On Sunday, April 9, the Cup of Russia ended for skiers in Kirovsk. To create additional fan interest in the last start of the season, the organizers of the competition made a small mini-tour from the stage, which ended with pursuit races.
Girls were traditionally the first to go to the track. The undisputed favorite of the 10 km freestyle race was certainly Natalia Nepryaeva. After winning the butcher and sprint, she had a 45-second advantage over her nearest rivals. And hardly anyone believed that the Olympic champion, who is in good physical shape, will lose such a large handicap.
And for the second place was just expected to fight. Veronika Stepanova and Maria Istomina went to the track almost simultaneously - with a difference of two seconds. A little behind are Anastasia Prokofieva and Ekaterina Smirnova, who also know how to present surprises. However, this time to make a breakthrough and get to the first group of pursuers, neither of them succeeded. Although there were chances.
So, on the first lap, Istomina fell on a sharp turn. This has happened to her several times over the course of the season. Because of this, the athlete even lost the opportunity to compete for medals. This time, however, she was able to get up quickly.
"I certainly felt very bad. I said to myself: "Well, again, how much can you fall?" But quickly got up, reacted. I thought if Veronica sensed it, she might pull and run away. I immediately turned on, caught up. It didn't play a big role," the skier later admitted in a comment to Match TV.
Maria approached the stadium already paired with Stepanova and still with the same lag behind Nepryaeva. Much of the race was decided at the start of the second round. On one of the climbs, the pupil of Yuri Borodavko tried to escape from Veronika.
"As for the layout of the distance, I better passed the mountain, and the opponent - the plain-descent part. In the second segment, I came forward, started working, and there was a question whether Stepanova would hold on, "Istomina explained.
The ward of Yegor Sorin could not react to this breakthrough and lagged behind Maria, who also began to approach Nepryaeva. At the cut-off of 6.5 km, they were separated for 35 seconds. However, Natalia seems to have been warned about the spurt of the pursuer, and she also joined the work, not allowing Istomina to reduce the gap even more.
"Today I tried to run my race. I knew the girls shouldn't play 30 seconds off of me. I'm sorry, I'm not some extra. Try to play me 30 seconds! I tried to go at my own pace and understood that those seconds that were at the start, plus or minus and last for 10 km. I tried to just work it out, "the winner admitted.
The bronze was eventually won by Stepanova, to whom Smirnova got close enough. But Ekaterina did not have enough distance to impose a fight for bronze on the Olympic champion. Veronica at the finish was disappointed with her result.
"Better a in the hands than a crane in the sky. Today I chased a crane, and in the end I was eaten by a. And I, it turns out, am a failed hunter today. We chased after Nepryaeva, but at some point on the first lap I realized that everything was not to catch up. And Masha had already begun to roll me down these climbs, although I tried to get up on the slopes. For the third day in a row, we compete, and it takes its toll. But, no matter what anyone says, the mini-tour is a real holiday for me. I am proud that the season was held in Russia," Stepanova said.
Nepryaeva collected almost all possible trophies on this day. She won the race, mini-tour, and also officially became the owner of the Cup of Russia. In addition, Natalia took first place in the sprint standings, and the distance team remained for Smirnova.
Showdown at the finish line
There was a similar situation before the pursuit race for the men. No one doubted the victory of Alexander Bolshunov, who, according to the results of the sprint and cutting, had an advantage over the nearest pursuer by 1 minute and 49 seconds. Therefore, here, rather, the question was with what margin the three-time Olympic champion would finish the last race of the season. The skier was not used to relaxing and showed a clean first time. However, according to Alexander, he had to be nervous before the start.
"Today I worked alone, and it was important for me to work the whole distance as an individual race. Basically, I did. Everything was fine, the skis worked. The only thing is that I fell hard in the warm-up, broke the stick on the turn, and it became a little disturbing. But when the race ran, everything was fine. A rating for the season? I will never put five and a plus for myself, but there are definitely four," Bolshunov said.
And for the second place there was an even more stubborn struggle than the girls. Saveliy Korostelev, Ilya Semikov and Denis Spitsov went to the distance almost simultaneously. They were well aware that it was impossible to catch up with Bolshunov, so they fought a tactical struggle among themselves.
The pace was set by Spitsov. He tried a couple of times to break away, but he didn't succeed. At the same time, according to Korostelev, it was not easy to keep on to him.
"My task was to wait for the guys and go with them. However, Denis set such a pace that I already thought: I will not sit down, to be honest. But here the second part is more flat, and if you go in the back, you can relax. Therefore, I was 70 percent sure that I would be able to work out the finish well, "the skier admitted.
As a result, the three skiers spent the entire distance. Three kilometers before the finish, Spitsov made another attempt to escape, but again failed: on the descent Korostelev and Semikov caught up with him.
"It's a very hard climb and it's very hard to escape on it – only if you're on a retreat. But Spitsov is easy, fast, and he had a chance. But here the track is icy, and it is very easy to approach, "explained Saveliy.
Medals had to be distributed at the stadium. This was clearly not in favor of Semikov and Spitsov, who are inferior in the sprint to the young Korostelev. The skier in the current season repeatedly rose to the podium, and in Kirovsk remained fifth due to a fall. Therefore, it is not surprising that it was he who easily dealt with opponents on the last straight. The winner of the bronze medal was determined by the photo finish. At first, the judges gave bronze to Denis, but in the end decided to divide the third place between the two athletes.
At the end of the season, Bolshunov became the owner of the Cup of Russia, won the sprint and distance standings. The mini-tour in Kirovsk was also won by Alexander.