VALDIDENTRO, Italy (Feb. 13) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) made it to the finals in the women's race, finishing sixth in a freestyle sprint at Vadidentro, Friday. Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) sprinted to eighth, marking his and Randall's best finishes of the season.
"Like usual, it was a good and bad day," Cross Country Sprint Head Coach Chris Grover said.
Andy Newell was on target to have one of the fastest qualifying times of the day when he crashed on the final downhill, just 100 meters from the finish. Even though the course was one of the longest on the sprint World Cup, Newell lost crucial momentum and could not make up enough time, finishing 47th.
"He was laying down one of the fastest times of the day," Grover said.
The good news was that Randall and Koos are skiing strong and feel physically primed headed into World Championships.
"I finally felt like my World Cup racer self today. Qualifying was solid and it got better and better through the rounds. I decided to really test myself out today and took the lead from the start in both my quarterfinal and semi-final heats," Randall said. "Each time I attacked hard on the big climb. I was happy to find that when I went for my big climbing gear, it was there. I felt really good in the A final as well, and was able to attack again on the climb."
Randall skied a smart quarterfinal and made it into the A final. During the final heat, Grover said she had a podium within her grasp.
"She had at least third place locked up," Grover said.
But almost in the exact spot where Newell crashed in qualifying, Randall took a spill and moved back to sixth place.
"Until the fall, I was in a solid position for the podium, with a really good chance to race for second. It was a total bummer because I was still feeling really good. While a podium would have been awesome, at least I know my race shape is finally back, and that really gets me fired up for Liberec," Randall said.
"She felt better skiing than she has all year and that bodes well headed into World Championships," he said.
Koos had one of the fastest qualifying rounds of his season, finishing just two seconds behind Norway's Eirki Brandsdal, who skied the 1.7k course in 3:19.36.
"He skied a smart quarterfinal and a strong and smart B final, and had a great day," Grover said.
Ola Vigen Hattestad of Norway and Perta Majdic of Slovenia continued their domination of the sprints winning and maintaining discipline leads.
Saturday, cross country athletes prepare for individual classic races. Grover said Chris Freeman will be making a return to World Cup racing Saturday after a long break to rest a chronic shin injury, which will require surgery.
"He has been taking a break since Vancouver. He'll race tomorrow and he'll race the World Championships then cut the season short to get surgery," Grover said.
The injury Freeman has, compartment syndrome, is an overuse injury where the muscles grow too big for the fascia that holds them together, causing extreme pain and loss of sensation in the feet. Freeman had surgery for the same injury in 2000 and will be operated on at the Steadman Hawkins clinic by the U.S. Ski Team's Dr. Tom Hackett.
Still, tomorrow's race bodes well for Freeman because the last time he raced the course at Vadidentro was for U-23 Championships, where Freeman won.
"The course suits him really well," Grover said.
2009 VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Valdidentro, Italy- Feb. 13, 2009
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad, Norway
2. Alexei Petukhov, Russia
3. Emil Joensson, Sweden
4. Marcus Hellner, Sweden
5. Fabio Pasini, Italy
8. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
DNQ: Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
1. Petra Majdic, Slovenia
2. Pirjo Muranen, Finland
3. Magda Genuin, Italy
4. Charlotte Kalla, Sweden
5. Arianna Follis, Italy
6. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage