One of the highlights of the cross-country skiing season, the 2022-23 Tour de Ski, gets underway in Val Muestair, Switzerland on New Year’s Eve.
Reigning men’s champion Johannes Klæbo will be strongly fancied to retain his crown, while Jessie Diggins is bidding to regain the title she won two years ago when she became the first non-European winner of the Tour de Ski.
The skiers will take part in seven stages with just two rest days, with the climax on the famously steep and gruelling Alpe Cermis Final Climb mass start in Val di Fiemme.
The 17th Tour de Ski is the first where the men and women will race equal distances after the FIS made all World Cup races the same length across genders.
Read on to find out all you need to know about this year’s edition of the Tour de Ski including a full schedule and the skiers to watch.
When is the 2022-23 Tour de Ski?
The 2022-23 Tour de Ski starts with the freestyle sprint at Val Muestair in Switzerland on Saturday 31 December 2022.
The skiers have two races in Val Muestair and then two at Oberstdorf in Germany before ending with three at Val di Fiemme in Italy.
The concluding freestyle Final Climb mass start of Alpe Cermis is on Sunday 8 January 2023.
2022-23 Tour de Ski format
While the Tour de Ski races are FIS cross-country World Cup events with the standard point-scoring system, the overall standings for the Tour de Ski itself are decided on time like the Tour de France bicycle race on which it is based.
Time bonuses are awarded on both sprint legs (stages 1 and 3) – 60 seconds to the winner down to four for finishing last in the quarter-finalists – which are taken off the aggregate time.
On the mass start in Stage 6, there is an intermediate sprint with the leader at that point earning 15 bonus seconds down to one second for 10th place.
The leader of the overall standing wears a yellow bib, again like the Tour de France yellow jersey.
There is also a point standing for the best sprinter with the winner claiming a red bib.
Finally, there is a team competition where the times of the best two athletes per gender per country on each stage are added together.
The sprint king started the season under something of an injury cloud with damage to the tendon attaching the hamstring in his right leg to his pelvis muscles.
Despite being unable to train as much as usual, five-time Olympic gold medallist Klæbo managed to start the World Cup campaign with a bang with three wins on the opening weekend in Ruka, Finland.
A week later, the Norwegian was forced to miss the 10km freestyle in Lillehammer before taking yet another sprint victory.
Illness saw Klaebo miss the two races in Beitostølen, but he returned in Davos earlier this month (17 December) to take sprint second behind Italian veteran Federico Pellegrino and fifth in the 20km freestyle race.
While his focus for the season is the 2023 World Championships in Planica, Slovenia at the end of February, it would be foolish to bet against the 26-year-old Norwegian collecting a third Tour de Ski title.
Diggins keeps rewriting the history books, with her victory in last Sunday’s 20km freestyle race in Davos seeing the American take her World Cup win tally to 14, more than any other cross-country skier from the U.S..
That was her second win of the season, leaving her second in the overall World Cup standings. A day earlier, she took second in the sprint behind Swiss skier Nadine Faehdrich.
The 31-year-old from Minnesota made headlines when she and Kikkan Randall – whose World Cup win record she broke in Davos – won team sprint gold at PyeongChang 2018, claiming Team USA’s first ever title in cross-country skiing.
But she has proved herself equally adept over longer distances over the years, and successfully lobbied for women’s World Cup race lengths to be extended to match the men’s.
And with last year’s winner Natalia Nepryayeva absent due to Russia’s ban from competition, Diggins is one of the favourites for this year’s title.
The 32-year-old has been supremely consistent this term, finishing in the top six in every race and winning two of them: the 20km classic mass start at Lillehammer and the 10km classic in Beitostolen.
And despite missing Davos with a cold, Golberg remains ahead in the distance and overall World Cup.
In his two previous Tour de Ski appearances, he finished sixth in 2019-20 and fifth last year.
Better is expected this time although he will face plenty of competition from within his own team with Klæbo, Simen Hegstad Kruger, Hans Holund and Sjur Røthe sweeping the podium in the last race before Christmas.
Consistency counts for a lot in the Tour de Ski, and Tiril Weng has shown plenty of that recently.
While the Norwegian is yet to claim an individual World Cup win, she has finished every race this season inside the top nine with five of those being on the podium.
The 26-year-old was only 10th in her third Tour de Ski last year, but she stands second in the distance World Cup rankings and top of the sprint World Cup.
Just two points ahead of her in the distance class is teammate Anne Kalvaa who is having a breakout year at the age of 30.
There will be no fewer than three members of the Weng family taking part with Tiril’s twin sister Lotte and her third cousin, two-time Tour de Ski winner Heidi Weng, also lining up.