Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) and Thobias Fredriksson (SWE) gave younger sprinters a lesson today.
When one thinks of the big names in sprint, Hetland and Fredriksson are definitely one of the first that pop in mind. Younger competitors have made their way to podium more and more difficult last years when the competition has become harsher in sprint. But today, on the 4th stage of the Tour de Ski, experience prevailed.
In the qualification many distance racers qualified as somewhat “expected surprises”. It does not happen often that we see Georgio Di Centa (ITA), Eugeni Dementiev (RUS) and Vincent Vittoz (FRA) qualified. The Tour is taking its toll on everybody, but very likely it's tougher for sprinters and gives better chances for the distance racers. Many favorites for the Overall were out of bonus seconds, though – Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA), Mathias Fredriksson (SWE), Rene Sommerfeldt (GER), Anders Södergren (SWE), Alexandre Legkov (RUS).
A decisive moment for the Overall Tour ranking took place already in the 1st heat – 2nd place holder Overall and Sprint rankings and today's qualification winner Simen Oestensen (NOR) lost his ski on the 2nd lap! He was out of the further competition and collected only 5 valuable sprint points. Also Eldar Ronning (NOR) broke pole in his heat. Tour Overall leader Tobias Angerer (GER) moves without a problem further to semifinal.
In the semifinals we saw Hetland and Fredriksson winning, also very strong finish by young Norwegian star Peter Northug and #3 in the Tour Sprint rankings Björn Lind (SWE) giving up the fight.
In the small final there was really easy tempo the 1st lap, dictated by the Swedish sprinters but soon the Russians pushed up the tempo on 2nd lap and Swedes gave up. Nikolai Pankratov (RUS) wins ahead of Jörgen Brink (SWE) and Dementiev. Angerer saved energy for the last 2 days and finished last in this final, 12th place overall.
The A-final was a perfect example how “good old sprint guys” Hetland and Fredriksson taught young guys a lesson by dictating their tactics and tempo on the race. Even very fast finish by Northug that we witnessed today in quarterfinal and semifinal did not help him to gain anything more than 3rd place.
In the Overall rankings Angerer kept the first place, 27,3 seconds ahead of Oestensen and 31,1 seconds ahead of Dementiev.
In the Sprint rankings Hetland moved to 1st place, 5 points ahead of Fredriksson and 17 points ahead of Northug. Nothing is clear here since the potential of gaining 45 bonus seconds tomorrow may turn this list upside down.