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Tscharnke Wins Tight 15 k Classic; Northug Loses Time in Overall Tour Standings

Germany’s Tim Tscharnke narrowly won the dramatic sixth stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski, a 15 k classic mass start in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Saturday.

Tscharnke, who began the race 30th in the Tour standings, outlunged Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan (+0.0) to finish in 46:48.8. Dario Cologna of Switzerland was in the final sprint and took third (+0.4) despite crashing 29 minutes into the race, while Stanislav Volzhentsev beat fellow Russian Alexander Bessmertnykh in a photo finish to take fourth (+0.7),

Tour leader Petter Northug of Norway took 21st (+17.2). This was just barely good enough to hold the overall Tour lead over teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who finished in eighth (+4.1) after falling alongside Niklas Dyrhaug five minutes into the race.

Northug is just 3.1 seconds ahead of Sundby in the overall standings going into Sunday’s final stage in Val di Fiemme, a 9 k freestyle pursuit. Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson, who was 27th on Saturday (+30.0), is 26.8 seconds behind Northug in third.

Russia’s Evgeniy Belov fell along with Cologna — their skis became tied up as they descended a hill — and is now fourth in the standings (+35.3) after crossing the line in 17th (+14.1).

Canada’s Alex Harvey took 34th (+2:12.5) and will not race on Sunday. He dropped from sixth to 16th in the overall standings. Meanwhile, teammates Ivan Babikov and Devon Kershaw finished 40th (3:28.6) and 41st (3:39.5), respectively.

Bjørgen Wins Toblach 15 k Pursuit, Extends Tour Lead Over Weng

Marit Bjørgen is well on her way to winning her first Tour de Ski title after cruising to victory on Thursday in the Tour’s fifth stage, a 15 k freestyle pursuit on in Toblach, Italy, completing three 5 k laps on the difficult course in 36:37.9. Bjørgen posted the fastest time of the day, which allowed her to extend her overall Tour lead over fellow Norwegian Heidi Weng. Weng finished 1:58.8 seconds behind Bjørgen while completing the course in 37:02.4, the second fastest time of the day. She now trails Bjørgen by 2:03.8 in the Tour standings. Therese Johaug of Norway was third (+2:51.4) and posted the fourth fastest time of the day (37:12.8), while Sweden’s Emma Wiken finished fourth (+4:20.4) but lost time on the top three Norwegians after posting the 10th fastest time (37:28.1). However, she still overtook Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk – who won the 2010-2013 Tours –…

Northug Outlasts Halfvarsson, Sundby and Belov to Take Toblach Pursuit; Harvey 6th

With a 1.5-second head start in the men’s Tour de Ski 25-kilometer freestyle pursuit on Thursday, Petter Northug used both brains and brawn to edge the four men behind him: Calle Halfvarrson of Sweden, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, and Russia’s Evgeniy Belov, respectively. The Norwegian Tour leader heading into Thursday’s race, Northug hung around fourth through every checkpoint on the five-lap race. At 20.7 k, he trailed Belov in first by 2.3 seconds. Sundby sat in second, less than a second back, and Halfvarsson positioned himself in third. The fifth stage and the Tour’s longest-distance race came down to a sprint between the four, with Northug pulling out a two-second win in 53:56.9, ahead of Halfvarsson in second, then Sundby, who was third for the third-straight day (+2.2), and Belov in fourth (+2.4). “I was tired in the third and fourth lap,” Northug told FIS. “I tried to save some energy for the…

Bjørgen 4-for-4 in Tour de Ski with Toblach 5 k Classic Stage Win

Marit Bjørgen rolled to her fourth Tour de Ski victory in as many stages and fifth-straight win on Wednesday, besting the women’s 5-kilometer classic individual start by more than 10 seconds over Norwegian teammate Therese Johaug in Toblach, Italy. Before the race, Bjørgen said she considered double poling the whole thing. “I was thinking about it then I heard the Norwegian guys say it’s not so big difference,” she said in a post-race interview with FIS. “I feel I’m in perfect shape and incredible, actually.” Bjørgen started last of 52 women remaining through four stages in the Tour and posted the third-fastest 1.7 k time, 1.6 seconds behind Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, who led through that point, and 0.9 seconds back from Johaug. Bjørgen topped Kowalczyk’s time at the 2.1 k mark by 0.5 seconds then continued to hammer over the final three kilometers to pull out the win in 12:48.5. Johaug was third-fastest at 2.1…

Poltoranin Edges Out Belov for 10 k Classic Tour Victory in Toblach

Russia’s Evgeniy Belov created some drama in his final push to take the first-place position from Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan, but came up just short, finishing 0.05 seconds behind Poltoranin in Wednesday’s Tour de Ski men’s 10 k classic individual start in Toblach, Italy. Poltoranin finished the hilly course in 22:51.8 to earn his first Tour victory and podium. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby took third (+4.2) for his second straight Tour podium and fourth straight top-10 finish, while Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson was fourth (+14.3). Dario Cologna of Switzerland, winner of Saturday’s 4 k freestyle prologue in Oberstdorf, took fifth (+14.3). The Tour leader coming into Wednesday, Norway’s Petter Northug, failed to reach the podium for the first time on the Tour, finishing in seventh (+22.8). On the Canadian side, Alex Harvey – fifth overall after Tuesday’s freestyle sprint, when he was knocked out in the quarterfinals – lost time on…

Bjørgen Takes Another Tour Stage; Pellegrino Outsprints Norwegians for Win

Marit Bjørgen continues to dominate the Tour de Ski after leading an all-Norwegian podium in Tuesday’s 1.4 k women’s freestyle sprint in Val Müstair, Switzerland. Bjørgen has won the Tour’s first three stages. Bjørgen, who was first after qualifying, cruised to victory in the final in 3:37.73 after easily winning her quarterfinal and semifinal heats. Heidi Weng took second (+1.97), outsprinting fellow Norwegian Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (+2.41), while Sweden’s Stina Nilsson was well back in fourth (+6.40). Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway was fifth (+7.74), and Switzerland’s Laurien Van der Graaff took sixth (+27.71) after stumbling early. American Sophie Caldwell qualified in seventh and won her quarterfinal heat (3:42.25) by lunging ahead of Italy’s Gaia Veurich (+0.05), but could not snag a lucky loser spot after finishing third in her semifinal, 1.24 seconds behind Bjørgen (3:39.04). Caldwell ended up seventh overall. Kikkan Randall, also of the U.S., made it through to…

Northug Hangs Back, Powers Hard to Win Tour Classic Pursuit, 0.6 Seconds Over Harvey

Petter Northug didn’t want to be the guy up front carrying the weight of dozens of men behind him and at least 15 men with two kilometers to go. He didn’t need to. The Norwegian carefully timed his finishing push in the men’s 15-kilometer classic pursuit on Sunday, the second stage of the Tour de Ski in Obertsdorf, Germany, to surge from seventh to first on the double-pole straightaway to the finish. With teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Switzerland’s Dario Cologna dictating the pace for most of the race, Northug sat tight in seventh at 14.4 k while hungry, perhaps over-eagar contenders, like Italy’s Francesco De Fabiani, pushed hard over the final climb. Sundby was up front until that point, almost even with Cologna, before stumbling when Sweden’s Calle Halfvarrson appeared to step on the back of his ski up the herringbone part of the hill. De Fabiani took the lead over the top, and Halfvarsson —…

Cologna Back on Top in Tour Prologue; Harvey in 13th

Dario Cologna started his campaign for a fourth Tour de Ski win Saturday, with a victory in the 4.4 k freestyle prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany. The Swiss skier was only male in 93 starters to break the 10-minute barrier, with a time of 10:54.2. Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden finished second, five seconds back from Cologna. Petter Northug of Norway rounded out the podium just 5.5 seconds off the winning pace. Ilia Chernousov of Russia and Marcus Hellner placed fourth and fifth. Overall World Cup leader and 2014 Tour de Ski winner Martin Sundby placed 10th after skiing on the wrong part of the course. At the time of publication there was no official word on whether the deviance from the course would result in disqualification. Alex Harvey was the top North American in 13th place. The Canadian won the same event last year, with teammate Devon Kershaw close behind in second. Today, Kershaw…

Bjørgen Crushes Tour Prologue, Norway Sweeps; Bjornsen & Stephen 7-8

Marit Bjørgen said that she wanted to win the Tour de Ski, and she has certainly gotten off on the right foot. The Norwegian superstar, the best female skier in history, has never won the Tour but she decimated today’s 3.2 k prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany, winning by 10.7 seconds over teammate Heidi Weng. Factoring in the bonus seconds awarded to the podium finishers at each stage of the seven-stage competition, Bjørgen has a 15-second lead in the standings going into tomorrow’s 10 k classic pursuit. “I probably could not have had a better start,” Bjørgen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “I tried to hold back a bit for the second lap and had good with power towards the end. It was a perfect day.” Ragnhild Haga, a 23-year-old Norwegian who is a former U23 World Champion, snagged her first World Cup or stage World Cup podium by finishing third. Teammate Therese…

Norway’s Sveen Steps In for Tønseth for Tour de Ski 

Norway’s Tour de Ski team will feature many of its regular faces — Marit Bjørgen, Therese Johaug, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Petter Northug, etc. — with the exception of 23-year-old Didrik Tønseth, who’s had a breakout season so far. Simen Sveen, 26, will replace Didrik Tønseth, who underwent appendicitis surgery right before Christmas. Tønseth is recovering well after suffering acute appendicitis during the last World Cup in Davos, Switzerland, and is now back to normal training, according to the Norwegian Ski Association. “Didrik is showing great progress after the surgery and is back on snow,” national-team director Vidar Løfshus said in a press release on Monday. “However, considering the season as a whole, he will prioritize training over racing and therefore will not compete in the Tour de Ski.” Norway sends 15 athletes to Tour de Ski: seven women (Bjørgen, Johaug, Heidi Weng, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, Ragnhild Haga, Ragnhild Haga, and Martine Ek Hagen)…