Since Kikkan Randall began Sunday’s 5 k hill climb with a 1:30 advantage over CXC’s Rebecca Dussault, the biggest question was not who would win. Rather, it was why Randall was racing in the German national team’s suit.
Turns out she traded for it after the Olympics were over. But regardless of the reason, it didn’t get in the way of her skiing, as Randall rolled to another victory in the mini-tour in Fort Kent.
“I had to pull it out just once,” she said of the suit, which she got from Nicole Fessel.
After all the hype about the hill, Randall looked crestfallen that it wasn’t a little longer.
“I thought I would be dying,” she said, “but it felt really good! It felt a little too good.”
She started the climb a half hour after more than 100 men had made their way up, making for tougher going.
“It took me a little bit to find a rhythm,” she said.
Once she did, though, Randall was rolling, and nobody else was able to make up much ground. Dussault did make up a few seconds by the finish, to set the fastest time of the day, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
Like men’s overall winner Andy Newell, Randall said that she had a blast in the mini-tour this week.
“I think it’s fantastic—I mean, what a fun way to end the year,” she said. “Lots of different types of races, finish with the hill climb here, the sprints and primes.”
She had high praise for the officials and volunteers here–and they certainly did work for it.
Race organizer Eileen Carey said that she’s been working 16-hour days for the entire month of March, with her club also hosting Junior Olympics two weeks ago. She said her crew was challenged to nail down all the details of the new format, since there aren’t official rules for this type of event, and the three straight days of racing between two different venues was another stress.
She still said it was worth it, though, especially after seeing most of the men’s field head back out on course to watch the women.
“It was totally electric on the hill climb today,” she said. “People were pumped.”
Dussault and Randall had the fastest pair of times on the day, respectively, with Brooke Gosling (Alberta World Cup Academy) in third.
Holly Brooks (APU) was the third woman across the line, after Randall and Dussault, to take the final overall podium position.
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.