Canada’s Emily Nishikawa picked up five more spots in the overall Tour de Ski standings following a 25th place finish in the women’s 10-kilometre mass start classic-ski race on Saturday in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
The 29-year-old darted off the line with the pack of 30 of the best all-around women’s cross-country skiers remaining in the epic seven-race Tour de Ski.
“I had a great start today and felt good for the first two laps, but I faded a bit in the second half of the race,” said Nishikawa. “Women’s racing always starts out really fast, so I was just trying to hang on in the pack and ski relaxed for as long as I could.”
The Whitehorse-based Olympian moved her way into 15th spot early in the four-lap race in the sixth stage on the punishing Val di Fiemme course which is loaded with long and steep climbs. In her final two laps, the lone Canuck remaining in the prestigious Tour de Ski dropped back into 25th with a time of 32:21.7.
“It is a very challenging course here with a lot of big climbs, but I had amazing skis today which helped me get around the course,” added Nishikawa.
Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg will take the lead into the final stage after winning the sixth stage with a time of 29:34.4. Two Russian athletes skied to the final two spots on the women’s podium. Natalia Nepryaeva was second at 29:44.4, while Anastasia Sedova placed third at 29:45.2.
With 41 women having already dropped out, 30 remain for the toughest test of all – a nine kilometre skate-ski pursuit race with the final three kilometres straight up Alpe Cermis, an alpine ski hill that boasts a 28 per cent hill grade.
“I am looking forward to the climb tomorrow with a mix of excitement and nerves,” said Nishikawa, who is competing in her first Tour de Ski. “I will push as hard as my legs will go and see what happens.”
The 13th annual Tour de Ski consists of seven races over nine days in three countries. The featured event on the Nordic calendar – outside of the Olympics and World Championships – tests some of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world to determine the king and queen of cross-country skiing when they cross the finish line of the Tour, ending with a 425-metre climb to the top of Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 6.