The following article came from Kikkan Randall's 'Race Tails' email. Find out more at www.kikkan.com
Coming off my great result in the Olympic sprint, I was excited to race again. This time, a World Cup sprint race in Borlange Sweden. We would be racing on a horse racing track. The women skied one 750m loop and the men skied two loops, starting at 5:00pm under the lights.
We have been staying in Falun the past few days and it was a quick 15 minute trip over to Borlange. I had not seen the course prior to warming up so I was a little anxious to get there and check it out. It was an interesting scene. The â€œwaxing cabinsâ€ were the horse stables and looking into the viewing stands I was wondering if the spectators would be placing bets to see who came in first!
The course, although only 750m long, was plenty challenging. There were lots of turns, two bumps and a long start/finish stretch. I skied around and around testing my skis and getting warmed up. Time to go. I started bib #36. I skied quick out of the gate to build momentum and then focused on making powerful, relaxed movements. I carried good speed over the opening stretch. Over the two bumps I let my weight sink back a little to much, loosing some power, but recovered over the top. I felt really good going into the last 150m and powered my home. The speed was very high! I crossed the finish line in 14th position.
The time in between heats seemed to fly by much faster than it had at the Olympics. I don’t think the actual time between was any shorter, I was just more confident and excited! At 7:00pm the heats started. I was in the 2nd quarterfinal, loaded with three Finnish skiers. With three members of the same team in my heat, I was a little anxious about their team tactics. I knew I had to get out front.
I had third lane choice and I picked lane #1 on the far right. The starter called us to positions, then â€œREADYâ€ and then â€œBANGâ€! I had an okay start. Piro Manninen pulled just ahead. I spent the whole starting stretch (about 200m) pulling up even with her. She had the inside going around the corner but I stayed right next to her. As we came into the first bump I put on a surge and took the lead over the top of the hill. I skied hard but relaxed over the second bump and around the far turn. Into the final stretch I could feel skiers coming up on all sides. I blocked out the other skiers and focused on my technique all the way to the line. Virpi Kutinen snuck ahead of me on the inside but I qualified in 2nd. Moving on to the semi-finals!
In between rounds, I skied around and around the 300m warm-up loop. I was relaxed and pumped. My semi-final was going to be challenging. I faced Marit Bjorgen, Sara Renner, Virpi Kutinen and Ella Gjomle. The competition was stiff and to top it off, I got last lane choice, way to the outside. When I gun went off I had a decent start but couldn’t get ahead enough to cut over. So I had to tuck in behind the group. Before the first corner I was able to get into fourth. I followed the group over the two bumps and around the turns, looking for an opening to move up. The pace was high and there were no openings. As we came around the final turn I got really excited and hit the accelerator. I had a huge boost of speed and I started to come up with the leaders. However, I had to swing wide to the far lane and I got stuck behind Renner. I sprinted hard to the line, literally on the hills of Renner and Bjorgen but only managed to finish fourth. I will still psyched. I moved on to the B-final.
The B-final also had a very competitive field including the 2006 Olympic champion Chandra Crawford. I got stuck on the outside starting lane again. Still, I waved to the TV camera with a big smile! We had one false start. The second time I was ready for the gun and I was quick out of the gate. I tried to get ahead once again but was forced to tuck in behind. As we went around the first turn and over the first bump I was very frustrated sitting in fourth place. I took a chance on the second bump and made a move. I found a very narrow opening coming over the top and snuck by the other skiers on the inside of a tight turn. I free-skated hard and took the lead around the final turn. This gave me a very good position coming into the final stretch. I focused on technique and power to stay balanced and just before the line I threw my arms up. I won the B-final! I almost couldn’t believe it! That secured fifth place!
The top six skiers got to participate in the prize giving ceremony. After my race I ran back to change into dry clothes. The coaches were there to meet me and they were very psyched! I signed a few autographs and then made it over to the podium. The other top girls were there and we were all hanging out together. It felt good to hob-nob with such an elite group! We got really cool bells instead of medals.
When I got back to the hotel it was 9:30pm. I received a call from an excited Paul Robbins, USST media correspondent, letting me know that my fifth place was the best US women’s World Cup result since Alison Spencer won the first women’s World Cup test event way back in 1979. Way cool!
The energy is flowing now! We get a quick day off on Wednesday and then we will be racing a classic sprint in the city streets of Drammen, Norway on Thursday. I guess over 70,000 people usually come out to watch the race so it should be exciting! I know I can’t wait!