Kikkan Randall, who last year became the first American woman to win a World Cup race, turned in a career best World Cup distance race, finishing 23rd, 1:31.6 behind winner Aino Kaisa Saarinen of Finland. Randall scored her first World Cup points (top 30 finish) in a non-sprint event, and showed significant improvement over her past distance races. Her previous best finish was a 37th place, 57.89 point effort in December 2007 in Davos, Switzerland. Interestingly, for Randall, three of her top four World Cup distances have come in the classic discipline. In sprinting, she is generally a much stronger skater.
Randall started slowly, ranking 39th at the 2.5km mark before moving up to 24th at 8.1km. She was 43 seconds out of the top ten. In yesterday's sprint, the lone woman on the US World Cup team, failed to qualify, finishing 33rd. US Ski Team Head Coach Pete Vordenberg chalked that performance up to Randall's recent arrival in Europe and uncertainty about her fitness after the significant health struggles the US star endured last spring. “Kikkan just got here under a week ago and I think she's still getting used to being in Europe,” Vordenberg said. “It has been a really good summer and fall of training for her, but she had a setback this spring and we need to give her a little time to see how things are.” Randall appears to have put those concerns to rest with her performance today, and the result is a positive step toward giving the US women a legitimate threat in distance events.
Saarinen skied an excellent race, gaining the second World Cup victory of her career. She outpaced teammate and defending World Cup Champion Virpi Kuitunen by 3.8 seconds. Norweigan Marit Bjoergen claimed the final podium spot, +7.3 seconds. Marianna Longa (ITA) was fourth, and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) rounded out the top five.
Said Bjoergen of her race, “I had really good skis – fast in the downhills and also very good grip in the uphills. With third place today I'm really satisfied.”
Yesterday's sprint winner, Petra Majdic finished 6th. Saarinen currently leads the overall World Cup by 45 points over Bjoergen.
Like the US, Canada started one athlete, Perianne Jones. Jones finished 60th, +2:42.0.
Temperatures were around 20F at race time and heavy snow fell periodically throughout the race.