The women's mass start at 30 km in a classic move, like several previous races of the Russian Championship, was held without Olympic champions Natalia Nepryaeva and Veronika Stepanova, who are recovering from malaise. One of the main heroines of this tournament, Elizaveta Pantrina, who has two golds, silver and two bronzes on her account, did not come to the start. As her coach Egor Sorin explained, the mass start was not initially part of their plans.
"Running the entire program is the lot of more experienced athletes. In addition, Lisa spent almost every race here at the maximum of her capabilities. Her condition is good, she could go out and fight for high places, but in the future this could have unpleasant consequences, "the specialist explained on the air of Match TV.
In the absence of Nepryaeva, experts called Ekaterina Smirnova, Alyona Baranova, Maria Istomina, Anastasia Prokofieva and Anastasia Kuleshova the favorites of the marathon.
Athletes had to overcome six five-kilometer laps, and after even ones it was possible to go to change skis. As many girls noted before the start, it is the work of the inventory and the presence of two equivalent pairs that will be almost the main key to success, since the weather for the distance race was quite difficult - the thermometers showed +8 ° C.
From the first kilometers of the distance, the peloton was headed by Istomina, who two years ago won the marathon of the Russian Championship here, in Tyumen. Then she brought the second place 40 seconds, also breaking into the lead almost from the start. According to the athlete herself, she does not like to run in the crowd, so in mass starts she always tries to go forward to avoid unpleasant collisions or falls.
But this time the representative of the Perm Territory did not allow Kuleshov to escape alone. At first, Diana Artemyeva and Daria Nepryaeva tried to stay behind the leaders, and in a short distance there was another group of pursuers, including Prokofieva, Smirnova and Yulia Stupak. However, by the mark of 15 km, there was no one left behind Maria and Anastasia - the pursuers were already 22 seconds from the leader.
Meanwhile, Prokofieva, who fell out of the top ten in two laps, decided on an early change of shoes. On fresh skis, she managed to bypass eight rivals and return to the fight for the bronze medal. By and large, she led it only with Artemyeva, because the lag of the rest of the skiers only grew with each kilometer. At some point, Nepryaeva left the race - the youngest, who had a problem with her neck: Daria left the track in tears.
Meanwhile, Kuleshova and Istomina walked together, alternately replacing each other in front and allowing her opponent to sit behind her back for a while and catch her breath. Both changed skis after 20 km of the distance, but no one dared to rush forward immediately. The first powerful acceleration was undertaken by Kuleshova about 2.5 km before the finish: she took advantage of the fact that Istomina went to the food point, and was able to create a gap. Maria gave chase, but her skis worked slightly worse than her opponent's, so that by the cut-off of 28.1 km the permyachka was already inferior to 7.8 seconds.
Kuleshova turned on all the remaining reserves and confidently brought the race to victory. This is her first triumph after coming out of maternity leave.
"We finally managed to win! It was necessary for me from a psychological point of view to understand that everything is not in vain, that I am moving in the right direction, it is not in vain that I leave my daughter in the care of dad and grandmother. This victory is very welcome. Of course, I wanted everyone to perform – both Natalia Nepryaeva and Veronika Stepanova. But I think at this stage it was very important for me today in the struggle to snatch this victory. I thanked Masha for her joint work, because in such weather it would be very difficult to walk alone. We worked together and it was good for both of us," the skier said after the race.
Istomina, in turn, complained that she could not compete for the first place in the final kilometers of the distance. She admitted that she lost the race tactically because of the decision to drink.
"Everything was possible, but today the race turned out like this: Nastya was somewhere stronger, somewhere smarter. We will draw conclusions and continue to work. I don't think it's a complete failure – overall, it was a great race, we fought almost to the last. She had better skis downhill, so I wondered if it was worth drinking. I knew that if it accelerated, I might not be able to catch up with it anymore. As a result, I decided to drink, and Nastya saw it and accelerated - it was difficult to catch up with her: the sections were gentle, so the work of skis was very important, "said Maria.
The bronze medal went to Prokofieva, who was 26.7 seconds ahead of Artemyeva. Also in the top five was the Olympic champion Stupak.