TOBLACH, Italy – It’s been a while since one had to flip to the second page of the results sheet to find Kikkan Randall’s name. Yet there it was on Tuesday, sandwiched between two anonymous central Europeans.
Randall finished in 29th place in Stage 5 of the Tour de Ski, 43 seconds down to winner Marit Bjoergen (NOR). Hard to believe, but the result was Randall’s worst of the year on the World Cup, and it came despite what she said was a decent day.
“I felt relatively good. I felt like I pushed it pretty hard,” she said. “[I] don’t really feel like the result showed how I felt out there today.”
Twenty-ninth on the World Cup is nothing to scoff at, but expectations for Randall have risen since she notched four straight top-10s in a sizzling start to the Tour.
She said that she wasn’t sure what had gone wrong on Tuesday, a 3 k individual-start classic race, though she said that she has struggled over that distance at times in the past.
Randall also said that she might have been affected by an off-day on Monday that was unexpectedly complicated.
She had planned an interval session following the Americans’ three-hour drive from Germany to Italy, to keep her body from shutting down after four straight days of racing. But thanks to a snafu with the U.S. team van, and roads that were jammed with people heading home from the New Year’s holiday, the drive took twice as long as it was supposed to, and Randall didn’t have time to ski in Toblach.
“I felt okay today, but who knows: Maybe it would have helped a little bit to have had something faster yesterday, just to keep rolling,” she said. “Could have been maybe a bit sleepy out there today.”
After losing more than 40 seconds to Bjoergen, Randall dropped from fourth to seventh in the overall Tour. She’s nearly four minutes off of Bjoergen’s leading time, but less than 10 seconds behind fourth-placed Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN).
Tomorrow’s race—a skate sprint in Toblach—is Randall’s best shot at a podium on the Tour, and she said that while Monday’s result wasn’t great, it may have helped get her body on track.
In last year’s Tour, the skate sprint was the first event after the rest day, which left Randall’s body a little sluggish. Tuesday’s race, she said, will be nice to have “as a buffer.”
Of the three skate sprints Randall has entered this year, she has won two of them, and crashed out in the finals of the third. She’ll be the undisputed favorite heading into Wednesday’s race, and her goal is nothing less than a victory.
“I love skate sprints, and it’s been going pretty well for me this season,” she said. “This stage is my best chance to win.”
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.