Petter Northug is back and captures the stage victory in the second to last race of this year's edition of Tour de Ski.
Northug's strategy was clear. To reduce as many seconds as possible on the Tour leader Dario Cologna. The Norwegian won all five intermediate bonus sprints. Above that he was the strongest in the finish, eliminated a breakaway of Daniel Rickardsson and claimed Stage 7 victory. Tour leader Dario Cologna fnished second and Canadian Devon Kershaw continues with impressive results and captured thid place today.
Petter Northug (NOR) clearly showed that he is back in great shape in todays 20 km mass start. Starting in the front together with Cologna, Hellner, Jaks and Harvey, he were in the lead the entire race. Martin Jaks had a great start leading before the first sprint. Throughout the race, the main group leading the race consisted of Northug, Kershaw, Bauer, Cologna, Jaks and Harvey. Several attacks were made by the main group, but it was Daniel Rickardsson coming with the hardest threat. 2 kilometers before finish, he attacked in the uphill and got himself a gap down to the main group. They managed to get contact with him again, and Northug could easily sprint to the finish line. Marcus Hellner who had the second position in the overall standing before the race started had to let go of the main group already after a few kilometers. Hellner finished 23rd, 1.53.4 minutes behind Northug. Jaks came in fourth, Harvey fifth and Clara sixth.
Simen Oestensen (NOR) and Valerio Checchi (ITA) did not finish the race.
Cologna is still leading the overall Tour de Ski standing with 1:18:1 minutes ahead of Northug. Martin Jaks has climbed up the list and is now third, 2:46:5 behind Cologna.
Petter Northug (NOR):
“I had a good feeling today, I knew that I had to be offensive from the start and fight for the bonus seconds. After winning the two first sprints, which were my plan, I heard Marcus (Hellner) was behind, and I had a good feeling. I wanted to go for the last 30 seconds in the finish because I need it for tomorrow. It is possible to make a podium tomorrow, but I know it will be really hard. Lukas (Bauer) can beat me with 3 minutes tomorrow, we all know he is strong. I need to go in my own pace and just race by myself and hopefully make a podium.
I will be in my bed and relax tonight, I think that is the best relaxation for tomorrow. I think it is impossible to close the gap to Dario, and I don’t think he is beatable tomorrow. I will focus on winning second or third place”.
Dario Cologna (SUI):
“It was a good race for me, I had everything under control focusing on taking some bonus seconds. I think Petter and me were both really strong today. I saw he would take every sprint , so I focused on coming second. You can say it was a late Birthday gift from me to him.
I am satisfied with the gap, if nothing happens tomorrow I think it will be alright. I have great memories for Alpe Cermis, so I have a good feeling about tomorrow.
I hope it will be a big party in Alpe Cermis tomorrow. With my fan club I hope even more people come. It is not too far from where I come from, and I hope that many people I know are here”.