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Kuitunen and Cologna – Queen and King of the Tour 2008/09

Tour de Ski

Thu, Jan  8, 2009 - By FIS

The third edition of the Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski performance by Craft Sportswear concluded in Val di Fiemme (ITA) on Sunday. After seven competitions at four venues in three countries, the ones to first cross the finish line on Alpe Cermis were Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) for the ladies and Dario Cologna (SUI) for the men.

A total of four ladies wore the red leader’s jersey during the Tour de Ski, starting with prologue winner Claudia Nystad (GER; 16th in final rankings), two-time sprint winner Arianna Follis (ITA; 8th) and World Cup leader Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN), who posed the greatest challenge to her teammate Kuitunen in the final meters of the nine-day event.

Thanks to the bonus seconds she collected in the mass start race on Saturday, Kuitunen started the final Stage with a lead of 31 seconds over Saarinen and 49 seconds ahead of Petra Majdic (SLO). The two pursuing skiers worked together on the flat part of the approach to Alpe Cermis and caught up with Kuitunen about half-way up the ascent. With Majdic falling behind, Saarinen overtook Kuitunen and it seemed that, as was the case in the previous year, she would lose the victory in the final kilometer. This time, however, Kuitunen came back, passing Saarinen and taking the Tour de Ski title, her second, with a margin of 7.2 seconds over Saarinen. Petra Majdic finished third, and also won the Tour Sprint ranking after collecting 148 bonus seconds during the Tour.

In the men’s competition, the season’s shining light Dario Cologna had captured the leader’s bib after the second Stage in Oberhof (GER) and never relinquished it until the top of Alpe Cermis where he celebrated an uncontested victory. The organizers had developed a special spectator program, called the Tour de Gusto, that saw stations offering them local specialties for the Final Climb that brought close to 20’000 spectators on the hill creating a unique and fantastic atmosphere, including many carrying Swiss flags thanks to the proximity to Cologna’s home region in the canton of Grisons.

Axel Teichmann may have won three of the Stages (Prologue, Stages Four and Six) but was never a real challenge to the Swiss all-rounder who scored ranks 2nd, 6th, 8th, 15th, 5th, 4th and 23rd in the Tour Stages. In the end, his winning margin was 59 seconds over another youngster Petter Northug (NOR) who sprinted past Teichmann just a few hundred meters before the finish. The men’s Tour Sprint ranking went to Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) who finished 43rd overall. Team Norway was best in the Tour Team standings, 5.5 minutes ahead of Finland.

After the Tour, Aino Kaisa Saarinen continues to lead the World Cup rankings, now 71 points ahead of Kuitunen who has collected 907 points. In terms of prize money, Kuitunen leads the rankings thanks to the CHF 157’750 that she netted on the Tour, helping her to the total of CHF 189’750.

For the men, Dario Cologna has solidly established himself in the lead of the overall World Cup standings. With 835 points he leads by 137 points over Petter Northug. Besides many World Cup points, Cologna earned CHF 156’750 on the Tour.