Norway's sprint regulars, Maiken Caspersen Falla and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg took the top two spots on the skate-sprint podium at the Toblach World Cup, while two U.S. women landed in the top 10 and four of five made the heats.
American Kikkan Randall finally found her old groove and raced to her best World Cup result of the season, finishing in third in Saturday's freestyle sprint in Lahti, Finland. In a close finish, Marit Bjørgen of Norway won yet another World Cup race, expanding her lead in the overall standings and the sprint standings.
Longtime friends and teammates Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Maiken Caspersen Falla, of Norway, were out for some redemption after their fourth-place finish in the 2013 World Championships team sprint, and they got it with a sizeable win over Sweden's Ida Ingemarsdotter and Stina Nilsson, while Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk and Sylwia Jaśkowiec were thrilled with bronze.
Marit Bjørgen's gotten used to winning opening mini tours in Kuusamo, and she seems to have no problem getting off to a strong start in the first of three races in Lillehammer, either. "It is always fun to win," she told NRK after her second-straight World Cup sprint win in Friday's 1.3 k freestyle sprint.
If anyone was going to deny Kikkan Randall of her third-straight skate sprint win, a feat that hasn’t been achieved on the World Cup since Marit Bjørgen's similar winning streak in 2006, it was most likely going to be Bjørgen. The 33-year-old Norwegian stayed calm and collected to do so, leading three Norwegians in the top four as Randall finished fifth in Sunday's Toblach sprint.
It’s not easy being Justyna Kowalczyk — always breaking trail, always having the weight of Poland on her, and in a classic distance race at home on her birthday without any Scandinavians in the field? Forget about it. She was easily the favorite for Sunday’s World Cup 10 k classic mass start in Szklarska Poręba, Poland. That didn’t make winning any easier.
Kikkan Randall made a statement out of Saturday's freestyle sprint in Szklarska Poręba, Poland, winning each of her heats, including the final, with some tactical smarts on a flat-and-fast course. Another American, Jessie Diggins notched a career-best sprint result of fifth, and five Americans landed in the top 15.
Justyna Kowalczyk's out and Marit Bjørgen's on top. That was the biggest news of the day coming out of the Tour de Ski's prologue opener in Oberhof, Germany, on a rainy afternoon that was slow for everybody. The Americans weren't complaining, with fast skis that helped Jessie Diggins and Sophie Caldwell tie career bests in fifth and ninth, respectively.
Marit Bjørgen might be the best skier in the world (although Justyna Kowalczyk would have something to say about that). Kikkan Randall might be the best sprinter. But after a tight photo finish in the Davos freestyle sprint today, both realized they will need to get even better if they want go into the upcoming Olympics feeling confident about gold.
After making a risky lane choice - albeit one that had worked in the past - Kikkan Randall ended up touching skis with Stina Nilsson of Sweden in the final of today's World Cup sprint. While she didn't fall, it may have cost Randall something - she only lost the race by 2 centimeters. U.S. coach Matt Whitcomb reviewed the video and called the incident a valuable learning experience.