Kikkan Randall top U.S. cross country racer as World Cup wraps up in Europe
BY PETER Q. GRAVES, WITH USSA REPORTING
of March The Strides
Cross Country: Lahti, March 6 and 7
With the Vancouver Games in the record books, and with nary a moment to
recover, the remainder of the World Cup season began in earnest with the
annual Lahti Ski Games.
In the 30K pursuit, Maurice Manificat of France took his first World Cup
win by skiing to victory just 3. 6 seconds ahead of Croatia’s Lukas Bauer. Russian Ilia Cherousov was third place in a sprint finish with four other athletes.
“I am really satisfied with my race, I had good skis, good glide and was in
good shape,” said Manificat.
James Southam led the U.S. men’s results with a 36th place.
In the women’s 15K pursuit, the queen of Whistler, Marit Bjoergen of Nor-
way, continued her winning ways by pulling away from Poland’s Justyana
Kowalczyk for her third World Cup victory this season and the 33rd of her
racing career. Norway’s Therese Johaug was 6. 7 seconds behind Kowalczyk
for her first podium of the season.
Bjoergen called it a great race. “Therese and I were working together and at
the end of the race I was able to make the gap,” she said. “I am in great shape.
My next big goal is the World Champs in Oslo and then I will see…maybe I
continue until Sochi, maybe not, I can’t say yet.”
The U.S. Ski Team’s dynamo, Kikkan Randall, placed a solid 24th place in
the women’s pursuit, while Morgan Arritola was 30th.
On day two at Lahti, team relays were held to the delight of the crowd. Nor-
way’s squad displayed a dazzling performance to take the win, just 0.7 sec-
onds ahead of a rebounding German team made up of Nicole Fessel, Kathrin
Zeller, Miriam Gossner (a talented former biathlete) and veteran Evi Scahen-
bacher-Stehle. To make things even more heart-pounding, the third-placing
Italian team was just one second behind the winning Norwegians.
The Russian women made a bold attack with Irina Khazova on the second
leg to open a big gap on the leaders, only to lose that time on the third leg of
Then, in the men’s relay, Team Norway II (Simen Oestensen, Roger Djupvik,
Sjur Toethe and Kristian Tettli Rennemo) bested Norway’s top squad of Eldar
Roenning, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Petter Eliassesn and Tord Asle Gjer-
dalen by 0.2 seconds.
In third spot came the Germans with a squad built around Toby Angerer and
three youngsters: Hannes Dotzler, Phillip Marschall and Tim Tscharnke.
“My young teammates did a really good job,” said Angerer. “I am not worried
about the future of cross country skiing in Germany. The podium here with
this team was outstanding. Now, I feel much younger.”
Cross Country: Drammen, March 11
From Lahti the cross country skiers traveled to the charming town of Drammen, Norway. It’s a popular venue on the tour for sprints, and the entire
town comes alive with energy. On March 11 the whole town was rocking,
and the big show came to town.
With snow laid on the downtown streets — and with real terrain — it proved
a superb day for U.S. Ski Team member and Olympian Andy Newell. He skillfully negotiated the track for third place; it was his first podium in two years,
and in front of an estimated crowd of 70,000 screaming ski fans.
“To have that kind of energy and get up there on the podium for the first time
ever in a classic race was pretty sweet,” said Newell. “It’s been way too long.”
For the Stratton Mountain School graduate, it also provided some measure of
Felix Gottwald, Christoph Bieler, Magnus Moan and Bernhard Gruber battle in the cross country leg of the nordic combined at Oslo.