Preview: The Tour de Ski Queen Stage

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 04 Jan 2012@18:50

The long stage from Cortina to Toblach in the men’s class is the Queen stage of Tour de Ski – with more than 30 kilometers of skating on an A-to-B course, this stage can shake up the overall standings considerably like it did last year. In addition to the live TV pictures, live GPS-tracking will be provided at This will be like Christmas Eve for Cross Country skiing fans!

The women will only race 15 km on a 5 km course which is skied 3 times – less drama is expected there, although there will be an interesting fight between Marit Bjørgen (NOR) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) on a course which fits Bjørgen a lot better than Kowalczyk.

Northug versus Cologna

For this year’s Queen stage, the main fight is between Northug and Cologna. The Swiss Tour de Ski leader has a lead of 13.5 seconds on the Norwegian – and the question is if Cologna will try to get away or wait for Northug.

- I will start fast and try to catch Cologna, Northug said in an interview with NRK TV after the Toblach sprint.  - We don’t need to talk to each other to know that we need to cooperate. I have to catch him, and then we need to work together.

With Cologna being strong in the uphills and Northug strong in the downhills, the two would be a perfect pair at the front. If the two at the front do not cooperate, the door is wide open for the followers to gain significant time. Legkov (RUS) is in a vacuum at +1:28 behind Cologna, but then there are many skiers between 2:05 and 2:45 behind who can form a big and fast chasing group: Kershaw (CAN) at 2:06, Vylegzhanin (RUS) at 2:16, Manificat (FRA) at 2:35, two times Tour winner Bauer (CZE) at 2:38 and Hellner (SWE), Harvey (CAN), Rønning (NOR) and Chernousov (RUS) around 2:45.

Add to it that the weather forecast says snow from 13:00 tomorrow – and it is clear that everything is set for a very exciting race from Cortina to Toblach tomorrow. Note that the race is shortened with around 4 km, which will be an advantage for the two in front.

2010/2011: Problems cooperating

Looking back to the 2010/2011 edition of Tour de Ski, all skiers in the Top 30 except for Dario Cologna (SUI) and Marcus Hellner (SWE) in the lead got sucked up by three big groups (see article including graphical illustration here). The biggest group which Petter Northug (NOR) was part of gained time on Cologna throughout most of the race – gaining nearly 45 seconds from 7 km up to 27 km. However, the group had problems cooperating in the last part of the downhill down to Toblach, loosing more than half of what they had worked hard on gaining in the first part of the race. When the group got too big, the skiers did not manage to cooperate anymore.

In the 2009/2010 edition, there was just over 16 seconds separating the top five Hellner (SWE), Østensen (NOR), Northug, Cologna and Teichmann (GER) at the start. Østensen was dropped early, and Heikkinen (FIN) and Gaillard (FRA) caught up with the remaining four after 15km. The leading six became five as they approached the town of Toblach where Teichmann fell off the pace. In the end Northug won the finish sprint ahead of Cologna and Hellner.

Bjørgen with advantage

In the women’s race everything is about Kowalczyk and Bjørgen, but although Kowalczyk starts 5 seconds ahead of Bjørgen, Kowalczyk feels unsecure about the race.

- It is better with 3 loops of 5 km than the entire 15 km route, but this skating distance has never been and will never by my distance, Kowalczyk writes on her webpage. – In Davos where I was skiing really well, I lost over a minute. So we will see how it will go in Toblach.

Still, it will be difficult to get away for the Norwegian skier who has taken three victories in a row now. 2:26 behind the two in the lead, Norwegian Therese Johaug (NOR) will have a lonely fight to keep up the speed and try to get closer to the leading duo. Kikkan Randall (USA) starts off nearly 4 minutes behind Kowalczyk – with Charlotte Kalla (SWE) and Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) half a minute behind.


The Toblach sprint was one of the easiest to predict so far in this Tour – with “Les Gens Parka Grande” winning with 757 points ahead of “A favourite victory”. In the overall Roar has increased his lead – now nearly 90 points ahead of Arne Post in second spot with Rolf Z in third.

Illustration Tour de Ski 2010/2011: Splitsbrowser where comparison is done to Dario Cologna. A line which is flat means the same time as Cologna. A line which goes down represents slower speed – a line which goes up represents faster speed. You can see where the grouping occured by observing where the lines get together.

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