BEITOSTOELEN, Norway (Nov. 15) - The U.S. Cross Country Team wrapped up three days of pre World Cup racing Sunday with even more unexpected success as World Championship silver medalist Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) took fourth and Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) fifth in the women's 5K and men's 10K classic FIS races in Norway.
"That has to be one of Kikkan's best longer distance races ever and it really bodes well for the upcoming season and reflects well on the training she's done this summer," Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. "It's early. We don't look too specifically at results, but we do look for the effort and she was hammering from start to finish. It was more than we could hope for result wise and exactly what we were asking for effort wise."
Marit Bjørgen of Norway won the women's race, leading a Norwegian sweep of the podium followed by Kristin Størmer Steira in second and Marthe Kristoffersen in third.
In the men's race Norwegians took the top two spots with Martin Johnsrud Sundby taking the win, Petter Northug in second and Nikolay Pankratov of Russia in third.
It was the second race in a row for Freeman to finish second and Vordenberg was pleased with the consistency.
"After his fifth in the skate race, we knew he was going to be up there. We wanted to see how he did in the back-to-back races and he stayed strong in all of them. It's something we have been working on this summer," Vordenberg said.
According to Vordenberg the conditions in Norway were once again very similar to what conditions will potentially be like in Whistler during the Olympics.
"It was raining and really giving us some Whistler-like conditions, so we had a great test of our preparation for those kind of conditions," Vordenberg said. "We do have great skis and the athletes skied really well."
While top results by Randall and Freeman were exciting, Vordenberg emphasized that the races this weekend were merely preparation for the bigger picture this season.
"These results are great, but they're not what we're judging the races off of," Vordenberg said. "We're looking at this whole part of the season as prepration. It was great skiing by all and it was a really fun day."
The Cross Country Team will remain in Norway for the season's first World Cup cross country races in Beitostoelen. The Team will compete in a women's 10K and men's 15K freestyle on Nov. 21 followed by men's and women's relays on Nov. 22.
"We're excited, not just because of this weekend, but because we feel like we've been preparing well all summer. We have some big goals and we're looking ahead to those," Vordenberg said.
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