Kikkan Randall, shown in qualifying in Milan, extended her World Cup sprint lead with a second in the city sprint. (USSA-Matt Whitcomb)
MILAN, Italy (Jan. 14) - FIS World Cup sprint leader Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) battled through the streets of Milan to finish second in a World Cup freestyle sprint. Sweden's Ida Ingemarsdotter took her first win as Randall extended her lead. Norway's Eirik Brandsdal took his first victory in the men's race. Four Americans qualified for finals. A team sprint is set for Sunday in Milan.
The course in Milan was flat, like Dusseldorf but much longer. It was set in the old town of Milan, less than a kilometer from the famed Duomo.
Kikkan Randall won both quarters and semis, skiing to second in the finals behind Ida Ingemarsdotter.
Randall extended her World Cup sprint lead to 124 points ahead of Russian Natalia Matveeva. She is fourth in the overall World Cup.
Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) qualified 18th, Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) 19th, Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) 26th, but all went out in quarterfinals.
Diggins, who swept four U.S. titles last week, came from behind with a strong finish sprint to take fourth and her first World Cup points.
Newell had been in contention in the quarters but got tangled and fell coming into the finish.
Team sprint on Sunday with Randall and Diggins teaming up.
QUOTES Kikkan Randall It was a fantastic atmosphere out there today and it was fun to race here in Milan.
I have taken part in every World Cup this season - I've been in good shape. We've been training to compete and I hope I can keep the red jersey till the end of the season. I'm feeling strong and I hope I can make it.
I didn't know that she (Ingemarsdotter) was the one coming up beside me until we were on the finish straight. I hesitated for a moment in making my final lane choice and I think taking the inside lane that had been skied in more may not have been the right choice.
I'm really excited about the team sprint tomorrow. I'm have three teammates here and we will have two U.S. teams, which has not happened in quite some time.
Matt Whitcomb, Coach Four qualifiers made it a particularly successful day from the start with Sadie (Bjornsen) just missing by a tenth in 31st. She's building quite the hunger for an individual sprint qualification. And it is coming.
For the quarterfinals Kikkan and Jessie qualified for the first heat, and Simi and Andy for the last. It's always better to divide and conquer but we were unlucky today.
Kikkan's semi earned her a season's worth of experience. She had a slow start and had to fight and scrap for position the entire heat. It's a very difficult course to make passes on, making fast starts critical, but she skied wide and with double aggression, qualifying for the finals.
In the finals, Kikkan came into the stadium with a narrow lead but she got back for a split second and made a few compromised pushes just as ingemarsdotter was coming on. It was close.
When we got back to our wax room there were at least twenty people hoping to get a photo with kikkan. She's a real crowd favorite just about anywhere we go.