Randall 6th in Ruka-Triple, Brooks 23rd; U.S. Women Keep Rising

November 27, 201111
Kikkan Randall (USST) leads a race in the US last year.


“For the ladies, overall, a really great day.” – Head USST Coach, Chris Grover


Going into the last stage of the Ruka-Triple mini tour, the US women kept their expectations high and did not disappoint. Grover told FasterSkier in a phone interview that Holly Brooks, Liz Stephen, and Ida Sargent all had personal best classic results today: Brooks posting 23rd, while Stephen and Sargent broke into the 30’s.

To top it off, Kikkan Randall held off all but one challenger (Polish star Justyna Kowalczyk, at that) to finish in 6th today. All in all, a very successful day for U.S. women’s skiing.

“Feeling super psyched and satisfied with my Ruka mini-tour this weekend,” Randall wrote in an email. “Today was definitely a hard race. I ended up skiing most of the race by myself and had to hold off a hard charging pack in the last 2k. I was really happy to hold on to 6th place. My skis were great. My body was feeling a little tired after the previous two days but I was still able to put up a good fight.

“Last year I was super psyched to finish in the top 20 here, so to be 6th today is a real breakthrough for me,” she wrote.

Grover said the team was motivated by Randall’s recent results.  “We’re obviously really psyched for Kikkan, she skied really strong out there.”

He also commented that Brooks was a tough competitor and would have liked to catch even more than the five racers she passed today.

“She’s hungry, she wanted to move up even further than that, but,” Grover laughed, “it’s a tough standard!”

In an email to FasterSkier Brooks called the race an “absolute BLAST”, comparing the short 2.5 km track to a “roller derby”.  She said it raced more like a series of intervals, due to the constant climb-and-descent format of the  loop, and that the short, zig-zag of the course was fun because she could watch the race unfold around her, even getting to see the race leaders “whiz by” at certain intervals.

All in all, Brooks was happy to end the weekend with a good performance.

“It’s nice to finish on a high note after being disappointed with my sprint result.  I know that given the right conditions I can classic sprint too – Friday just wasn’t the day or the right conditions to do it.  I think that tours suit me well because overall, I’m a fairly well rounded skier.”

Brooks wrote that she hoped being a well rounded skier didn’t mean that she is just “alright” at everything, a comment indicating her drive to not only achieve a personal best, but to continue skiing into the top of the field.

Brooks maintains, however, that that she is “taking each weekend as it comes.”

Brooks, who raced at World Championships last year but is not an official member of the US Ski Team, says that her lack of experience on the World Cup means that she is constantly learning the pace of the international circuit.

“I worked extremely hard in the off season and I knew that training had gone well. But, it’s always hard to know how that will translate to racing, especially on the World Cup.  It’s amazing how here, a bad day can be REALLY bad.  For example, take 1 second to wipe the snot off your face and you lose two places.  Lesson learned: don’t wipe the snot off your face!”

Holly Brooks, Kikkan Randall, Charlotte Kalla (SWE), Anna Haag (SWE), and Chandra Crawford (CAN) in Kuusamo

In a phone interview with FasterSkier Liz Stephen said she was “definitely happy with the weekend.”

“I wanted to be in the top 30 today for the overall Tour, but I am definitely happy with the performance –   it’s solid – and it’s especially great to have so many women skiing so well over here.”

Stephen has been a much stronger distance skate competitor in the past, and though today’s achievement in the classic race was a good start, Stephen points out that she will have to continue working on her weaknesses.

“I definitely need to work on my classic abilities all around, but also the sprinting especially.  If you want to be a good Tour skier you’ve got to be good at a lot of stuff, and it can’t just be skating for me – skating distance – so I have to continue focusing on getting better in those areas.”

Ida Sargent and Liz Stephen in a rollerski race this fall.

Stephen said that it was always a challenge to race multiple days back-to-back, but that this weekend was only a warm-up for the Tour de Ski and good practice for practicing good recovery and nutrition.

“This is just the Ruka-triple,” said Stephen,  “the real thing is 9 days, so you have to keep on top of your recovery, your nutrition, everything. Yesterday I was actually more tired than today, sometimes the body is funny that way.”

Ida Sargent wrote in an email that the team was using ice baths and jogging in order to facilitate recovery.  She said that she liked the  “challenge” of the pursuit today, but that she was surprised she hadn’t had a better sprint race on Friday.

“Sprinting is my strength so it is funny that it wasn’t my best result.  The sprint was so fast that one tiny mistake could cost you a lot of places.  It was still a good result for me but I know that I can do better. “

Sargent is looking forward to both the next few days of training in Davos and then a chance at sprint redemption in Dusseldorf.

U.S.'s Sadie Bjornsen, wax tech Casey Fagerquist, and Holly Brooks in the wax cabin

Though several inches of new snow fell overnight, the race track was again very icy today.   Grover said that, thanks to the wax technicians, “everyone really liked their skis.”

Brooks seconded Grover’s remarks.

“There were some HUGE climbs out there,” wrote Brooks, “ and there was some girls herring-boning on the first and second laps up the steepest pitches.  I had better kick than the girls skiing around me and was able to ski efficiently up the hills.”

The Canadian women did not fare as well in the overall as they did in the first stage of sprints.   Head Coach Justin Wadsworth, speaking to fasterskier by phone from Canmore, Alberta, pointed out that Crawford and Gaiazova are primarily sprinters, and that their solid sprint results on Friday held promise for the sprints in Dusseldorf.  Dasha Gaiazova did not start the race today, and  Wadsworth  said that was a decision made by her personal coach in the attempt to prepare her for the sprint races in Dusseldorf.

North American results: 23. Brooks (USA) +3:27.6; 35. Stephen (USA) +4:18.8; 38. Sargent (USA) 4:21.5; 54. Crawford (CAN) +5:07.5; 57. Jones (CAN) 5:20.5; 59. Bjornsen (USA) +5:22.5; 69. Marshall (CAN) +6:53.5; DNS Gaiazova (CAN)

Full Tour Results

Today’s 10k classic Result (listed with times of actual 10km race, but in the order of pursuit finish)


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  • SkijorAK

    November 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Great work Alaskans and US Women!

    Based on these results, and assuming the women just continue to improve during this world cup season, I expect to see a women’s-only US (nordic) Ski Team next season. I remember back when there was only one woman on the US (nordic) Ski Team- oh, wait, you don’t have to go far back for that. So, yup, based on the men’s exceptionally poor performances, I’m not sure why we are funding so many men on the US (nordic) Ski Team.

    Keep up the good work, Kikkan, Holly, Ida, and Liz- I think we may be on the way to that Olympic medal that will form the basis for high-caliber women XC ski racers from the US.

  • doughboy

    November 28, 2011 at 12:15 am

    You make a compelling argument. Not really necessary to dwell on the ‘poor’ performances. The positives speak for themselves. 6th in a stage race? are you kidding? What an animal! Meanwhile Holly isn’t even on the u.s. ski team and she pulls off 23rd place in a stage race?


  • Cloxxki

    November 28, 2011 at 6:15 am

    And look how many countries make up the 5 women that managed to stay ahead of Kikkan. Not a whole lot 🙂

    The men need to get it right or make way for the women. No excuses. They’ve been granted patience, and are just not getting there right now. sometimes I get the impression to look at artists rather than elite sportsmen.
    Aren’t early season events an opportunity to sneak in a surprise podium? If you keep thinking you’re a podium contenter in the main races, and try to peak there when everyone else peaks, it’s going to be uphill all the way.
    It’s getting increasingly harder to catch a glimpse of them in race coverage, even live pictures.

  • Mike Trecker

    November 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

    The only men funded are Freeman and Newell. Everyone else is B-Team and footing their own bill.

  • Martin Hall

    November 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Andy Newell made this commen just lately:
    “In the last year or two, we’ve started focusing more on relays,” Newell said. “That’s something that we want to prioritize as a team … because it’s such a huge event and there’s so much pride involved.”
    To make a podium run in future Olympics or World Championships, the U.S. men and women decided to field relays and practice in the World Cup. It didn’t matter if they were tired or gearing up for other races – they’d show up and race, said Newell.
    I think this is the way the team sees its self—-and having been in this ball game for a few more years then you guys above—there have been many times when the odds have been reversed—good men and no women—lets wait to see how this all plays out.Your suggestions to dump the men is a process to oblivion—so what do we do because we have dumped the men and now the womens cycle ends—we have no team—that’s cool!
    More positive feedback will help everyone—enough of this kind of talk—it serves no one well, especially those who think and speak it.
    Support comes in all kinds of ways—-I hope you all have given to the team this year—thanks.

  • nordicguy

    November 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    No need for the comments above ripping on the men.
    That being said I am totally psyched to see what the women can do when you add a skier like Diggins to the mix! Add Gregg and some others and you are fielding some very solid depth. Way to go US women!

  • Cloxxki

    November 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Hey, I am a fan of those guys, but why would we only be allowed to cheer them on? They’re not royalty or anything.
    Those funded athletes were pack fill the past 2 weekends, and I say that with pain in my heart, as I really am a fan.
    Does being field fill on 10’s and 15’s make them better relay runners? I see Newell working his behind off to get better and better at distance, which I applaud. I see him potentially deliver a very good Tour de Ski, if he finishes it. So he certainly adds to a relay team, awesome first of second man. He might hold on a bit longer before the change over, but that’s about it. He hangs on pretty long already, that’s a job well done. any time to lose on the eventual winner is up to the next 3 runners.
    It may not work this way in the US, but in Europe the pro’s in small sports are partially funded by membership fees. The slower racers and even regular hang-out club member help pay for the national teams. Fans can do more than wave flags and blow party horns. We may not know which type of clister to best slap on, but we can tell awesomeness from pack fill. I say this with absolute positive intensions. I know they’re just having a slow start to their season, and may be working to just one real peak this champs-less season. Tour de Ski? I hope so. Newell’s my favorite, although Freeman on a good day might perform like the top Canadians. What are the Canadians doing better? Large gene pool being a more Nordic minded country?

  • Tim Kelley

    November 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    The USST didn’t drop the women’s program when the guys were a force in the 70’s/early 80’s, and the women weren’t strong. The USST didn’t cut the women’s program in 2002 when the guys were near the podium in the relay and the girls were last. Skiing success is cyclical – by country, by sex, by individuals. You just gotta be patient, hope that the stars align now and then – and be happy for any success that your country has.

  • doughboy

    November 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    This article is about how awesome the US women are! Congratulations ladies, we are all very proud!

  • nordicguy

    November 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Well the Canadians have a lot more funding so that helps. But if you want to compare to them then look at their female results…

  • Cloxxki

    November 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Yeah, that supports the cyclic comment also, doesn’t it? I seem to remember a pretty recentic Olympic gold for a Canadian woman. Crawford?
    BTW, how would the Polish team have been been funded pre-Kowalckzyk? Or the Czech speed skater pre-Sáblíková? 🙂

    Who knows, Kikkan may get a huge prize this year, benefitting the whole US team heading towards Sochi. She looks to be on the right “track”, and a steeply ascending one at that.

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