The first stage of the 2014 China Tour de Ski, a brand new sprint stage in Changchun’s Jingyuetan Park, confirmed the rise of Victor Gustafsson as a protagonist for this year’s tournament. Both Adam Johansson and Anders Hoegberg still seemed a bit rusty and ‘only’ achieved 7th and 12th place respectively. In the women’s Norway’s Astrid Bruland is taking the fight to Lisa Svensson with a strong win.
The overall favorites to win China Tour de Ski for a record third time, Sweden’s Anders Hoegberg and Adam Johansson, already looked modest in the qualifying session. In stark contrast with Gustafsson and France’s Baptiste Noel, who looked impressive in the morning but saw the Swede take the edge when it mattered. Another Frenchman, Romain Claudon claimed the final step on the podium at the expense of America’s Tim Reynolds.
The two women’s favourites look ready to give each other a tough battle. Defending champion Lisa Svensson was fastest in qualifying ahead of Astrid Bruland, but the latter saved the best for last and took a convincing stage win. Svensson on the other hand got stuck in the semi final and thus scored fifth place. Ida Lindqvist was runner-up to Bruland, and China’s Ma Qinghua completed the podium with her compatriot Yang Liu in fourth. Once again, China’s female skiers are making a better impact than the male squad and they will have an important role as the Tour goes on.
Tomorrow is stage 2, the classic and classic-style Vasaloppet China in Changchun. Anders Hoegberg has won it three times, and starts again as man-to-beat.
Winner of stage 1: Victor Gustafsson