Randall untouchable in Tour win

VAL MUESTAIR, Switzerland (Jan. 1) – American Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) was absolutely untouchable on New Year’s Day, leading qualifying by nearly five seconds and winning each of her three heats by huge margins to claim her second victory in three Tour de Ski starts in the freestyle sprint at Val Muestair. The win boosted Randall from 14th to fifth in the Tour de Ski standings, one minute, 18 seconds behind leader Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland who failed to make the final heat. All four U.S. Ski Team women made the heats along with Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), who was ninth to lead the USA as Norway’s Finn Haagen Krogh won. The seven-stage Tour de Ski continues Thursday with a 15k freestyle for women and 35k for men in Toblach, Italy. Universal Sports TV will provide daily coverage at 7:00 p.m. EST.

• Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) took her second victory in three Tour de Ski stages in the freestyle sprint at Val Muestair, Switzerland.
• Randall led qualifying by 4.82 seconds, then won heats by 4.3, 3.4 and 8.7 seconds to completely dominate the event.
• The victory boosted Randall from 14th to fifth in the Tour de Ski standings, one minute, 18 seconds behind leader Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who failed to make the final heats.
• All four American women including Randall, Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN), Holly Brooks (Anchorage) and Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) qualified for the heats, unfortunately with three of the four (including Randall) meeting in the opening quarterfinal heat.
• Diggins finished 17th, Brooks a career best sprint 18th and Stephen 25th, also a career best sprint. Randall, Brooks and Stephen are all in the top 25 in the Tour standings at the midway mark.
• Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) qualified eighth. Newell led most of his quarterfinal heat before dropping to fourth at the finish. He made semifinals based on quarterfinal time but failed to qualiy for finals. He finished ninth.
• The Tour has three stages remaining including a 15k freestyle for women and 35k for men Thursday in Toblach, Italy before the Tour finishes in Val di Fiemme, Italy with a pair of stages Saturday and Sunday.
• Universal Sports TV is providing daily coverage at 7:00 p.m. EST with Steve Schlanger and former U.S. Ski Team coach Tom Steitz.

Kikkan Randall
The crowd up there was great. The course was tough but fun. Just happy to have another good day on my skis.
I am really excited about today’s victory. It has been a great day. The course was perfect and the crowd was really loud. Skating has been very good for me this season. Even though it is 15 km for the next competition I am looking forward to it. We will stay one more night in Val Müstair and start tomorrow morning to Toblach.

Holly Brooks
It was my first sprint heat of the season and it was great to toe the line with my teammates. We had a great team cheer and hug for the camera which started us off on the right foot! I wish I had a bit more gas to get right behind Kikkan on the second loop. I got stuck in third and Laurien (Swiss Laurien Van Der Graaf), dogged it on the hill, then when I went to pass to the right, she turned on the gas.

We were actually really happy to hear that we were in the same quarter as Kikkan. Her quarterfinals are generally pretty quick so we thought our chances of being “Lucky Loser” were good. I should have pushed harder at the beginning of the quarter seeing that Laurien is very good for short bursts. I was bummed about that but 18th place is my best sprint to date so I have to be happy! Sometimes progress comes in small steps and it pays to be patient. I’m just trying to learn from every opportunity and that’s one of my favorite things about the Tour.

I’m really looking forward to the next event, the 15k skate in Toblach. The course is notoriously difficult to pass on (it’s narrow) but I have good associations with it from last year at OPA finals! Then, in the classic races and hill climb I’m just going to put my head down and fight for every second, and every place! I’m really enjoying the Tour this year.

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