Therese Johaug of Norway celebrates victory in the opening Tour de Ski event in Lenzerheide ©Getty Images

Therese Johaug maintained her overall lead in the International Ski Federation Cross-Country World Cup rankings as she won the first event in the annual Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide.

The 31-year-old Norwegian was first home in the women’s mass start free event in a time of 28min 12.1sec, beating compatriot Heidi Weng and Sweden’s Ebba Andersson.

Weng was 12.3 seconds adrift of Johaug, while Andersson was a further 0.6 back.

"My tactic was to start not so fast in the first lap, to speed up in the second lap - and it works," said Johaug.

The overall leader in the men’s competition, Johaug’s compatriot Johannes Høsflot Klæbo – who last year became the youngest skier to win the Tour - had to settle for second place,

He was beaten by Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, who clocked 33:19.1.

The annual Tour de Ski, considered one of the biggest cross-country skiing events of the season, sees athletes compete on a three-stop, seven-event programme that will contribute vital points to the overall World Cup race.

The event in Lenzerheide continues with the sprints tomorrow.

The tour then heads to Toblach in Italy from Tuesday (December 31) to Wednesday (January 1).

The 2020 Tour de Ski concludes with the last competition in Val di Fiemme from January 3 to 5, including the final climb, where those in contention will compete for the overall award.