In today's 15km mass start competition it was only her teammate Aino Kaisa Saarinen who could keep up with Virpi Kuitunen for the first half of the distance.
Weather conditions were truly Italian – sunny, blue skies and air temperature -1,0C, snow -7C. The course preparations were truly excellent.
Kuitunen and Saarinen started off already from the first uphill with very high tempo, followed by Petra Majdic (SLO) who lost already 17 seconds in the end of first lap.
1st sprint bonuses were handed out in the same order; Kuitunen collects 15, Saarinen 10 and Majdic 5 seconds. Finns changed positions after intermediate finish and Saarinen started to work for her team-mate Kuitunen.
Followers' group led by Marit Bjorgen (NOR) and Katerina Neumanova (CZE) started the chase. The group caught Majdic but they were already some 40 seconds behind the Finns at 5,7km. Kristin Steira (NOR) was already having problems to keep the tempo and she was almost a minute behind leaders at 5,7km.
In the end of 2nd lap Kuitunen takes lead again and the Finnish duo led the chase group by 43 seconds.
On 3rd lap Saarinen could not go ahead with the tempo of the Tour Overall leader Kuitunen as she ran away on her own. Bjorgen broke away from the chase group of 8 athletes but the gap was already 53 seconds to the lead. In the end of 3rd lap Kuitunen was 16 seconds ahead of Saarinen and 56 ahead of Bjorgen. Neumanova had difficulties, probably had to pay hard for yesterday's success in Asiago sprint.
In the last lap 2nd time bonus seconds were played out and Kuitunen takes 15, Saarinen 10 and Bjorgen 5 seconds. Kuitunen was able to keep up the high tempo all the way to the finish, moving along with very nice technique that did not show any sign of fatigue. Saarinen was 2nd, 37,1 seconds behind and collecting 10 extra seconds. Bjorgen was 3rd, 1.06,5 behind and taking the final 5 bonus seconds. Neumanova was 7th, Majdic 9th, Steira 20th, already 2.40 behind. All in all 50 athletes finished the competition.
In the Overall rankings Kuitunen secures her 1st position. Saarinen moves to 2nd, 1.39,5 behind and Bjorgen is 3rd 2.08,9 behind.
There is only one more competition left to know the winners of first ever Tour de Ski.