FALUN, Sweden – U.S. Ski Team standout Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) led the U.S. coming in 19th Friday in the World Cup Finals opening prologue event in Falun. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen and Russia’s Ilia Chernousov won the first stage of the final 2011 season tour.
The season-ending World Cups are also part of a season-ending mini-tour. Many racers on the Tour look forward to one of the fabled climbs on this course, a punishing five minute hill climb known as Morderbacken, that each year herald’s “King and Queen of Morderbacken.”
Taking the women’s win on soft, new snow was Bjoergen, 10.6 seconds ahead of Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland. Norway’s Therese Johaug was third.
“I am very satisfied with today,” said Randall following the race. “The body felt good, I had awesome skis in tricky waxing conditions and I am trying to be as efficient as possible. I still feel there is some way of being even more efficient, especially at the top end speed and I’m working on it.”
Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) was 30th, 32 seconds back, with Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) in 42nd and Lars Flora (Anchorage) in 48th.
“I’m feeling like my shape is better than it was at Worlds or in Lahti,” commented Freeman post-race. “It’s fun to get to the top of a hill and feel like there’s more there, like there’s more to give. I felt like my race was pretty good, and I am hoping for one more top 10 in Falun.”
Following a challenging season the Russian men looked impressive to put three skiers in the top four. They were led by winner Chernousov and third place finisher Maxim Vylegzhanin. Norway’s Petter Northug continued his season of dominance by taking second.
Racing will continue at the World Cup Finals Saturday with the men’s and women’s pursuit.
FIS World Cup
Falun, Sweden – March 18, 2011
March 18, 2011
3.3/2.5k Classic Prologue
1. Ilia Chernousov, Russia, 10:51.8
2. Petter Northug, Norway, +2.9
3. Maxim Vylegzhanin, Russia, +4.2
30. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, +32.0
42. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury,VT, +50.9
48. Lars Flora, Anchorage, +1:02.2
1. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 9:01.6
2. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, +10.6
3. Therese Johuag, Norway, +12.9
19. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, +41.7
46. Holly Brooks, Anchorage, +1:10.5