Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty, pictured here at the 2018 Olympics, both took part in the FIS Tour de Ski with Nishikawa finishing 25th overall. (Bob Nishikawa/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa skis to 25th place finish at Tour de Ski

“You have to recover as fast as you can from one race to the next.”

Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa finished the FIS Tour de Ski in 25th place on the back of a pair of strong finishes in the final races.

After a rest day on Jan. 4, the tour moved to Val di Fiemme, Italy for a classic mass start on Jan. 5.

In the ladies’ 10-kilometre race, Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg continued her winning ways with a time of 29 minutes and 34.4 seconds.

Second place went to Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva and third place went to Anastasia Sedova.

Nishikawa was 25th, crossing the finish line in 32 minutes and 21.7 seconds.

The final event of the tour, the skate pursuit hill climb, was Jan. 6 and Nishikawa saved the best for last, finishing 20th in the stage.

With grades up to 28 per cent and a total climb of 495 metres, the race is not for the faint of heart.

Oestberg won again, finishing in a time of 35 minutes and 15 seconds. Nepryaeva was again second with a time of 37 minutes and 57 seconds, while Finland’s Krista Parmakoski was third in 38 minutes and 10.9 seconds.

Nishikawa’s time of 40 minutes and 9.9 seconds was good for 20th in the stage and kept her in 25th overall in the standings.

In the overall standings, Oestberg finished with a total time of 2 hours, 30 minutes and 31.2 seconds. Nepryaeva was two minutes and 42 seconds behind Oestberg and Parmakoski was another 13.9 seconds behind Nepryaeva.

Nishikawa’s time was 13 minutes and 54.9 seconds behind Oestberg.

This was the first time that Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty, who withdrew earlier in the tour, have raced the grueling event.

“It is much different than the normal World Cup schedule,” said Nishikawa in an email. “With seven races in nine days, and four different venues, there is a big focus on recovery. You have to recover as fast as you can from one race to the next.”

The plan for Nishikawa was to tackle the tour one race at a time.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never competed in this event before, but I wanted to take it one day at a time and have the best possible performance each day, with an extra focus on recovering well between stages,” she said. “It is different in the sense that you have to move on quickly from each race to get ready for the next race and there is a lot of driving between each venue. But also, you approach each race one day at a time and race as hard as you can every day as you would in any other race.”

For her, the 10-km classic mass start in Oberstdorf, Germany, (race number four) was the toughest.

“The waxing conditions were extremely difficult and I ended up breaking a ski in the first few minutes of the race,” said Nishikawa. “I had to regroup quick, get a replacement ski and continue on with the race.”

The final climb was her best stage finish, but was “one of the most difficult races” she’s ever done.

Nishikawa said she’s returning to Canada to recover from the Tour de Ski and train prior to the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria, in late February.

On the men’s tour, Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the 15-km class on Jan. 5, with Italian Francesco De Fabiani finishing second and Russian Alexander Bolshunov finishing third.

Klaebo won the final hill climb and the tour with a time of 32 minutes and 51.3 seconds in the pursuit on Jan. 6. Second place went to Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov and Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger was third.

There were no Canadian men who raced the final stages of the tour.

Klaebo’s overall time was two hours, 30 minutes and 31.2 seconds. Ustiugov was 16.7 seconds behind Klaebo and Kruger finished another 32.1 seconds behind Ustiugov.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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