Last year’s runner-up Kusti Kittilae lived up to expectations in a tough 5.4km distance race in Inner Mongolia’s Xiwuqi. In very cold conditions and battling a fierce wind, Kittilae clearly got the better of Sweden’s Bill Impola and Adam Johansson. The Fin also took the lead in the China Tour de Ski standing with a narrow margin of 10 points over Impola. Frida Hallquist won the women’s event.
Skiers got worried upon landing in Xilinhot airport in the morning when the stewardess announced a ground temperature of minus 32 degrees Celcius. Luckily, it got less cold (minus 20) as the afternoon’s race start approached, but the strong wind did not diminish in strength. A tactical race was therefore warranted. Sadly, young Swede Oscar Kardin, who finished second in Vasaloppet China, has been forced to withdraw from the Xiwuqi stages due to persistent knee ache following the marathon race last Wednesday. Kardin expects to be fit again for the four stages in Xinjiang.
Kusti Kittilae could not let this one slip and he did not. Following in the slipstream of Impola and Olli-Pekka Tolvanen, the experienced and in-form Fin made his attack in the final hectometers and won with a two-second margin over Impola. Adam Johansson, winner of China Tour de Ski in 2010 but suffering an awful offday in Changchun, got himself back in the picture with third place ahead of Tolvanen. Canadian Drew Goldsack also fared better than earlier this week with sixth place.
The women’s race had a similar finish with Frida Hallquist controlling Lisa Svensson and Julia Jansson to the line. China’s Guo Yuxin gave the home crowd something to cheer about with a solid fourth place. Vasaloppet China surprise winner Chen Shuang had to be content with ninth place today. In the Tour standings it is very close between Hallquist (136 points) Chen Shuang (129) and Chi Chunxue (120).
The next stage is a 1.2km sprint competition scheduled in the same Xiwuqi ski arena tomorrow.
China Tour de Ski
Stage 2: Xiwuqi, 5.4km – Men Top 10
1. Kusti Kittilae (FIN)14:23
2. Bill Impola (SWE) 14:25
3. Adam Johansson (SWE) 14:32
4. Olli-Pekka Tolvanen (FIN) 14:53
5. Matthias Jonasson (SWE) 14:55
6. Drew Goldsack (CAN) 14:56
7. Martin Liljemark (SWE) 14:58
8. Wang Qiang (CHN) 15:00
9. Jonatan Thoresson (SWE) 15:03
10.Liu Jinming (CHN) 15:05
Women 3.6 km Top 10
1. Frida Hallquist (SWE) 11:10
2. Lisa Svensson (SWE) 11:14
3. Julia Jansson (SWE) 11:21
4. Guo Yuxin (CHN) 11:22
5. Evelina Bangman (SWE) 11:47
6. Chi Chunxue (CHN) 11:51
7. Ma Qinghua (CHN) 11:58
8. Jenni Hoylanen (FIN) 12:02
9. Chen Shuang (CHN) 12:03
10. Yang Liu (CHN) 12:04
Kusti Kittilae wins Xiwuqi’s distance race ahead of Bill Impola
New China Tour de Ski leader Kittilae speaking to CCTV 5
Start of the women’s race
Frida Hallquist finishes first ahead of Lisa Svensson
More photos coming soon