BEITOSTOLEN, Norway – World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall won a pre-season 1.2-kilometer freestyle sprint FIS race on Sunday (Nov. 24) during the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team’s first race series of the 2013-14 Olympic season. Randall overtook Slovenian Vesna Fabjan on the final climb, finishing the race 0.8 seconds ahead at 2:17 minutes.
“I am happy to have two solid races under my belt,” said Randall. “This weekend was mostly about waking up the body before the World Cup opener next week. It’s a good confidence boost to stack up well against a strong field. But the real tests begin next week!”
Randall was the only American woman to advance to the finals. Her teammate Ida Sargent posted the next best finish in 13th, while Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell and Sadie Bjornsen all finished in the top 20. Bjornsen also finished fifth in a 10k classic race on Friday (Nov. 22), while Randall finished 10th.
“I’m just excited to be back racing again and finding improvements with each race. It was still really fun to race a heat against lots of really fast ladies. The Norwegian women are so strong and the Slovenians are also skiing really fast so it was great to race them,” noted Sargent.
U.S. Ski Team veteran Andy Newell finished sixth in the men’s 1.4-kilometer freestyle sprint on Sunday, advancing into the final heat. Norwegian Sondre Turvoll Fossli won the men’s sprint, while Simi Hamilton finished 27th after qualifying 15th.
“I was feeling ready to race leading into [the race], although I hadn’t done a real skate sprint since New Zealand. This course wasn’t too easy because of the wind … but it definitely wasn’t a World Cup course either with less climbing, only taking us about two-and-a-half minutes. So I knew I was going to have to be quick in qualification and aggressive in the heats,” said Newell.
Sunday’s races come just before this weekend’s World Cup opener, the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo, Finland Nov. 29-Dec. 1, which will feature a mini-tour with men’s and women’s classic sprints on Friday and two distance races on Saturday and Sunday.
“Overall, we were pleased with the week in Beito,” remarked Chris Grover, head cross country coach for the U.S. Ski Team. “We were able to accomplish our goals of getting acclimated in Europe, getting back on snow after most of the team was off for the past 2.5 weeks and getting a few starts under our belts. The team was not at their sharpest in the races but that is generally how we ski on our first week in Europe. The race organization and atmosphere was excellent in Beito, with lots of spectators, media and fanfare. We have just arrived in Ruka and are really looking forward to the start of the World Cup season this week.”