself.

Complete Results


Kowalczyk Wins Up the Alpe, Collects Third Tour Victory

Score one for Justyna Kowalczyk.

For the first time in three years, the Polish skier got the better of Norwegian Marit Bjoergen in the premiere event of the ski season, dropping her rival partway up the climb of the Alpe Cermis to win the 2012 Tour de Ski.

While Bjoergen had the upper hand at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and at the 2011 World Ski Championships in Oslo, Kowalczyk finally broke through this time. She was 28 seconds faster than Bjoergen up the hill, with plenty of time to celebrate at the top.

“It has been a very big fight between me and Justyna,” Bjoergen said in a press conference afterwards. “Justyna was stronger than me.”

Therese Johaug (NOR) was the third woman to the top, giving her the final place on the overall podium, and also the fastest time of the day.

Kikkan Randall (USA) dropped two places from her start position, but still managed to hold on to 10th place in the overall. Her teammate Liz Stephen notched the 8th-fastest time of the day, moving her up to 24th overall, while Holly Brooks (USA) was 31st, giving her 39th place in the overall.

Link to full results from the day.

Link to overall results.

Kowalczyk Wins Tour Stage 8, Takes Narrow Lead into Alpe Cermis

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – The battle between Marit Bjoergen (NOR) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) is coming down to the wire.

Kowalczyk won Stage 8 of the Tour de Ski on Saturday to take an 11-second lead in the overall standings over her Norwegian rival heading the Tour’s last stage here on Sunday: a nine-kilometer hill climb up the Alpe Cermis, a local alpine ski area.

Kowalczyk went out of the start hot, took a small lead on the second of two 4.5-kilometer laps, then fought off a late charge by Bjoergen to take her first win since Stage 3 of the Tour in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Charlotte Kalla (SWE) was third, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) fourth, and Julia Ivanova (RUS) fifth.

Kikkan Randall (USA) was 12th after skiing with the lead pack early, while her teammates Liz Stephen and Holly Brooks were 34th and 45th, respectively.

Link to full results.

Roenning Takes Brutal 20k, Harvey 2nd

TESERO, Italy – Eldar Roenning (NOR) used a hard attack on the last small climb into the stadium to open a five meter gap on the field, before holding on in the homestretch to win the penultimate stage of the 2012 Tour de Ski.

Alex Harvey (CAN) bested overall Tour leader Dario Cologna (SUI) in the double pole to take second and claim his first World Cup distance podium since 2009 in Trondheim, Norway.

Cologna hung on to third, just a fraction of a second ahead of Northug.

With the intermediate bonus sprint moved to the top of the largest climb, the race broke apart in a fashion usually only seen on the women’s side.

The pack was already stringing out the first time to the top at 1.8k. While the pace dropped somewhat coming through the stadium, the numbers at the front dwindled consistently.

Some of the big names in contention for the overall podium could not hold on—namely Maurice Manificat (FRA) and Alexander Legkov (RUS), and to a lesser degree, Ilia Chernousov (RUS).

Devon Kershaw (CAN) was sixth, and right in the mix at the end. Both he and Harvey captured bonus seconds on every lap except for one.

Cologna took a number of seconds as well, and pretty much iced his overall win.

The battle is now for second and it is very close.

Complete Results

Notes and Quotes: Tour de Ski Stage 7

TOBLACH, Italy – Norwegian Eldar Roenning, who is not a strong skater, was disappointed with his performance in the 35k Cortina to Toblach pursuit.

Starting in 10th, he started hard, hoping to get in a group with Marcus Hellner (SWE) and Lukas Bauer (CZE).

“But after five minutes I was so tired I had to just let it go,” he told FasterSkier.

He backed off and after reaching the high point, his race began to turn around. He ended up in a group with Curdin Perl (SUI), and Italians Thomas Moriggl and Roland Clara.

He fell from all the way to 24th place, and described the first 15k of the race as “terrible.”

It was a different story for 26-year-old Lars Nelson of Sweden.  Hardly a household name on the World Cup, Nelson said he has been having an excellent Tour.

He placed 31st in the pursuit, holding position, and is looking to crack the top-30 at the top of the Alpe Cermis.

He told FasterSkier that he trained on an alpine hill at home in Sweden in preparation.

“I came here with no anticipation,” Nelson said. “For me it is a great tour so far.”

The big names on the Swedish men’s team have not had such a good time of it, with both Emil Joensson and Marcus Hellner suffering some major disappointments.

Nelson said that spirits are still high and that “of course some people are not satisfied immediately after the race, but a couple hours later they are ready to go again.”

The Swedish press officer confirmed this, saying that the team was in good shape after a pep talk, and that Hellner’s spectacular performance in the pursuit would be a major lift.

On the topic of lesser-known skiers from major ski powerhouses, Niklas Dryhaug (NOR), skied a strong pursuit, moving up to 16th from 20th.

He finished at the front of a pack of five skiers, and said the men joined forces to maximize speed.

“We worked very well together and talked about it before the race,” Dryhaug said. “I am really satisfied with the team work and 16th place is good for me.”

In Saturday’s 20k, he will be working for Petter Northug (NOR), trying to get the star bonus seconds.

“We will fight together, all the Norwegians, and hopefully get Petter on top in Alpe Cermis,” Dryhaug said.

When asked if Northug still had a shot at the overall title, he said ”

It is possible, but it is a very big challenge for the moment. Petter took very many seconds in Val di Fiemme last year [in the 20k]. If Petter is in good shape in the weekend anything can happen.”

Maurice Manificat (FRA) thinks otherwise. Sitting in 6th place, just seconds out of second, he sees the only race is for number two.

“To catch Dario? No it is impossible. The second place, the podium, but not Dario,” Manificat said.

Devon Kershaw (CAN) had what he termed as “probably the best skate race of my career.” He worked in conjunction with Manificat and Hellner.

He had nothing but praise for the Swede.

“You talk about mental toughness, Hellner is so storng mentally…and today was a really good indication. He is a classy athlete, super classy,” Kershaw said.

He also added that when Hellner went to front to pull the chase pack, “I was slobbering like a Saint Bernard in the summer.”



Freeman Climbs Overall Tour Standings with Strong Pursuit

TOBLACH, Italy – Kris Freeman (USA) has been struggling all season to find his top form, a level that has put him in contention for the World Cup podium in the past. He has repeatedly commented that he has been missing his top-gear, and that has been apparent on the result sheet.

The Tour de Ski has been more of the same—some solid results, mixed into poor ones, but nothing spectacular.

While the sample size is small, the 35km pursuit from Cortina to Toblach marked a significant improvement for the veteran, and could mark a turning point.

Freeman skied his strongest race of the season, posting the tenth fastest time on the day while moving up from 42nd to 29th.

“I started racing and finished racing, and I raced in the middle, too,” Freeman told FasterSkier.

After inexplicable subpar performances, Freeman did not enter the pursuit with much confidence, especially coming off a sprint on Wednesday that he described as “pathetic.”

He caught a ride with Robin Duvillard (FRA) in the pursuit, who started just behind at bib 44, and said he was “pretty much being a leech out there.”

He finished in the middle of a large pack, losing out in a photo finish to Sergei Dolidovich (BLR), leaving him under three seconds out of 25th, and within striking distance of 21st.

Last year he skied an excellent final climb, but struggled in the 20k mass start. If he can put together a strong performance tomorrow, he could be in good position for the grind up the Alpe Cermis on Sunday.

Freeman, however, is not taking anything for granted, despite clearly being pleased with his performance.

“At this point, I have no idea what to expect out of my body at any time,” he said.

He is now looking to complete the Tour and get some rest, which he thinks will help.

His coach, Zach Caldwell, told FasterSkier, “I was just about ready to send him home yesterday [Wednesday],” but with the top-10 performance in the pursuit, that is off the table.

Cologna Smoothly Holds Onto Lead; Classic Northug Finish for 2nd

TOBLACH, Italy – In Stage 7 of the 2011/2012 Tour de Ski, a 35 kilometer point to point from Cortina to Toblach, Italy, Dario Cologna (SUI) left the start by himself and arrived across the finish line without anyone in sight.

Cologna (1st).

The drama – what little there was – happened early. Petter Northug (NOR) left the start a mere 13 seconds behind Cologna, and quickly caught him…for a short bit. Then he dramatically faded and disappeared, seeming to drop almost half a minute in half a kilometer.

Alexander Legkov (RUS) who started in 3rd, 1:28 behind, the leader, caught Northug and the two skied together for the better part of the race, until being caught by a strong chase group composed of Marcus Hellner (SWE), Maurice Magnificat (FRA) and Devon Kershaw (CAN).

The new pack of five skied together  – switching the lead between all but Northug, until the very end when Northug put forth a predictable sprint to take 2nd. Then all 5 collapsed on the ground.

5 Collapsed At Finish

Alex Harvey (CAN) both started and finished in 9th, 2:52 out, losing 6 seconds to the leader.

Kris Freeman (USA) started in 42nd, 6:33 behind Cologna, and finished in 29th, with time back unchanged: 6:33.

Complete results.

A full report to come.



Topher Sabot in ‘Escape from the Bathroom’ – HD Video!

Last night, FasterSkier Editor in Chief was unsuspectingly taking a shower when the door handle to the bathroom broke, leaving him marooned inside while the remainder of the FasterSkier staff went on an unsuccessful gummy bear-hunting expedition.

After an extremely confused, non-English-speaking woman attempted to apply a screwdriver to the door, help came in the form of one of the hotel’s managers. He wielded a combination of brute force and suave wrench technique to defeat the broken lock, allowing Sabot to finally egress from bathroom without experiencing any ‘panik.’ We caught him immediately afterwards for the exclusive post-confinement interview.

TV Production for Tour de Ski’s Queen Stage Is No Small Feat

TOBLACH, Italy – Broadcasters will muster 29 cameras, 70 workers, snowmobiles, and two helicopters in order to televise Thursday’s queen stage of the Tour de Ski, the 35-kilometer point-to-point freestyle race from Cortina to Toblach.

For Infront, the company that films the broadcast, producing the TV feed for the Cortina-Toblach stage is exceptionally challenging, with the Italian climate and geography presenting some interesting challenges.

Mountains and snow interfere with radio transmission, so Infront had to set up a number of relay stations along the course, as well as a technical hub that had to be hauled up onto a mountainside by a helicopter.

During the race, Infront will rely on the snowmobiles and helicopters to film much of the race, along with some fixed cameras. Of the two helicopters, one will fly low with camera equipment, while the other will be flying higher and beaming the broadcast back to production headquarters in Toblach.

Producer Federica Bonardi said that because the race is so long, she and her crew have prepared some additional programming to be shown simultaneously—using picture-in-picture, she said—that highlights the region’s unique characteristics.

She said viewers should expect some interesting flourishes, but she wouldn’t say what they were, instead encouraging a reporter to keep his fingers crossed for good weather.

Bjoergen Wins Skate Sprint in Toblach, Randall 2nd

TOBLACH, Italy – Marit Bjoergen  (NOR) won the 3rd of three races in today’s skate sprint, the 6th stage of the Tour de Ski, in Toblach, Italy. Kikkan Randall (USA) finished in second, and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) was 3rd.  The three women finished in single file, each several meters apart; once they hit the home stretch, the finishing order was clear.

Kowalczyk continues to lead the tour, but Bjoergen picked up over 10 seconds on Kowalczyk: 8 bonus seconds separating 1st and 3rd, and then the 4.90 second difference in qualification time. She now leads by a mere 4.8 seconds, and together the two have almost two and a half minutes on Therese Johaug (NOR), sitting in 3rd place.

Holly Brooks (USA) qualified in 28th, and was in the same quarterfinal as Randall. An unfortunate trip on one of the hills brought her to the ground, and out of the race.

In the post-race press conference, Bjoergen and Kowalczyk were asked whether they would work together in tomorrow’s 15k skate, and there was an awkward silence before vague responses.

Complete results.

Overall tour standings.

Morilov Bests Northug in Tour Sprint, Harvey 6th

TOBLACH, Italy – Nikolay Morilov, the Russian skate sprint speciallist held off Petter Northug (NOR) in a hotly contested skate sprint final in the sixth stage of the 2012 Tour de Ski.

Northug led down the final descent, but Morilov came by around the final corner, holding a slight edge into the homestretch.

Northug battled back, but Morilov won the race with a superior lunge.

Dario Cologna (SUI), the overall leader in the Tour de Ski finished third on a day he told reporters he was trying to conserve energy.

Northug said he was “embarrassed” with his performance in the last 200 meters, but picked up a few seconds on Cologna nonetheless.

Canadian Alex Harvey advanced to the finals, but told FasterSkier he did not have great glide, and was not in the mix at the end.

Devon Kershaw (CAN) was paired with Harvey in the quarterfinals, and was unable to advance. just missing a lucky loser spot.

The Russian sprint specialists, including Morilov, Alexei Petukhov (5th today) and Nikita Kriukov, have withdrawn from the Tour following the conclusion of today’s race.

Complete Results


Few Surprises in Toblach Skate Qualifier, Randall 3rd, Brooks 28th

TOBLACH, Italy – All the favorites advanced to the heats in the skate sprint qualifier as the sixth stage of the Tour de Ski kicked off.

Dario Cologna (SUI) the overall leader of the Tour posted the fastest qualifying time on the 1.3km course, clocking in at 2:55.53, a second-and-a-half ahead of sprint specialist Alexey Petukhov (RUS).

Petter Northug (NOR) was thirda head of Nikolay Morilov (RUS).

Defending winner of the event, Devon Kershaw (CAN) appears in top form, qualifying 6th, with teammate Alex Harvey doing one better in 5th.

The winner of the classic sprint in Oberstdorf, Nikita Kriukov (RUS), a much stronger classic skier, did not advance.

A top contender in the overall, Maurice Manificat (FRA), just missed out on the heats, placing 33rd.

In the women’s event, Marit Bjoergen set the pace, besting krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) by 1.19 seconds, with American Kikkan Randall in 3rd.

Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), who failed to get out of the quarterfinals in this race last year, was 11th.

Holly Brooks (USA) racing with broken bones in her hand, advanced after placing 28th in qualification.

Liz Stephen (USA) was 57th.

Women’s Qualification Results

Men’s Qualification Results

Freeman Misses TDS Skate Sprint Heats, Says There’s Still No Pop

TOBLACH, Italy – Kris Freeman’s frustrating season continued on Wednesday, as he failed to qualify for the heats in Stage 6 of the Tour de Ski, a skate sprint. Once again, the American said, he “just didn’t have the pop.”

“I come out every day expecting myself to perform the way I know I can, and most of the time it hasn’t happened,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of brighter spots, but nothing wonderful.”

Freeman finished 54th, roughly five seconds from qualifying, and some 12 seconds out of the lead.

He said that he had no problems with the way he executed the race, and skied the course well, but that things are “just not clicking.”

At this point, Freeman said he’s taking the Tour one day at a time, and has no plans to drop out. He may re-evaluate his plans for the remainder of the season after the Tour finishes this weekend, but there are no plans for him to go home.

“I’m definitely going to look at my options when the Tour is over, and possibly skip a couple weekends, try to get some rest, and find my form. It doesn’t feel like it’s that far away,” he said. “I’m hoping that after I finish this Tour, [and] get myself some rest, I’ll get a bounce.”

While Freeman has recovered from the personal problems that were preoccupying him early in the season, he said he’s still suffering from their aftereffects.

“I do feel a lot better—I’m more relaxed with things. But you know, there was a lot of anxiety and a lot of wasted energy for about six weeks there,” he said. “I wish I could have that six weeks back, but the damage is done.”

Freeman Still Looking for Answers, Hamilton out of Tour

TOBLACH, Italy – It was not a good day for the US men’s contingent at the 2012 Tour de Ski. Kris Freeman finished 52nd, well off the pace in the 5km classic prologue, while Simi Hamilton didn’t even make it to the start line due to illness.

Freeman, who hasn’t been able to find his top form this season, will continue the Tour, racing the freestyle sprint on Wednesday, but he has no answers for his subpar racing.

“I am at a loss…I raced really hard,” Freeman told FasterSkier. “I just had nothing.”

Freeman on the first climb.

He said his skis were decent on the highly variable course, with “slow points, fast points, slick points,” and did not see that as major player in his race.

Hamilton is out with a stomach bug. He started feeling poorly on Monday, but chalked it up to hard racing, according to US Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover.

But he did not improve, and Grover said it was apparent that it wasn’t merely the result of hard competition.

Like Andy Newell, whom he joined on the sidelines, Hamilton has been isolated from the rest of the team.

However, before the sickness was evident, Hamilton traveled in the same van as the rest of his teammates on the long trip from Germany to Italy.

Grover said he was concerned about the health of the team and the possibly of the bug being passed around.

At this point no decision has been made as to what Newell and Hamilton will do moving forward.

The big decision is whether or not the two men travel to Val die Fiemme, the final stop on the Tour.

It will depend in large part on how quickly they recover.  Newell is already feeling better according to Grover.

Kershaw and Harvey Struggle in Toblach 5k

Toblach, Italy – Wet new snow and a glazed track made for another challenging classic day for the men’s 5km prologue.

Canadians Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw both had disappointing performances, placing 18th and 29th respectively.

Harvey found the warm-up loop too flat and was not able to spike his lactate prior to his race—an essential piece of his pre-competition preparation.

The first part of the race ended up serving this warm-up function, and Harvey stiffened up.

Harvey headed up the first climb.

He told FasterSkier that his body felt good and his skis were excellent, and that he is “pissed” with how the day went.

“I couldn’t warm up anywhere else,” Harvey said “It is the same for everybody, but I need a hard warm-up.”

Kershaw had other issues. Hailing from Canmore, Alberata, Kershaw doesn’t get many opportunities to race on hairies—the classic ski preparation that involves roughing the kick zone with sandpaper, but not applying wax.

“I just wasn’t able to transfer the power like I usually do in classic,” Kershaw said.

He sees his ability to ski hairies as a “weakness,” with the problem rooted in trust.

“In your head you know there is no wax – so it is hard to trust it,” Kershaw said.

Kershaw is in 5th in the overall standings, 1:29.8 behind leader Dario Cologna (SUI), while Harvey is 15th, +2:33.5.


The final Canadian racer, Ivan Babikov was not a sure thing to start until this morning.

Babikov crashed hard in the skiathlon in Berstdorf, and there were initial concerns that he broke his wrist.

The X-rays were negative, and after warming up today, he decided he could race.

Babikov placed 72nd in the 78-skier field.

A full report on Babikov will follow.


And Finally, Some Snow, Ready for Action in Toblach

What with the rainy racing in Oberstdorf on Saturday, and the dry roads headed up into the Dolomites, it was a relief to drive into Toblach/Dobbiaco last night in a snow storm. Real snow. Big flakes, falling quickly and silently onto us, dusting us in white and in big grins.  We found a pizza place – prosciutto, salami and onions – with delicious sudtirolian beer: a great combination of the best that Italian and German culture have to offer.  Then we went out last night around 11:30 and skied down the road and found the stadium, which is amazing – the ski course actually climbs up and over the dome-shaped ski center. (Unfortunately, we suffered some damage to our skis passing under a small bridge where there was, er, no snow.) Still, awesome to feel like we’re finally in winter.

Now with a brilliant bright day, the men are warming up for their race, and it’s a classically classic waxing challenge. Wet new snow close to freezing. The tracks are highy glazed in many places: that wobbly, clattery stuff you get in these conditions.  Corners are going to turn to mush.

The course features a number of gradual longer climbs – very skiable. There will be a fair amount of double pole.

Here’s hoping that everyone finds the perfect wax.

Kowalczyk Struggling with Knee Injury, But Plays Down Problems

The Polish media are reporting that Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) is suffering from a knee injury that may threaten her completion of the 2012 Tour de Ski.

Kowalczyk, who currently leads by 27 seconds heading into the Tour’s fifth stage on Tuesday, has a swollen knee but is taking anti-inflammatories to combat the problem, according to the website Sport.Pl.

NRK has some quotes from the Norwegian skiers about their rival.

Newell Drops Out of Tour, Will Look Towards Milan Sprint

OBERSTDORF, Germany – U.S. Ski Team sprinter Andy Newell dropped out of the 2012 Tour de Ski before its fourth stage here on Sunday, failing to fight off an illness that had been threatening since Thursday.

“I think maybe we were all in a little denial that he was coming down with it,” said U.S. Head Coach Chris Grover. “But this morning, there was no denying it. He sounded quite bad.”

Even with a rest day approaching on Monday, Grover said that neither he nor Newell felt that the sprinter would be able to recover quickly enough to fight for good results over the next few stages in Toblach, Italy, so they pulled the plug on the Tour and will focus on upcoming sprint races over the next month in Milan, Estonia, and Russia.

Grover said that Newell would be isolated from the rest of the team, but that he’d probably travel with them to the next venue in Toblach. Asked if Newell would be strapped to the top of the American van to avoid infecting his teammates, Grover responded, “absolutely.”

“We have multiple vehicles, so he’ll be riding with the staff,” Grover said. “With the expendable part of the crew.”