Alexander Bolshunov completed a successful defence of his Tour de Ski crown with a second-placed finish in the 10km mass start climb which also stretched his lead in the overall cross-country skiing World Cup.

Bolshunov came home in 32:43.3 in Val di Fiemme, 13.3 seconds behind his compatriot Denis Spitsov, to finish on top of the Tour de Ski leaderboard - a position he has occupied since the second stage of the competition - for the second year in a row.

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The 24-year-old was the only man to finish in an overall time of under three hours and was more than three minutes clear of his nearest challenger, the experienced Frenchman Maurice Manificat, who finished third in Sunday's final stage.

The mass start climb brought a fascinating battle between the Russian front-runners and the 34-year-old Manificat which ultimately went the way of Spitsov, who was able to celebrate his maiden World Cup win.

Bolshunov just held off the challenge of Manificat to cross in second, after which he let out a cry of triumph as the magnitude of his back-to-back Tour de Ski victories began to sink in.

Five of the top six in Val di Fiemme were Russian skiers, with Ivan Yakimushkin's sixth-place finish enough to seal third spot in the Tour de Ski.

Spitsov's triumph, meanwhile, moved him up to eighth in the 2020/21 World Cup standings but it will take a monumental effort for anyone to overhaul Bolshunov, who has 1,297 points after 17 of 28 events - Yakimushkin, in second, currently stands on 631.

Bolshunov said: "I am really happy to take my second consecutive Tour de Ski victory.

"These 10 days have passed really quickly and I'm so pleased FIS were able to organise this event. I felt really safe here and I'm really happy to have won."

The World Cup campaign resumes in Lahti, Finland, on January 23/24.

Sportsbeat 2021

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