Tour de Ski wrap: unstoppable Klæbo and Nepryaeva claim overall titles
Norway's cross-country skiing superstar Johannes Klæbo dominated the Tour de Ski ahead of a promising turn at Beijing 2022 next month, while Russian Federation's Natalia Nepryaeva made the most of Jessie Diggins' errors yesterday to claim the women's overall title. Here's an overview of the six-stage event.
The winners have been crowned after the 2021-22 Tour de Ski finished on Tuesday (4 January).
Following the sixth and final race, Natalia Nepryaeva from the Russian Federation won the women's overall title while Norway's unstoppable force, Johannes Klæbo, claimed the men's.
The 16th edition of the tour, which also doubled as part of the World Cup series, saw Sweden's Ebba Andersson and Norway's Heidi Weng come in second and third respectively in the women's event. The men's overall Tour de Ski standings were completed by Alexander Bolshunov, the defending champion from the Russian Federation, claiming silver while Finland's Iivo Niskanen won bronze.
Numerous stories played out during the eight-day, six-stage tour, which was shortened due to the upcoming Olympic Winter Games starting 4 February, including qualification for Beijing 2022, World Cup points and Tour de Ski bragging rights.
Olympics.com takes you through the tournament that took place across three locations from 28 December 2021 to 4 January 2022.
Race Day 1 of 6, 28 December 2021, Lenzerheide, Switzerland
USA’s Jessie Diggins and Norway’s Johannes Klæbo won the women’s and men’s sprint free on the first day of this year's Tour de Ski. Norway’s Mathilde Myhrvold came second, with Anamarija Lampič of Slovenia rounding out the table.
In the men's event, the French duo of Richard Jouve and Lucas Chanavat did their best to take on the Norwegian with an attempted break on an uphill section of the course, but they ended up settling for silver and bronze respectively.
Race Day 2 of 6, 29 December 2021, Lenzerheide, Switzerland
Sister and brother, Kerttu and Iivo Niskanen, both claimed gold in the 10km classic and 15km classic respectively, at the Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on Wednesday (29 December).
In the men's competition, Russian Federation's Alexander Bolshunov, the defending overall champion, finished second with Norway coming in third and fourth courtesy of Paal Golberg and Johannes Klæbo.
Race Day 3 of 6, 31 December 2021, Oberstdorf, Germany
After one rest day in between Lenzerheide and the new location at Oberstdorf, Germany – last season's World Championships venue – the last race of the year featured the mass start free.
Women’s 10km free mass start
In the women’s race the Swedish pair of Frida Karlsson and Ebba Andersson worked together to hustle at the front. Team USA’s Jessie Diggins didn’t want to be left out so she budged her way into contention, the result being a speedy race.
Despite two falls Karlsson was leading in the final lap but Diggins just nipped ahead of her at the finish to claim the tour leader's yellow jersey. Tatiana Sorina of Russian Federation came third with Andersson just off the podium in fourth.
"It was cool because it was anyone’s race and you didn’t know how it was gonna finish,” said Diggins after the race, before going on to describe her skis as rockets, for which she thanked her ski technicians.
Men’s 15km free mass start
As tour leader, Johannes Klæbo headed the pack, kitted out in the yellow jersey.
Nothing much changed until after the third lap when Alexander Bolshunov picked up speed on the famous Burgstall uphill with only Britain’s Andrew Musgrave, Klæbo and Klæbo's compatriot Sjur Røthe keeping up with the Russian Federation athlete on the final stretch.
In the long, tricky final downhill back into the stadium, Klæbo managed to forge a gap leaving him still rocking the yellow jersey heading into the next race.
“I wanted to be up front at the final point coming back into the stadium but I knew the others were coming up close. Everyone was very careful out there and it really was quite icy but it ended all well so I am of course very happy with my result,” Klaebo said at the finish.
On his 25th birthday Bolshunov finished second with Røthe third and Musgrave a much improved fourth place after disappointing placings so far this tour. Røthe also needed the good result in order to vie for his spot in the Norwegian team for Beijing 2022.
Race Day 4 of 6, 1 January 2022, Oberstdorf, Germany
Russian Federation's Natalia Nepryaeva kept up her challenge on the yellow jersey as she topped the table in the new year's day sprint event. Sweden's Johanna Hagstroem claimed second spot. Johanna Matintalo, who trains in Santa’s official home town of Rovaniemi, Finland, claimed her maiden World Cup podium with third place.
It was a Norway shut-out on the podium with Johannes Klæbo top, Erik Valnes second and Paal Golberg in third. The team, which is looking super strong ahead of Beijing, also had a Norwegian athlete in fourth place courtesy of Even Northug.
Race Day 5 of 6, 3 January 2022, Val di Fiemme, Italy
Women’s 10km classic mass start
Sweden’s Ebba Andersson headed the group in an effort to take precious seconds off tour leader Natalia Nepryaeva in the overall standings. Halfway through the race and only six athletes – unusually all from different nations – could keep up with her. Nepryaeva was able to turn up the heat in the final lap, which none other could replicate.
Norway veteran Heidi Weng was happy with her second place finish stating: "I never had such good skis. I felt that the race was very fast in the climbs, which I was happy about. For tomorrow I will just go as fast as possible. I like the uphill and it could be the best day for me."
Krista Pärmäkoski from Finland was thrilled to be back on the podium following a drop in form following an illness early in the season.
The other nations in the top six were Sweden, Germany and Austria courtesy of Andersson, Katharina Hennig and Teresa Stadlober in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Men's mass start 15km classic
A crash at the start took out a number of athletes but of those who emerged unscathed, Finland’s Iivo Niskanen set the pace, followed by five Norwegians. One of those was Johannes Klæbo, of course, who took the lead in the final 5km. A few seconds further back Russian Federation’s Alexander Bolshunov was chasing until ski problems curtailed his challenge.
Klæbo crossed the finish lines 20 seconds ahead of the rest, putting himself in an almost unassailable lead for the Tour de Ski overall win. Niskanen was second with Alexey Chervotkin of the Russian Federation in third.
Race Day 6 of 6, 4 January 2022, Val di Fiemme, Italy
Women's mass start 10km free
Jessie Diggins set off at quite the pace to try and make up the time after yesterday’s disastrous crash in which she lost her healthy time advantage. The American couldn’t keep up the tempo after six competition days of skiing and faded -- finishing eighth overall in the tour.
Norway’s Heidi Weng followed her second place finish yesterday with a win today. The 30-year-old described the race as “chaotic” and “very hard.” Sweden’s Ebba Andersson finished second, with France’s Claudel Delphine in third.
Fourth-placed Russian Federation athlete Natalia Nepryaeva did enough to claim the yellow jersey ahead of Andersson in second and Weng, third in the overall standings.
Men's mass start 15km free
Norway’s Johannes Klæbo finished off the podium in fifth in the final race but was so far ahead of the field over the previous five races that he won the overall Tour de Ski title comfortably. Defending champion Alexander Bolshunov was runner-up with Iivo Niskanen of Finland claiming third.
Klaebo’s compatriot Sjur Røthe likely secured a spot at Beijing with this win in a stacked, talented Norwegian cross-country team. Bolshunov's compatriot Denis Spitsov finished second with Germany's Friedrich Moch securing third, collapsing with the exertion over the line.
Japan's Nato Baba was also a surprise high finisher, securing eighth place, and Britain’s Andrew Musgrave had a strong finish to the tour after a slow start, finishing fourth yesterday and 13th today.
The cross-country skiing event at Beijing 2022 takes place 5-20 February.