January 09, 2016

CAVALESE, Italy (AP) Martin Johnsrud Sundby all but clinched his third consecutive Tour de Ski title on Saturday, winning the penultimate stage to open up a seemingly insurmountable lead of nearly three minutes ahead of Norwegian teammate Petter Northug Jr.

Sundby clocked 39 minutes, 55.2 seconds in the 15-kilometer mass start classical race to finish 7.7 seconds ahead of Niklas Dryhaug of Norway.

Alexey Poltoranin of Norway finished third in the seventh stage, 12.6 behind, while Northug crossed only 17th, 51.4 back.

After his 21st career World Cup win, Sundby will take a lead of 2 minutes, 51.5 seconds over Northug into Sunday's concluding climb up Mount Cermis.

''Every stage counts,'' said Sundby, who was only 23rd in the 15K in Oberstdorf, Germany, earlier this week. ''I was so mad about that. I wanted to have revenge and I got it today.''

In the women's race, Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg increased her overall lead over Norwegian teammate Therese Johaug.

Heidi Weng, another Norwegian, won the 10-kilometer mass start classical race in 29 minutes, 16.3 seconds for the first World Cup win of her career after 37 podium results and 120 previous races.

Oestberg crossed second, a slim 0.8 seconds behind, and Johaug finished third, 6.2 back.

In the overall standings, Oestberg leads Johaug by 38.7 seconds.

Weng is third overall, 2:26.7 behind.

''It was another good day for me,'' Oestberg said. ''I tried to be smart, tactical. Heidi was very fast in the last 200 meters (yards). I am very proud to be on the podium on all of the Tour de Ski stages. I would not believe before the Tour I could lead before the last stage by almost 40 seconds.''

Johaug won the Tour de Ski in 2014 and also has three other podium finishes, while Oestberg is seeking her first podium result.

''It will be (a) very tough race tomorrow,'' Johaug said. ''I know Ingvild can be fast on the climbs, too. I have good memories about this hill but I have to have a good day tomorrow.''

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