The end of the 2011 World Championships also marks the close of World Cup period III and as usual, a new Red Group ranking list is released.
The Red Group consists of the top-30 men and women in sprint and distance, ranked by World Cup points from the last calendar year. Red Group skiers have travel and lodging covered by World Cup organizing committees, saving significant funds.
Kikkan Randall (USA) has been a mainstay on the sprint list of late, but she also made it into the top-30 on the distance rankings following period II, and has held onto that spot. This would only help for a distance-only World Cup weekend, of which there are none until next fall, but with a solid performance in the World Cup finals, she could maintain her ranking heading into the 2012 season.
Randall is ranked 27th, with 130 points, 21 points clear of 31st. She has continued to take steps forward as a distance skier, and scored World Cup points (top-30 result) in 12 events this season.
While championship events – the Olympic Games and World Championships – are not scored to World Cup ranking lists, races from those events do count toward the Red Group standings. Randall picked up 13 points for her finish in the 30km freestyle on Saturday.
On the men’s side, Kris Freeman got back into the Red Group with consistent season in which he scored points in eleven different races. Freeman is ranked 29th, 22 points ahead of Germany’s Tom Reichelt.
Like Randall, Freeman has a good shot at holding his spot if he can turn in some solid performances as the World Cup winds down. There are quite a few men within striking distance of the top-30, however, so nothing is guaranteed.
Canadians Devon Kersahw and Alex Harvey both are well within the cut-off, and with both men skiing well, should have no problem maintaining their rankings.
No other US or Canadian skiers made the distance lists, with Ivan Babikov (CAN) the next closest in 39th, 53 points out.
On the sprint side, Randall was a lock, ranked third overall. Dasha Gaiazova (CAN) clung to her spot in the top-30, tying with Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) for the final place.
Chandra Crawford (CAN) is currently 39th, and would need a surprisingly good finish in the Lahti classic sprint this weekend to move up, and qualify for the World Cup Finals.
For the men, Harvey and Kershaw are ranked 15th and 21st respectively, while Andy Newell leads all North Americans in 8th.
Len Valjas is 40th, but just 24 points out of 30th. He placed 9th in the Drammen skate sprint prior to World Championships, so it isn’t out of the question that he could move up during the last period.
He will be at a disadvantage as, barring an unexpected result (read win), Valjas will not be eligible for the World Cup finals, and therefore will not be able to race the Stockholm city sprint.