The upcoming 2016 China Tour de Ski stage race can once again sport a list of participants featuring world class skiers. Among the athletes are participants in national and world championships, and even in the Olympic Games.
Holly Brooks has taken part in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014), is a former American champion in the ski sprint (2011) and has several big wins on her record, such as the American Birkebeiner and Austria’s Dolomitenlauf. The latter two victories Brooks achieved last winter, indicating her strength on the long distance as well. This year’s China Tour de Ski of course again includes the 50km long Vasaloppet China stage in Changchun, so Brooks goes into the tournament as a clear favourite in the women’s. She will be up against a former champion of our race, though. 2013 champion Lisa Svensson returns to China and can never be underestimated. Other contenders are Mimi Bjoern from Sweden as well, the junior ski sprint champion, and USA’s Lauren Fritz, another long distance specialist with places of honour in a.o. Engadin Ski Marathon.
On the man’s start list we find an interesting athlete from Venezuela, undoubtedly a premiere for China Tour de Ski. Cesar Baena has been a regular face in the world championships since 2009. However, arguably the biggest name and race favourite is Torin Koos. A 35-year-old American who has skied in the past four (!) Olympic Games and who is also a multiple national champion. Koos is still going strong as he won the 2015 American Birkebeiner over 54km. Canada’s Graham Nishikawa is another skier to watch out for. A participant in the 2013 world championships, Nishikawa was the 2014 national sprint champion.
The international group of skiers will as usual be tested against the domestic team of Chinese skiers. In the past few years, the Chinese athletes have more than stood their ground and won quite a bit! With Beijing being awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics, it can only be expected that the level of Chinese skiers will continue to grow.
The first stage of the 2016 China Tour de Ski takes place in Yanji, Jilin Province, on 1 January.