Virpi Kuitunen claimed victory on the 2 x 5km course in OtepÃ¤Ã¤, 9.9 seconds ahead of her teammate, 29-year-old Aino-Kaisa Saarinen. In third was the Norwegian youngster Therese Johaug, 17.6 seconds back.
Kuitunen started very strong and had the best time at the first intermediate point at 0.9km. Norweigans Astrid Jacobsen and Johaug took over the lead at the second intermediate point (2.3km), but Kuitunen countered and controlled the race from there on. Jacobsen faded hard at the end of the race and finished in 12th. Claudia Nystad (GER), who reportedly was skiing on five year old skis, was fourth, only 1.4 seconds off of the podium.
For Kuitunen, second in this year’s Tour de Ski, it was her second World Cup victory of the season. She also won the 10km classic in Davos. Saarinen gained her second World Cup podium for the season while Johaug broke the top three for the first time in '07-'08. For Johaug, it was also the second podium place of her career.
Said Kuitunen, “I had a little more power in the end and I turned it to my favor. It’s quite common to be on podium in a classic race together with Aino Kaisa, and it is good for the team. One day we expect to have a blue podium.”
Kikkan Randall, the only American to start, finished 42nd, +2:38. Randall, who won the World Cup sprint in Rybinsk in December, is trying to improve her distance racing. She has started two other distance races this season – both 10km classic events as well. Today's performance fell midway between the two as measured by FIS points. Her 74.96 point race today was better than the 94.66 she scored in Kuusamo, but not as impressive as the 57.89 and 37th place in Davos.
Kuitunen led the overall World Cup through the first part of the season, before Charlotte Kalla (SWE) took over the lead with the victory in the Tour-de-Ski. Kalla was unable to travel to Canada for last month's World Cups due to illness, and Kuitunen continued her consistent racing and retook the top spot. Kalla raced for the first time since her Tour victory, finishing 16th.
“My main goal is to win the overall World Cup and each race is important. I am tired, so I will do what I can,” Kuitunen told reporters.
Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) who had three podium results, including a victory, finished 5th, just under 30 seconds out. Overall, skiers who made the trip to Canmore showed little ill-effect from the travel, taking eight of the top twelve spots.
Norweigan Marit Bjoergen, who has struggled to stay in top form this season, finished 7th. The surprise finish of the day was fellow Norweigan Ingi Aunet Tyldum who finished 9th. The 25 year old had not broken the top 25 in a World Cup distance race before, and had a career best 22nd in a sprint.
Madeleine Williams, the only Canadian in the race, finished 47th in her first European World Cup start.
Number of participants/ participating nations: 58 women/23 nations