ZOOM Kikkan Randall says the Rybinsk atmosphere is one of the best on the World Cup.
huge in the motherland.
To bolster their moves, the FIS has also added another race to the Russian docket: a city
sprint in Moscow.
The city sprint, originally slated for Gorky Park, one of Moscow’s most famous attractions,
will be held in Luzhniki Stadium. “We heard it was changed for snow-moving reasons, but
the stadium should be awesome,” says U.S. head cross country coach Chris Gover. Built for
the 1980 Games, the stadium can hold 76,000 and hosted the Union of European Football
Associations (UEFA) Champions League Final just three years ago.
Moscow is one of two new city sprints on this year’s schedule, in addition to the three al-
ready on the traditional World Cup tour (Dusseldorf, Drammen and Stockholm). Milan host-
ed a sprint weekend in mid-January following the Tour de Ski with a great turnout, albeit very
warm temperatures. Kikkan Randall took second there in the individual sprint, and second
the next day in the team event with rookie USST member Jessie Diggins.
According to Grover, the sprint team will arrive in Moscow two days before the event and
will have some time to ski the course and test skis, an unusual circumstance for the urban
race format. “It can really be a hurry-up offense for the service staff; you just have to take a
stab at a lot of the wax and ski selection by just taking a look at the snow,” he says. “They’re
really trying to protect the course at these races because the conditions break down so
Russia’s backdrop has historically been pretty kind to the U.S., at least in cross country
skiing. Kikkan Randall stood on the steps of her first World Cup podium in Rybinsk in 2007.
Less than a year later she stood on the top step for the first time at the same venue. Former
ski team member Torin Koos has his only World Cup top-three from Rybinsk as well.
“I’ve had some really great races in Rybinsk, so I’m looking forward to going there,” says
Randall, who leads the sprint World Cup standings after Milan and sits fourth on the overall
“The atmosphere in Rybinsk is one of the best on the whole World Cup,” she says. “At times
the fans are so loud it just sounds like thunder out there.”
As for Moscow, it’s hard for Randall not to look forward to a skate sprint when she’s been so
dominant this season. She’s especially excelled in these city sprints, but for her it’s not just
about racing your strengths. With so many cross country events in out-of-the-way places,
she’s seen the potential for growth in the sport with this format. “City sprints are especially
fun,” says Randall, “because we get to bring our sport straight to the people.”