Kikkan Randall celebrates her opening stage win in the Tour de Ski. (Getty Images/AFP-Robert Michael)
OBERHOF, Germany (Dec. 29) - The U.S. Ski Team's Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) skied a powerful 3k freestyle prologue Saturday to take a solid win over past Tour champions Charlotte Kalla of Sweden and Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland. Starting 72nd, Randall was .4 behind Kalla at 1.7k but skied away to a 4.4 second victory in the first of seven stages over a nine day period. Norway's Petter Northug took the men's 4k prologue with Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) top American man. The men run a 15k classic Sunday, women 10k, in Oberhof before the Tour heads to Switzerland for a freestyle sprint on New Year's Day.
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) opened the seven-stage Tour de Ski with a strong 4.4 second win over Sweden's Charlotte Kalla and 4.7 ahead of Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland - both former Tour champions.
Holly Brooks (Anchorage) skied to an impressive 11th while Liz Stephen (E Montpelier, VT) was 21st. Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) was 62nd in her Tour debut.
Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) led the U.S. men in 21st with Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) 35th, Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) 94th.
Men run a 15k classic Sunday with women 10k before the Tour heads to Switzerland for a freestyle sprint New Year's Day.
QUOTES Kikkan Randall Today was an exciting way to start the Tour for sure. After a lot of racing in the first period I took the last ten days pretty easy and was unsure how my body would feel coming off the recovery break. Feelings weren't super encouraging yesterday or this morning but everything was there once I got on course.
Conditions were actually surprisingly similar to Eagle Glacier today which gave me confidence going into the race. The snow was pretty soft in the last kilometer and the finish stretch into a stiff headwind was really tough. I knew I had to fight for every second.
It's really fun to be leading the Tour after today ahead of two former winners. But I will really have my work cut out for me tomorrow and the next six races! I hope to bring the same focus into tomorrow and try to keep myself in a good position near the front.
Really cool to have my teammates ski strong today as well. I feel like this is the best team, athletes and staff, that we've ever had and I'm confident we can be strong through the Tour.
Holly Brooks I was really surprised with my result today - elated and relieved actually. It's the best late Christmas present I could ask for! I got some really good advice this morning via email from Erik Flora. He said, 'the prologue is a lot like running the mile, first quarter find the pace, second quarter be patient and fast, third quarter make the race, last quarter hold on and kick for the finish.' Today I was able to ski into the race rather than go out hard and messy and then die towards the end. I was tired at the finish but it wasn't quite puke-worthy!
As for overall goals, I hope to collect as many distance points as possible through the seven stages of the Tour because my goal is to land in the distance red group which would subsidize my World Cup racing. As for the overall Tour, I'd be ecstatic with a top 20 finish. Last but not least, all my bones are intact this year so it's already a step above last year!
Saturday, Jan. 5 – Val di Fiemme, Italy Women: 10k classic, mass start LIVE: 6:30 am Men: 15k classic, mass start LIVE: 7:30 am TV: 7:00 pm Universal Sports
Sunday, Jan. 6 – Val di Fiemme, Italy Women: 9k freestyle hill climb, pursuit start (seeded by tour standings) LIVE: 5:45 am Men: 9k freestyle hill climb, pursuit start (seeded by tour standings) LIVE: 8:50 am TV: 7:00 pm Universal Sports