Kikkan Randall is a fan favorite in Otepaa, Estonia. (USSA-Matt Whitcomb)
OTEPAA, Estonia (Jan. 22) - Five U.S. athletes skied into the points Sunday in classic distance racing on the FIS World Cup in Otepaa. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) led the way in 15th, holding onto her fourth place standing in the overall FIS World Cup. Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) matched her career best 18th in just her fourth World Cup. Swiss Dario Cologna won the men's 15k while Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland took the women's 10k win. The World Cup takes a break next weekend before heading to Moscow Feb. 2 for a city sprint.
Kikkan Randall's 15th in the 10k classic kept her in fourth in the FIS World Cup standings.
Randall was 1:55.9 behind the winning time of Kowalczyk.
Jessie Diggins' 18th matched her career best set last weekend in the Milan sprint.
Classic career bests for Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) in 22nd, Diggins in 18th, and Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) in 21st.
Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) was 22nd.
The World Cup resumes Feb. 2 with a city sprint in Moscow, followed by a weekend of racing in Rybinsk, Russia, where Randall won her first World Cup.
The team will take a break for training in the Austrian mountain village of Ramsau.
QUOTES Kikkan Randall Another solid day for me. I felt pretty bagged in my warmup so I took the first few kilometers to build into the race. I probably skied a little conservative on the first lap but finally found my rhythm around halfway and worked up from there.
The course was challenging but it actually skied better than it seemed in the preview. The snow was a little greasy in places so you had to finesse the kick and it didn't always feel pretty. I had a close call on the first lap coming down one of the fast decents. One ski was completely in the air and it was a miracle I didn't go down - would have been messy.
Really great to see the whole team so strong today. We got fired up before our race watching Kris (Freeman) and Noah (Hoffman) finish in the top 30 and, of course, (Canadian Devon) Kershaw on the podium. I got to see Jessie (Diggins) come through the lap just before I started and she looked really peppy. Sadie (Bjornsen) put up a good fight starting 30 seconds in front of me, it took me the whole first lap to catch her. Liz (Stephen) notched her best World Cup classic result and Ida (Sargent) had an awesome sprint off with (winner Justyna) Kowalczyk in the finish stretch.
I used to be psyched with a top 40 so to have our whole women's team in there just shows what a huge step forward we've taken!
Having only had one weekend off since mid-November, I am really looking forward to this upcoming recovery block until Moscow. My coach Erik Flora is here and it will be nice to reset and do a little training again. Also hoping to revive my pink highlights!
Jessie Diggins The race went really well! I think I went out a little to hard and started to fall apart that second lap, but managed to hang on long enough!
This course was, without a doubt, the toughest I've ever raced. If your technique wasn't right on, you would slip pretty badly, and there were some tough moments out there! But our wax techs and coaches did an amazing job.
This being my first distance race on the World Cup, I had no expectations going into it. I wanted to just go out and ski the course the best I could and get some experience in pacing along the way. I love being here on the World Cup - it's so hard to stop smiling! THe atmosphere is great and the fans around the course are so enthusiastic.
Noah Hoffman I felt good today. I’m psyched to score World Cup points! I hope this is just the start. It’s been a really fun winter watching all my teammates' success and I’m happy to now have scored some points as well!
The course was possibly the hardest I’ve ever raced. There were three enormous climbs. It suited me really well. My skis were incredible and I felt really good.
Matt Whitcomb Great day. - we put five people in the points today on one of the hardest distance courses of the year with classic career bests from Noah (Hoffman), Jessie (Diggins) and Liz (Stephen). It's nice to flex some depth like this. It helps us build momentum, and let's athletes back home see the possibilities. There is connection. It can happen with a lot of good training and commitment to the sport. It IS happening top-30 finishes are no longer historic.
So much hard training lies behind these good days. It's nice to see the team succeed together. But nobody is satisfied yet.