Beitostolen, Norway – The three race Beitosprinten weekend came to a close with today’s 5/10km classic individual start. Once again the races featured World Cup quality and significant depth. The US Ski Team, already with several strong results over the last two days, ended their World Cup warmups with impressive performances.
Kikkan Randall led the way in the women’s 5km classic, placing 4th, just 8.4 seconds off the podium. Marit Bjoergen won her second race in two ways, leading a Norwegian sweep of the podium. Kristin Stoermer Steira was 23.2 seconds back in 2nd, and young Marthe Kristoffersen another 3.3 seconds behind in 3rd.
Randall demonstrated that she is continuing to improve her distance racing. Last season, she set a personal best with a 23rd in the 10km classic in Kuusamo, Finland. Her time today was 4% slower than Bjoergen’s – a similar performance in Kuusamo last year would have placed Randall just in side the top-15. Today she skied up throughout the race, ranking 12th at 1km and 9th at 2km, before moving up to 4th, ahead of the likes of Arianna Follis (ITA), Therese Johaug (NOR) and Manuela Henkel (GER).
Kris Freeman just missed matching Randall’s ranking, finishing 5th for the second day in a row. He completed the 10km classic racin in 27:10, 46 seconds in back of winner Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR). Petter Northug (NOR) followed up yeterday’s victory with a solid 2nd, 10.8 seconds behind Sundby. Nikloay Pankratov (RUS) was 3rd and Eldar Ronning (NOR), 4th.
Andy Newell joined Freeman as the only other American in the men’s race, and skied what may have been his top international distance race. He finished 21st, 1:36 off the pace, and ahead of both strong distance skiers and other sprinters. Newell has made it a goal to improve his distance racing and will compete in this year’s Tour de Ski. His performance today is a good sign that he will be able to hang in both the Tour prologue and the pursuit.
The final American to race today, Liz Stephen, finished 32nd +1:30. She is continuing her transition to World Cup skier, and ended the weekend with good results and valuable experience. A stronger skater, she was 16th in yesterday’s freestyle.
Skiers now have five days to recover and prepare for next weekend’s World Cup opener, also in Beitostolen. Saturday features a 10/15km freestyle and Sunday, a 4×5/10km relay.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.