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3 Jan, 2022 16:27

Russian women’s ski star edges closer to historic first

Russian cross-country skier Natalia Nepryaeva is on the verge of an historic first for her country
Russian women’s ski star edges closer to historic first

Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva claimed a second successive Tour de Ski stage win as she edged closer to becoming the first women from her homeland to win the prestigious title.

Nepryaeva powered to victory in the 10km mass start classic in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Monday to retain the overall lead ahead of the final day of the six-stage series.

Nepryaeva, 26, had also won the previous stage in Oberstdorf, Germany, to take hold of the yellow jersey.

The Russian is top of the overall leaderboard heading into the 10km mass start final climb on Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme on Tuesday. 

Nepryaeva charged to the finish line in Monday’s race, finishing in 29 minutes 51.3 seconds.

That was a comfortable 3.7 seconds ahead of Heidi Weng of Norway and 4.8 seconds ahead of Finland’s Krista Parmakoski.

In the overall standings the Russian has a cushion of 1 minute and 12 seconds over nearest challenger Ebba Andersson of Sweden.

Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen is third, 1 minute and 19 seconds behind Nepryaeva.    

Should she manage to hold onto her lead, Nepryaeva would become the first Russian female winner of the Tour de Ski – which forms part of the FIS World Cup season – since the inception of the event in the 2006-07 season.  

“I’m really happy to win here [at Val di Fiemme], it’s a really important place for me, as it was my first win at World Juniors here,” said Nepryaeva, who won Olympic bronze as part of the Russian 4x5km relay team in 2018.

Nepryaeva’s win on Monday was a landmark one for Russian women in FIS World Cup stages, where they have now earned a century of victories in individual female events.

Nepryaeva’s focus turns to Tuesday’s final climb as the Russian aims to seal the title which was won by America’s Jessie Diggins last season.

“All that remains is to give all my strength tomorrow… it will be the hardest day of the tour,” Nepryaeva said.

In the men’s event, Russian two-time defending champion Alexander Bolshunov finds himself down in second with one stage remaining, a distant 2 minutes behind Norwegian star Johannes Klaebo.

Bolshunov finished fifth in Monday’s men’s 15km classic mass start, which Klaebo won ahead of Finland’s Iivo Niskanen.

Russia’s Aleksey Chervotkin and Denis Spitsov finished third and fourth respectively.