Kikkan Randall (USA) continued a consistent run through her first Tour de Ski, placing 17th in the classic sprint in Oberstdorf.
In three Tour races, Randall has now placed 16th, 22nd, and 17th with her best event – the skate sprint – yet to come.
Randall qualified in 18th today, 7.29 seconds behind leader Petra Majdic (SLO), and drew a tough assignment in the quarterfinals, matching up with Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and Charlotte Kalla (SWE), among others.
“In the qualification round I was a little frustrated with how I skied on the course,” Randall told FasterSkier in an interview. “I was struggling to find a really strong kick on the hill – my skis were fine, but I struggled with my technique a little bit.”
Temperatures remained below freezing, but with wet new snow, the skiing was a little tricky.
“My skis had plenty of kick, but I struggle a little bit in these conditions when the kick requires a bit of finesse,” Randall said.
Randall was obviously happy to advance to the heats, but “would have liked to have done better” in the qualification.
Though she has improved her classic sprinting significantly over the last year, Randall still favors the skate technique. Dating back to last season, she has three consecutive podium appearances in skate sprints.
But classic was the technique of the day, and despite a good start in the quarterfinals, Randall had trouble matching the speed of Kowalczyk. Not that there is any shame in that – only Kalla was able to follow the Pole over the first climb, and by the second hill, the field was strung out.
Randall worked up over the top, but Ivanova closed the gap and moved ahead as they dropped down toward the stadium. Entering the homestretch it was a double pole drag race between the two, with the Russian coming out on top.
“I knew Kowalczyk would set a really fast pace and Kalla was going to be tough too, so I went out and tried latch on and ski as fast as I could,” Randall said.
The race for third in a sprint quarterfinal is often relatively inconsequential, but that was not the case here. Ivanova snagged the last lucky loser spot, ending Randall’s day by a mere .2 seconds.
“It was frustrating to be so close,” Randall said. “But it was actually one of my better classic sprint qualifiers, so it was a decent day.”
She noted that you never know how fast a heat is until afterward, so pushing through the line is critical.
“Sometimes you are the lucky loser and sometimes you are the unlucky loser,” she explained philosophically.
Despite failing to advance from the quarterfinals, Randall is feeling strong, and ready to go in Monday’s pursuit.
“The energy and the power is right where I need it to be.”
The performance kept Randall in the top-20 of the overall Tour standings – she sits in 19th, and with the freestyle sprint yet to come, should have a shot to climb higher.
Randall is also now tied for second in the World Cup Overall Sprint Cup standings with Majdic.
— Matt Voisin contributed reporting
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.