The Tour de Ski started off with exciting and dramatic sprint finals on the Munich Olympic stadium.
This very fast course built on the Munich Olympic stadium did not tolerate any balancing mistakes and we witnessed many falls during heats and finals. To make matters more difficult for the athletes, warm air temperature +9C made the corners on the ideal line of the course softer and softer as the race progressed towards the big finals. Even the true balancing champions on skis Cristian Zorzi and Tor Arne Hetland could not avoid crashes.
Chandra Crawford forced own tactics and tempo by very strong leg pushes on the competitors as long as she could. It worked perfect in the semi-final, where even Marit Bjorgen had no chances to take the lead. But in the final Marit Bjorgen took what most viewers thought she would, despite leaving last the start corridors. Desperately trying to take the lead throughout first 2/3 of the distance to pass Chandra Crawford, she finally found her way and in the finish there was no one to challenge her. Qualification winner Ariana Follis from Italy took the 2nd place and Chandra Crawford was 3rd. The ladies' results can be found here.
The FIS World Cup so far had hardly seen a drama what we saw on the first 200m of the men's final. The hopes were probably so high that in the end of the start corridor “the Scandinavian trio” – Petter Northug, Thobias Fredriksson and Oysten Pettersen crashed into each other after the youngest of the group – Northug – got stuck in his own skis. That incident gave a unique opportunity for the other 3 in the final to form the 1st Tour the Ski stage podium. After winning the qualification, Christoph Eigenmann from Switzerland raised to the highest podium place first time ever, followed by Devon Kershaw from Canada and Olympic sprint medalist Roddy Daraggon from France. The full results are here.
Every place in the top 30 was extra valuable today due to the Tour bonus seconds' system that rewards the top 30. All the favorites for the ladies' Tour de Ski podium collected bonuses today in the Munich sprint. Things were much different among the men, as expected. Overall favorites Evegeni Dementiev, Axel Teichmann, Tobias Angerer, Mathias Fredriksson, Anders Södergren and Eldar Roenning did not get any bonus seconds and have to fight harder as the one's that made it to the top 30 today. It will be very interesting to follow, how much will these seconds help the sprinters over the upcoming 2 distance races. And how many sprinters' will we see on the Alpe Cermis? More about bonus seconds can be read here in the Tour rules section.
What next? The Tour caravan will travel to Oberstdorf today to get ready for the next start on 2nd of January 2007. Will there be some New Year parties tonight ...?