Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) added to her overall World Cup lead with her seventh individual victory of the season in the classic sprint in Drammen, Norway. Petra Majdic (SLO) took second and solidified her spot on the top of the sprint rankings. Astrid Jaocobsen (NOR) led the home nation in third.
Kuitunen posted the fastest qualifying time, 1.75 seconds ahead of Jacobsen. The defending World Cup champion breezed through the heats and led wire to wire in the A-final. While it is technically possible for Jacobsen to catch Kuitunen in the overall standings, the Finn's 174 point lead makes that extremely unlikely.
Majdic and Jacobsen have battled all year, going toe to toe across the finish line in sprints on numerous occasions. Today was no different, with Jacobsen holding a lead on the tall Slovenian entering the finish straight. But Majdic had just a bit more over the final 50 meters, edging the Norweigan at the line, picking up valuable World Cup sprint points. With only one sprint event left (the 2.5km freestyle in Bormio counts toward the sprint standings), Majdic is now 74 points ahead of Jacobsen. Kuitunen sits in third only two points out of second.
Canadian Chandra Crawford, winner of last weekend's freestyle sprint, qualified in 23rd and was knocked out in her quarterfinal. She finished the day in 19th – her third top-20 in classic sprinting this season. The sprint specialist is working hard on improving her classic sprinting in preparation for the Vancouver Olympics.
Crawford's teammate, Sara Renner, also qualified for the heats, and was similarly eliminated, finishing 24th. Renner has been consistently in the top 30 this season, her first year back after having a child.
The two Candadians matched up in the same quarterfinal and finished well off the pace.
American Kikkan Randall narrowly missed out on the heats. She finished 33rd, .4 seconds out of the top 30. Like Crawford, Randall has traditionally been a better skate sprinter, but has also shown significant improvement over the course of the season.
Laura Valaas finished 50th for the US, and Canadians Perianne Jones and Sarah Daitch finished 41st and 48th respectively.
Crawford is currently in 6th place in the overall sprint standings, 46 points out of 5th and 15 ahead of 7th. Randall is in 14th, 5 points out of 13th. Renner is in 42nd and could make up several places with a strong race in the 2.5km event in Italy.
The Norweigan women were unable to duplicate the performance of the men's team, but still qualified nine skiers for the heats. Only three of those skiers, however, advanced out of the quarterfinals.
Finland had the strongest day as a team. In addition to Kuitunen's victory, the Finns took 4th, 6th, 7th and 12th.