Kikkan Randall kept on rolling, turning in a career-best 14th place distance performance in Falun, Sweden. Randall was in the main pack for the entire 10km pursuit, and in position to finish significantly higher. She has been posting excellent result after excellent result since the beginning of the Olympics, and is now 16 overall in the World Cup Final standings.
It seemed like it was pretty warm over there today, how did the snow hold up? Was it getting pretty soft?
It was downright hot today! There were points during the race when all I could think about was how incredibly hot it felt. The snow warmed up quite a bit and was very soft in many places where direct sun was hitting the trail. Especially in the stadium area, the classic tracks were really slow and when I made the transition from classic to skate, the first few strides of skate I almost fell on my face. They did salt parts of the course, so there were firm sections on the skate course. “Murder Hill” was pretty firm which was nice.
How did the races play out from your perspective?
In the women’s race the pace was pretty fast off the start. It was a little faster in the tracks so there was a lot of jostling for position to get a space in the tracks when the course narrowed. On several of the steep uphills there was a big accordian effect so the pack strung out. In the skate portion of the race a lot of skiers seemed to get really tired. I felt good and I was able to make up some places, especially on the big climb. Because the snow was so slow in the stadium, it made for a lot of strategy on when to draft and when to pass.
This is a career best distance race for you. Are you excited about that?
Really excited. Mass-start races like these are fun (when you feel strong) because all these skiers that I know get good results were around me and it feels great to ski right with them. A good confidence boost for the future.
Obviously in a pursuit you have to be a well rounded skier and you have worked very hard on your classic skiing over the last year. Does it mean even more because it was a pursuit?
Many of my previous World Cup pursuits have been pretty miserable. On some of the days when I would hang in there in the classic, I would usually struggle in the skate. Today was the first time where I skied strong in the classic and really came on strong in the skate.
It was a very tight race around you in the ladies races. How did things play out over the final 1000 meters?
I felt really strong up the major climb with about 2.5km to go and that is where I really began picking up places. Unfortunately, the trail was pretty clogged with skiers and I had a hard time getting around people. Over the top of the big climb I caught up to Smigun and Olsson and Haag. I hung on them into the next climb and wanted to pass but again was blocked. So I was waiting for an opportunity to pass in the stadium but waited too long. Olsson and then Kowalczyk got the the jump on me out of the draft and I was in the back of a train of 4 coming off the final turn. It wasn’t until then that I realized there was another big pack just ahead of us. I waited until the last pitch and tried to make a break there. But the lane hadn’t been skied in and was slow and then Smigun jumped out in front of me and I couldn’t get around her before the finish line. It’s too bad I didn’t have another couple hundred meters!!
I hope I can carry the momentum and the good skating from today and finish off the finals with a good 10km skate tomorrow.