It’s a difficult prospect after a half-dozen personal bests, a World Cup podium, and a front-page article in the New York Times sports section, but Kikkan Randall just keeps finding ways to impress this winter.
After grinding out a victory in Wednesday’s 30 k just three days removed from competing in Europe, a better-rested Randall delivered an Alaska-sized beatdown to her competitors in Friday’s 7 k classic mass start race, the opening event of the 2010 SuperTour Finals.
Scrambling to an early lead to capture the $250 bonus awarded at the one kilometer mark, Randall stuck it in cruise control and never looked back, skiing away to a convincing 30-second win over a supporting cast of domestic racers. Craftsbury Green Racing Project’s Ida Sargent was second in a breakthrough race, and CXC’s Rebecca Dussault was third.
With the course groomed into a slick slab of ice chunks, Randall went out hard from the gun trying to stay out of trouble.
She said she wanted to be in position to contest the sprint at one kilometer, but there was no contest: two-thirds of the way there, Randall already had a ten meters gap to the field.
“I had a good start, and actually expected to be a little more in the mix on that first one,” she said. “Once I went through that, I didn’t feel like a huge blast…so I just decided to keep it going.”
Like that, Randall was gone. By the time she flew through the stadium to start her second lap, the pack was out of sight—her only competition was the World Cup field she said she imagined alongside her.
With 45 seconds worth of bonus sprints she picked up along the way, Randall now leads the overall by nearly a minute over Dussault, and barring a huge upset, she’ll only pad to that lead in tomorrow’s sprint. With her efforts today, she garnered all three leaders’ bibs for the overall, the best climber, and the best sprinter.
Meanwhile Sargent, Dussault, Kristina Strandberg (XC Oregon) and APU’s Holly Brooks were duking it out for the final podium positions.
After fighting tooth and nail for second place in the 30 k, Brooks and Dussault had another battle today, this time for the next position behind Randall in the sprint at one kilometer. Brooks took it in a lunge, which made for an interesting sight when both had to keep on going.
While she still pulled off third place, Dussault said that all that sprinting threw her for a loop.
“I think it messed with my pacing somewhat,” she said. “It made me go really hard.”
Even though she said she tried to ski her own race, Dussault said, “you get wrapped up in grabbing those time bonuses.”
Sargent can’t collect prize money as a student at Dartmouth, and she’s not competing in Sunday’s hill climb, so she had no interest in any of the sprints. That clearly helped her, as she was able to ignore the frenzy at the start and ease into the race.
“Some people were definitely going out pretty hard, and I was able to ski my way up,” she said.
Sargent worked with Dussault and Strandberg up the main climb on their last lap, attacked them over the top, and held the gap to the finish. Dussault had lost ground to Strandberg with some lower back cramping, but passed her on the downhill and won the sprint.
Dussault and Strandberg are the closest to Randall in the overall (given that Sargent isn’t contesting Sunday’s uphill climb), but it will be tough for any of the women to come close to her over the next two days.
“I’m not really sure if Kikkan raced with us, because I never saw her the whole way,” Dussault said. “She might have been in a race of her own.”
SuperTour Finals Women’s Overall Standings:
1. Kikkan Randall (USST): 20:16.4
2. Rebecca Dussault (CXC): +56.3
3. Ida Sargent (CGRP): +1:04.8
4. Kristina Strandberg (XC Oregon): +1:11.7
5. Holly Brooks (APU): +1:27.6
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.