TOBLACH, Italy (Jan. 4) - In a grueling stage five short distance classic race, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk extended her Tour de Ski lead to more than a minute over Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla and Norway’s Therese Johaug with a huge 15 second margin over the short 3k course. American Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) moved up one spot to seventh and remained in close striking distance to fourth as the Tour heads into its final two days in Val di Fiemme.
“I’m pretty happy with today’s result,” Randall said. “Classic races can go either way for me. I was happy to feel strong and have good skis today and keep my position in the overall. Conditions were relatively good, the track was mostly consistent around the course. The air was quite warm but the snow stayed colder. I skied a steady pace around the whole lap. Didn’t really have time to get splits out there so just had to race the clock. My body felt good, better than yesterday. I am hoping to feel as strong tomorrow and challenge for some bonus seconds.”
Friday’s U.S. men’s finishes included Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) 44th, Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) 60th and Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) 61st. Women’s finishes included Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) 32nd to remain 27th, Holly Brooks (Anchorage) was 38th and stands 34th while Liz Stephen was 45th and dropped one position to 45th.
Randall 7th Going Into Tour Finale
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Jan. 5) - It’s down to just one stage, the final climb up Alpe Cermis, with Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) of the U.S. Ski Team standing seventh behind runaway leader Justyna Kowalczyk. Randall was 11th in Saturday’s 10k classic mass start as Kowalczyk padded her lead to over two minutes. Randall remained over three minutes back but within 12 seconds of fourth.
“I am actually feeling pretty strong,” Randall said. “At this point last year we still had three races to go, so it’s a good feeling that there is just one left now. It will be good that the skate muscles have had a couple days off now. Today’s race was solid. My energy was good and I felt like I skied a steady pace the whole race, with good energy still left in the final k’s. Skis were kicking great up the climbs but may have been a little slow on the downhills and flats and that took some extra energy to move through the pack.”
The seven stage Tour de Ski concludes today with a gut wrenching climb up the face of Alpe Cermis in the fabled 9k freestyle hill climb at Val di Fiemme, Italy, with pursuit start seeded by tour standings.
“I’ve got some really strong skiers just ahead of me and it will be really important to try and latch on to them before we hit the climb,” Randall said. “The final stage hasn’t been my strongest in the past but I’m hoping with my stronger skate legs this year, I can improve my stamina in the second half of the climb and fight for some positions deeper into the top ten.”