Otepaa, Estonia – Petra Majdic (SLO) won her fourth sprint race of the season, edging overall World Cup leader Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) and Tour de Ski winner Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) in the A-Final. The podium represented the top three women in the overall World Cup standings, with Saarinen and Majdic swapping places.
Majdic dominated the final, setting a blistering pace out of the start, and skiing to a 1.3 second victory over Saarinen. Kuitunen was a a full 3.8 seconds back in third.
Said Majdic, “I must admit that it was a really hard race for me. I have been training hard during the last two weeks at home in Slovenia, therefore I didn’t know what to expect here in Otepää. My coach told me that I was terrible at downhills but fortunately there are many large uphills also. I like the Otepää course when I am in top shape otherwise it’s too much suffering.”
With the victory, Majdic moved past Kuitunen into second in the overall standings and is 95 points behind Saarinen. Add in Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), and there are four women within 148 points, making for an exciting second half to the season.
Saarinen was pleased with her second place finish, saying “My goal was to finish on the podium to increase my lead as World Cup overall leader. I did my best, I had a good skis and the track was suitable for me.”
Kuitunen, wile happy with her result, has not been feeling in top form – “Before to going Otepää I was not feeling very good. I still have some problems with my body, and need some more races to get going again. The qualifying was excellent today, but after that every heat not so good. I’m satisfied with my weekend though – two third places are not bad.”
Kowalczyk, who won Saturday’s distance race, finished 7th, winning the B-Final. Alena Prochazkova (SLK) finished 5th, just behind Piro Muranen (FIN). Murnanen gave the Finns an impressive 2,3,4 day. Prochazkova won the classic sprint in Whistler, her first world Cup victory.
Swedish sprinter Lina Andersen rounded out the A-Final in 6th.
Kikkan Randall (USA), the lone North American skier in the women’s race, qualified in 15th, and finished 16th on the day. For Randall, a superior freestyle sprinter, this was an excellent result. Her place in last weekend’s sprint in Whistler was slightly better (14th), but yesterday’s result came in a significantly deeper field. Only the Italians were missing, but with Finland and Norway fielding full teams, there absence was more than made up for. Her qualifying time was 8.38 seconds behind the top woman Kuitunen, bu less than 5 seconds in back of Majdic in fourth.
Randall will be looking to improve on this performance next week in Rybinsk in the freestyle event as she prepares for the World Championships.
The Finn’s were by far the strongest team on the day, with Kirsi Peraelae (12th) joining her teammates in the top 12. Sweden had two athletes in the B-Final and 5 in the top 30. Norway, absent form the Whistler events fielded a young team,placing three 18 year old skiers in the top 30. Maiken Caspersen Falla led the squad in 8th. In three World Cup starts, Falla has finishes of 22, 3, and 8, as well as a 2nd in a Team Sprint. Ingvild Flugstad Oesteberg was 14th and Marthe Kristoffersen, 17th.
Racing continues next weekend in Rybinsk, Russia with a 10/15km freestly mass start, a freestyle individual sprint, and a 15/30km pursuit.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.