Kowalczyk gaps field to take Tour lead

OBERHOF, Germany (Dec. 30) – Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk made a big statement in Sunday’s 9k classic pursuit stage two of the Tour de Ski, posting a 41.4 second win over Norway’s Therese Johaug and moving into a commanding lead in her bid for a fourth straight Tour title. Tour de Ski leader Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) was 14th and is now 1:48.3 back going into Tuesday’s New Year’s Day freestyle sprint where she will be among the favorites. Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin took the win in the men’s 15k. Defending Tour champ Dario Cologna of Switerland is fourth. Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) was top American in 58th. Stage three is set for Val Müstair, Switzerland with the New Year’s Day freestyle sprint before the Tour swings to Italy with four stages. Universal Sports TV is providing daily coverage at 7:00 p.m. EST.

• Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk put a huge gap on the field with a commanding 41.4 second win over Therese Johaug of Norway in stage two of the Tour de Ski.
• Tour de Ski leader Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) ended up 14th in the 9k classic pursuit and is now 1:48.3 behind Kowalczyk going into the New Year’s Day freestyle sprint.
• Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) is 23rd, Holly Brooks (Anchorage) 25th and Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) 50th.
• Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin won the men’s 15k. Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) is 58th, Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) 69th and Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) 74th.
• The Tour de Ski features seven stages at five venues in three countries.
• Universal Sports TV is providing daily coverage at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Kikkan Randall
Today was a tough one for me. It was really fun to start in the leader’s bib and I did the best I could to make Kowalczyk work to catch me. I was happy to stay ahead for most of the first lap. I tried to hang on to her pace but she was skiing a little bit more powerfully than me.

I skied most of the second lap with (Charlotte) Kalla and was feeling pretty good. Then a big pack caught us going into lap three and I was struggling to match their power. Once I got tired, it was hard to make the skis work in the soft snow. I was really struggling in the last kilometer and just tried to hold my position to the finish.

In classic skiing right now, I just can’t seem to find that next gear. I know it’s coming and each race gets a little better. While I lost some time in the overall today, I’m still confident, especially with a couple more skate races up next. I’m really excited about the sprint coming up in two days! We have no idea what the course will be like but it will be fun to be in a totally new venue.

Monday’s my 30th birthday and I’m pretty psyched to be hitting such a landmark. I used to dream of the skier that I would be when I turned 30 and I’m happy that I have lived up to my expectations!

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