Another strong field of Americans took to the trails in Lahti, Finland today for the women’s and men’s World Cup 10 and 15-kilometer skate races. Conditions on the course were tricky, with loose, sugary snow over ice, with the added complication fresh snow falling during the women’s race.
The top three spots in the women’s race were taken by Norway’s Marit Bjørgen in 25:05.3, followed by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla (+26.9) and Norwegian Therese Johaug in third (+27.6). The men’s race was won Norwegian powerhouse Martin Sundby in 33:05.5, with Daniel Richardsson of Sweden taking second (+10.7) and Russian standout Alexander Legkov taking third (+11.2).
The US’s top performance was turned in by Kikkan Randall, who finished 21st in 26:41.6 (+1:36.3), with legs still somewhat tired from her win in Saturday’s sprint. Distance-specialist Noah Hoffman sat out Saturday’s sprint, and used his fresh legs to get the top-US men’s spot and the second-best finish for an American, skating his way to 24th place in 34:37.8 (+1:32.3).
Liz Stephen was the second American in the women’s race, taking 32nd place (+1:53.7), followed by Holly Brooks in 44th (+2:25.5), Caitlin Gregg (+2:30.5) in 46th and Jennie Bender in 76th (+7:16.8). Ida Sargent did not start.
Erik Bjornsen was the second American in the men’s race, coming in 51st place 2:33.9 behind Sundby. Bjornsen was not happy with today’s race, saying that after skiing so much at high altitude in Sochi he was not accustomed to the low altitude of the Lahti venue. He wrote in an email that he finished the race “not tired,” and that he needed to push harder, particularly in the first 5 k. Reese Hanneman, making his debut on the European World Cup circuit, was 73rd (+3:19.5), and Sylvan Ellefson was 79th (+3:30.7).
The American skiers are preparing the continuation of a busy travel schedule, with the next a World Cup sprint in Drammen, Norway on Wednesday and men’s and women’s 50 and 30 k races on the weekend in Oslo. World Cup Finals are the following weekend in Falun, Sweden. Randall is excited for “that time of year where we just race and recover now.” Bjornsen thinks that he is in good shape and believes that he can improve his results in upcoming weeks of racing, and then will return to Anchorage for SuperTour Finals at the end of March.