Rybinsk, Russia – Pirjo Muranen (FIN) claimed victory on the 1.3 km course, just ahead of Arianna Follis and Magda Genuin (both ITA). World Cup leader Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) was edged out of the podium and finished fourth while Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), the winner of the qualification round took fifth place. In sixth position was the home favorite, Natalia Matveeva (RUS).
For Muranen it was her fourth ever individual World Cup victory – her last one was in December 2002 in Linz (AUT). Follis took her second podium in two days, after being 2nd in the yesterday’s mass start race. For the 29-year-old Geniun it was the second ever World Cup podium.
Said Muranen after the race, “It was a great race today and I am really satisfied with my victory. It is fun to ski here in front of this big and supportive audience. My skis were good and I tried to be in a good position on the last hill so that I could attack on the finish straight. With the cold temperatures I had no problems in the final heats – I felt it only a bit in the qualification – maybe I am used to it.”
With the fourth place, Saarinen increased her overall World Cup lead to 1220 points. Petra Majdic, winner of today’s the B-Final, is second with 1090 points and Virpi Kuitunen is third with 1069 points. The sprint World Cup ranking is led by Majdic with an advantage of 229 points over Saarinen.
Kikkan Randall (USA), on the site of her historic World Cup victory last season, qualified in 15th, and ended the day in 16th. A tactical error in her quarterfinal led to the end of her day.
“Kikkan was definitely stronger than her result today showed,” Head Cross Country Coach Peter Vordenberg said. “It was good to see her skiing so strong.”
Randall said the error came on the same steep uphill where she made a similar move last year to win.
“I got off to a good start. In the middle section people started moving and I tried to set myself up for the big uphill and moved to the outside,” Randall explained. “I was climbing really well and had another gear.”
As Randall came over the top and headed downhill she moved in behind three other competitors to draft and then slingshot herself ahead for the final push to the finish.
“I got going too fast though and had move out sooner than I wanted to,” she said.
In the outside lane the snow was not as skied on, making it slow.
“I just lost speed and couldn’t get around. The finish line came too quick,” Randall said. “It’s definitely a little disappointing, but it was a split second decision. Maybe I could have made a move earlier, but I’ve been coming on strong second half of the season. I’m happy that everything is there.”
According to Norweigan newspaper Aftenposten, the Norweigan team doctor pulled all Norweigan skiers from the race due to frigid temperatures. The official reported temperature was -17 C. The legal minimum is -20 C (-4 F). Aftenposten reported a temperature of -18.5 C.