The second stage of the Russian Cross-Country Skiing Cup in Tyumen ended with two classic mass starts at the same distance - 20 km. No one rushed forward from the first meters, which is quite understandable for a distance race. At first, Veronika Stepanova was the first, and after a few kilometers, Anastasia Faleeva, who specializes in sprinting, unexpectedly took on the burden of leadership. As the athlete admitted after the performance, the decision was forced, since none of the participants wanted to go forward, but in the end it turned out to be the right one.
The skiers covered the starting 5 km in 17 minutes, and, as the Olympic champion Alexander Legkov, who commented on the race, noted, such a pace can hardly be called high. However, the peloton gradually stretched, and by the middle of the distance, 15 athletes broke away from it. The group was still pulled by Faleeva, who was replaced several times ahead of Stepanov. Next to the leaders were the vice-champion of the country Maria Istomina and Olga Yakimushkina, followed by Lidia Gorbunova, Evgenia Krupitskaya and Anastasia Kuleshova.
As expected, the most interesting part of the race began in the last kilometers. Yakimushkina was the first to lag behind the leading group, and at some point it seemed that Stepanova would suffer the same fate. With 3.7 km to go, the Olympic champion was only sixth, more than four seconds behind Kuleshova, who took the lead.
Gradually, however, Veronica came to her senses and caught up with her rivals. Alena Baranova had a small chance to join the medal fight: during the penultimate pass through the stadium, she pulled herself up to the top six as much as possible, but then fell behind again.
Meanwhile, Faleeva made an attempt to escape into a breakaway on a steep ascent, but Stepanova simply grabbed her with an iron grip. After the descent, Yegor Sorin's ward went to the parallel track and began to run away from her opponent. She did not succeed immediately, but the 22-year-old skier skated to the stadium first, and Faleeva was fourth on the final descent, behind both Kuleshova and Istomina. But at the finish line, Anastasia made full use of her sprint qualities and snatched a silver medal. She was separated from Stepanova by only one-tenth of a second.
After the race, the skier admitted that she was very upset about the defeat and complained about the failed finish, although it was this element that she was confident in from the very beginning. Probably, Anastasia's physical condition was affected by participation in the sprint the day before, while her opponent refused to fight after the prologue.
"I was dragging the whole peloton, but I didn't feel that I was wasting my strength. I walked at my own pace, according to my own feelings, I was rolling. To be honest, I don't really like to follow someone around in the classics. For me, it's easier to come forward, to work as number one. I have quite long, rolling movements, and I get more lactic acid from it... Have you been lying at the finish line for a long time? I'm tired, really. Especially in the last two kilometers, when the "distribution" began. It seemed that I had the strength, but today it was difficult to show such a reserve, sprint power and speed," Championat quotes Faleyeva.
Stepanova, on the other hand, gave herself a "C" for the race, emphasizing that she would like to win by a larger margin. Apparently, the Olympic champion was hurt by the words of the president of the FLGR Elena Vyalbe said after the time trial that Veronika should win against her rivals by at least 30 seconds.
But in the mass start, even Alexander Bolshunov failed to reach such a gap, although he won his sixth victory in a row in the new season of the Russian Cup without much difficulty.
The three-time Olympic champion spent the beginning of the race in the thick of the peloton and only on the second lap made his way to the top ten. In the meantime, the intermediate leaders have changed several times. At first, the group was led by Ivan Yakimushkin, then by Ermil Vokuev, and Ilya Poroshkin and Artem Maltsev also took the lead.
Up to a certain point, Saveliy Korostelev was also in the top, but after the sixth kilometer a trouble happened to him - the binding on the ski broke. Waiting for the equipment to be replaced, the athlete lost a catastrophic amount of time and fell back to the 40th position. At the same time, at first he was given a skate ski, and only a few hundred meters later he was given a classic one.
By the middle of the distance, Bolshunov reached the second position, and then the first, but it was too early to escape. Yuriy Borodavko's ward calmly stayed in the lead, from time to time going behind the backs of the opponents to rest. They, by the way, also did not dare to make a breakthrough, apparently not quite understanding what tactics the favorite adheres to.
And Alexander waited patiently until the last kilometer, when he ran forward. He was followed by Ilya Semikov, who lost 2.2 seconds to the first place. There was a fierce struggle for the bronze medal between Alexei Chervotkin and Sergey Ardashev, but the latter was just a few meters short of catching up with his competitor.
Unlike Stepanova, Bolshunov was pleased with the way the race turned out for him. According to the skier, the tactics had to be chosen during the race, because, firstly, the rivals took a very high pace from the very beginning, and secondly, it was necessary to assess their own well-being and the work of the skis. But Oleksandr called something completely different the key to victory.
"I have a spark in my eyes. If it didn't exist, there would be no results. The cold did not bother me today, the weather is quite good and comfortable, only -12 ° C. A lot of snow fell at night, this improves my mood, especially since the New Year is coming soon," Bolshunov said.