Workers prepare the course for cross country ski racing’s most grueling nine days beginning Saturday in Oberhof with the opening of the eighth running of the Tour de Ski. (Getty Images/AFP/Robert Michael)
OBERHOF, Germany (Dec. 27) – Cross country ski racing’s most grueling nine days begins Saturday with the opening of the eighth running of the Tour de Ski starting in Oberhof. Athletes will ski seven stages in nine days across courses in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Over $600,000 in cash purses will be paid out. Universal Sports will feature same-day coverage from the Dec. 28-29 opener in Oberhof through the Jan. 4-5 finale in Val di Fiemme, Italy. New to the tour this season will be a two-day stop in Lenzerheide, Switzerland over New Year’s. Seven U.S. Ski Team athletes are scheduled to start the Tour.
The grueling seven-stage, nine-day Tour de Ski cross country tour opens Dec. 28-29 in Oberhof, Germany with a prologue and a sprint. The second stage was shortened from a planned distance race to a sprint due to lack of snow.
The eighth running of the Tour de Ski will feature stops in Oberhof, Germany, two stages at a new site in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Toblach, Italy and the traditional finale weekend in Val di Fiemme, including the massive hill climb up Alpe Cermis.
Seven U.S. Ski Team athletes are expected to start.
Over $600,000 in cash prizes will be paid out over the Tour.
The changes in Oberhof, made just two days before the start of the Tour, now puts the opening prologue ahead of back-to-back sprints.
Skiers are awarded 50% of regular World Cup points at each stage, with the overall winner getting 400 points.
Since participating in the full Tour two years ago, U.S. Ski Team athletes have had good success. Liz Stephen was eighth in the 2012 Tour and then 15th a year ago – including finishing second in the Alpe Cermis hill climb.
Kikkan Randall, who is skipping this year's Tour to prepare for Sochi, had three stage podiums last year including two wins.
Universal Sports will provide same-day coverage throughout the Tour.
U.S. SKI TEAM Men Noah Hoffman Simi Hamilton (first four stages) Andy Newell (first four stages)
Women Holly Brooks (first four stages) Sophie Caldwell (first four stages) Jessie Diggins Liz Stephen
Note: Sadie Bjornsen, Kikkan Randall and Ida Sargent will skip the Tour, remaining in Europe to train in preparation for Sochi.
QUOTES Liz Stephen I am really excited to start my third Tour. With the change of race format it is good practice for Sochi and other events, where the stress may be higher and everything doesn't always go as planned. I am actually really excited at the chance of getting to work on my skate sprinting and high-speed racing, getting an extra shot at qualifying again in a Tour sprint this year. Oberhof has done an amazing job with the bad luck in weather that they have had to be able to put on a race at all. I am of course looking forward to the longer distance events three stages from now, and especially the 15k in Toblach through the Final Climb in Val di Fiemme on the 5th. This year the Tour is great preparation to get the body in shape for February, so with each race I am hoping to feel better and better, stronger and stronger.
Jessie Diggins I'm very excited to be racing in my second Tour de Ski! I am very impressed with how hard Oberhof has worked to make this 1.5km loop of snow, and team USA appreciates their efforts so that we can race. I am not bummed out at all by the race schedule change to a skate sprint, as I love skating and sprinting has gone well for me in the past. I'm ready to get in tour mode and do some serious racing...7 stages in 9 days!
Andy Newell I'm feeling healthy, fit and ready to race. I've been feeling great all season but, with a little bit of bad luck in the first few sprints, I haven't really had the results I'm looking for. So with tomorrow's prologue I know it's a great chance to score some points, and I'm excited to be able to start these first four stages of the tour. Tomorrow will be a lung burner for sure and it will be tough to race the back-to-back sprints, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
Noah Hoffman I am very excited to start my second Tour de Ski this afternoon. Although the change in schedule due to snow conditions makes it more of a challenge for me, I believe I am prepared and ready to execute seven good races in a row. Since my last World Cup two weeks ago, I’ve done some great training. My plan is to limit my losses through the first three stages, conserve my energy and really view my Tour as starting for real with stage four on Wednesday. From that point I am excited for several really good opportunities for me to move up the standings.
Matt Whitcomb, Women’s Head Coach The Tour de Ski has become a mainstay of World Cup racing. The format is exhilarating and we look forward to putting on a show for our fans back home and here in Europe.
Our approach to the Tour de Ski this year is specifically tailored for each individual. What we learned last year in the Tour is being used this year to target optimal performances at the Olympics. For Noah Hoffman, Liz Stephen, and Jessie Diggins, the goal entering the Tour is to complete all seven stages. Historically, these three athletes tend to improve as the Tour progresses. For Andy Newell, Simi Hamilton, Holly Brooks, and Sophie Caldwell, the plan is to use only the first three or four races to sharpen race fitness with the shorter events and then withdraw after Lenzerheide to prepare for the Nove Mesto World Cups. Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargent, and Sadie Bjornsen will skip the Tour to take advantage of a hard-to-come-by mid-winter training block.
TOUR DE SKI STAGE BY STAGE Stage 1 - Dec. 28: Oberhof, Germany – Men’s 4.5k/Women’s 3k Freestyle Prologue A traditional individual start competition with the 30 best athletes, according to the current overall World Cup rankings, starting in reverse order as the last group with the overall World Cup leader starting last. Registered athletes with the highest distance FIS points will start between all the seeded athletes. The athlete with the highest distance FIS points will be set as first of those athletes. Bonus Time 1 – 15 seconds 2 – 10 seconds 3 – 5 seconds
Stage 2 - Dec. 29: Oberhof, Germany – Men’s/Women’s 1.5k Freestyle Sprint Stage two will now feature freestyle sprints, changed from the planned 15k and 10k distance races for men and women. Watch for strong performances from U.S. Ski Team sprinters Andy Newell, Simi Hamilton and Jessie Diggins. Bonus Time 1 – 30 seconds 2 – 27 seconds 3 – 24 seconds
Stage 3 - Dec. 31: Lenzerheide, Switzerland – Men’s/Women’s 1.5k Classic Sprint A new stop on the Tour, it is familiar to a few U.S. Ski Team athletes who competed in the Swiss National Championships last spring. The revised schedule now makes Lenzerheide the second straight sprint, being held on New Year’s Eve day. Bonus Time 1 – 30 seconds 2 – 27 seconds 3 – 24 seconds
Stage 4 – Jan. 1: Lenzerheide, Switzerland – Mass Start Men’s 15k/Women’s 10k Classic Already four stages into the Tour, distance racers like Noah Hoffman and Liz Stephen finally hit their specialty in a mass start. The overall FIS Tour de Ski leader after three stages will get the first start position on the grid and bib number 1. Other competitors are assigned next start positions and bib numbers in order of their current FIS Tour de Ski standing after three stages. Bonus Time (additional on-course sprint bonuses with two sprints for men, one for women) 1 – 15 seconds 2 – 10 seconds 3 – 5 seconds
Stage 5 – Jan. 3: Cortina-Toblach, Italy: Men’s 35k/Women’s 15k Free Pursuit The Tour moves to the Italian Dolomites for stage five with a traditional leg in the valley between the Olympic village of Cortina d’Ampezzo and Toblach to the north. The starting order of the pursuit race will be decided according to the current FIS Tour de Ski standings after four stages using the time differences between respective athletes as the start interval. Bonus Time 1 – 15 seconds 2 – 10 seconds 3 – 5 seconds
Stage 6 – Jan. 4: Val di Fiemme, Italy: Men’s 10k/Women’s 5k Classic The Tour heads to its closing weekend at the site of the World Championships with a short classic distance race. The 30 best athletes according to the current overall FIS Tour de Ski standing after five stages will start in reverse order as the last group. Bonus Time 1 – 15 seconds 2 – 10 seconds 3 – 5 seconds
Stage 7 – Jan. 5: Val di Fiemme, Italy: 9k Pursuit Hill Climb up Alpe Cermis Watch for Liz Stephen to battle for the fastest time up the towering Alpe Cermis. The penultimate final stage of the Tour de Ski starts in the World Championship stadium with a flat run to the base of Alpe Cermis, then a brutal climb to the top. The starting bibs will be assigned according to the current FIS Tour de Ski standings after six stages using the time differences between respective athletes as the start interval. Bonus Time: No bonus seconds on the final stage.
UNIVERSAL SPORTS TV SCHEDULE Broadcast Schedule Sat. Dec. 28, 7:00 p.m. EST – Oberhof, Germany Sun. Dec. 28, 7:00 p.m. EST – Oberhof, Germany Tue. Dec. 31, 7:00 p.m. EST – Lenzerheide, Switzerland Wed. Jan. 1, 7:00 p.m. EST – Lenzerheide, Switzerland Fri. Jan. 3, 7:00 p.m. EST – Cortina/Toblach, Italy Sat. Jan. 4, 7:00 p.m. EST – Val di Fiemme, Italy Sun. Jan. 5, 7:00 p.m. EST – Val di Fiemme, Italy
Live Streaming Sat. Dec. 28, 8:00 a.m. EST – Oberhof, Germany Sat. Dec. 28, 8:30 a.m. EST – Oberhof, Germany Tue. Dec. 31, 8:45 a.m. EST – Lenzerheide, Switzerland Wed. Jan. 1, 7:00 a.m. EST – Lenzerheide, Switzerland Fri. Jan. 3, 4:00 a.m. EST – Cortina/Toblach, Italy Sat. Jan. 4, 9:45 a.m. EST – Val di Fiemme, Italy Sun. Jan. 5, 7:30 a.m. EST – Val di Fiemme, Italy