A huge pack heads onto the trail for the New Year's Day skiathlon. Look for Kikkan Randall in the black Bjoern Daehlie U.S. Ski Team uniform on the far right. (Getty Images/AFP-Johannes Eisele)
OBERSTDORF, Germany (Jan. 1) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) skied a strong freestyle leg on New Year's Day to take seventh in a mixed technique skiathlon, moving up to fourth in the Tour de Ski standings after four stages. Norway's Marit Bjoergen handed Poland's Justyna Kowalcyk her first Tour loss while Petter Northug of Norway took the men's win and holds the overall lead. Randall skied 19th fastest in the opening 5k classic leg then powered up to fourth fastest in freestyle to finish seventh on the day. The Tour takes a rest Monday before opening a three-stage stint at Toblach in northern Italy on Tuesday.
Kikkan Randall was 19th fastest in the 5k classic, fourth in skate, to finish seventh in the stage four skiathlon.
The finish boosted her from fifth to fourth in the Tour de Ski standings, but with a gap of nearly two minutes to third.
Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) was 36th, Holly Brooks (Anchorage) 58th.
Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) was 47th, Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) 75th.
Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) withdrew from the Tour due to a serious cold.
Norway's Petter Northug leads the men's Tour, Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk is on top of the women's.
Tour tour now moves to Toblach and nearby Cortina, Italy for a series of three stages.
QUOTES Kikkan Randall The conditions today were soft and dirty. Thankfully we didn't have the downpour today but the snow was still pretty saturated and the tracks were pretty soft. Another day like the conditions we see on Eagle Glacier in the summer. The course was challenging but a good one. I really liked the big climb.
I was feeling pretty good about my classic from the previous two races. My strategy was to go out and try to hang in the top 10 on the classic and move up from there. The pace out of the start however was super hard and I was slipping on the climbs. So I drifted back a little farther than I wanted to. But that quick opening pace came back to bite a lot of the girls and I felt stronger and stronger through the race.
In the skate leg, I was feeling really good and just trying to move up. There was a group of three way ahead, about 100 meters, going into the big climb on the final lap. I was initially more focused on skiing away from the pack I was with but ended up catching those three by the top of the hill. Unfortunately I made a bad passing choice around Roponen at the top of the hill, going to the outside while Kalla and Sarasoja went on the inside. So I missed getting in their draft on the downhill and then didn't have enough room to catch them on the home stretch.
Chris Grover, Cross Country Head Coach Another incredible race by Kikkan. She skied very smart, measuring out her energy expenditure and moving up through the field when it counted. She had fifth place in her sights at the finish line but ran out of meters to overtake in the extremely fast finish straight.
Andy caught a cold. I think we were all in denial for a few days there that he would improve but after a hard race in the rain and cold yesterday, he was feeling bad this morning. He will turn his attention to getting healthy and ready for the city sprints in Milano (following the Tour de Ski).