The U.S. women's Tour de Ski team is all smiles: Holly Brooks, Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen.
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Jan. 8) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) capped the 11-day, 9-stage Tour de Ski with a strong finish up the towering Alpe Cermis hillclimb to finish tenth in the Tour - a big jump from last year's 21st place finish. The U.S. Ski Team's Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) turned in a brilliant eighth fastest hill climb for a career best World Cup and moved up ten spots in the Tour to finish 24th. Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk took the win over Norway's Marit Bjoergen - her third Tour title, while Swiss Dario Cologna won the men's crown.
Kikkan Randall moved up from 21st last year to finish the Tour de Ski in tenth.
In her debut Tour, Liz Stephen finished 24th with a stunning eighth place in the final hill climb
Holly Brooks (Anchorage) finished the Tour 39th, Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) 43rd
Brooks skied the entire Tour with a broken wrist and will take time now to rest and rehab.
Randall also finished third in the Tour de Ski sprint standings
She remains in the lead in the FIS World Cup sprint heading into next weekend's Milan sprints and is fourth overall (plus an impressive ninth in World Cup distance)
As if the Tour de Ski climb up Alpe Cermis wasn't enough, Sunday night Randall and Stephen, along with Freeman and Andy Newell, paired up for a team sprint in nearby Feltre, Italy.
Kikkan Randall Pumped to finish my second Tour in the top ten. This year has been a big step forward for me. It was so fun to be in the fight for top ten places this year. This is always where I've felt I was capable of skiing and it has been satisfying to now be getting consistently solid results.
Today wasn't my strongest day but it was amazing to see my teammate Liz Stephen finish with the eighth fastest climb and my teammate Holly Brooks finish the Tour with a broken wrist! Having teammates definitely made this Tour more enjoyable and helped me stay relaxed. It's so encouraging to see our team more and more respected and more competitive each year.
It was also fun to knab third in the sprint standings. Now a short rest before we get back to sprinting in Milan!
Holly Brooks I was nervous, for sure, but also excited and anxious to finish up. Liz and I skied down the Alpe Cermis the other day so we had a small idea of what to expect. There was a lot of hurting going on out there and even some granny skating. However, I watched Dario do it as well so that made me feel better.
The wave start with the majority of the women's field was utter chaos. I liken it to a gigantic cat fight. The entire flat section to the base of the Cermis is 1.5 skaters wide and you can imagine a bunch of hungry girls vying for position the entire time, broken poles, yelling, etc. Once we got to the climb things sorted themselves out a bit but my best skis took a gigantic beating - lots of holes and scratches from other girls. People were attempting to pass on the inside of the uphill switchback corners and skis would get tangled or girls would get their skis caught in the gates.
Liz's climb today was absolutely brilliant and Kikkan put together an amazing set of races. I'm proud to be a part of this team and yes, I think it speaks positively looking ahead to Sochi. Everyone seems to be improving every year and everyone gets along really well. Positive team dynamics are crucial and I think we have a good thing going!