KUUSAMO, Finland (Dec. 1) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) led another historic day for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, finishing second in a 5k freestyle race at the Ruka Triple mini-tour in Kuusamo. It was Randall's second straight distance podium and a career best for a non-sprint. She led four American women into the top 18 while Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) set a career best with a breakthrough 19th in the men's 10k. The Ruka Triple concludes with a skiathlon, or pursuit, on Sunday. Norway's Marit Bjoergen took the win while Alexander Legkov of Russia won the men's.
Kikkan Randall catches her breath after finishing second in the 5k freestyle at the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo - her best distance finish ever and second straight distance podium. (Getty Images/AFP-Markku Ulander)
Today was a fantastic day. To finish second was a bit of redemption from a disappointing sprint yesterday. Now I'm sitting second overall going into the race tomorrow.
I skied a strong, steady race picking up places as I went through the course. It was definitely Alaska like conditions out here. I wore some tape on my face but still froze my hands a bit.
Another big day for the team with four girls in the top 20 plus Noah got his first top 20. It was a nice reward for the coaches and techs here who have worked so hard.
I was nervous about today’s race since it was my first time racing the Ruka course. I tried to start hard from the gun but after crossing the line I wish I had started even harder - that was one heck of a fast 5k course! You have to charge each uphill and know that on the long and fast downhill your body will recover. I'm super, SUPER proud of our team today - all the coaches, wax techs and athletes - five in the top 20 is very inspiring and encouraging!
The course is mighty hard here in Kuusamo, but a 5k is so short that the strategy was to go out hard, ski the tops of the climbs hard and recover as much as possible on the fast downhills. We were taking risks out there today. Blowing up is not out of the question in a 5k, but going too easy is not a good option either because there is never an extra second to blow in such a short race.
I had nothing but good thoughts headed into the 5k today. This was my breakthrough race last year so it's slightly nostalgic! I knew that I needed to ski hard from the start.
I am psyched for tomorrow. It should be an action packed yo-yo out there. The course skis just like a set of intervals. A really hard climb followed by a restful downhill - then we'll do it again three more times!
Noah Hoffman, career best World Cup performance
I am happy to break into the top-20 on the World Cup. It was one of my goals for this season and a big step forward in my career. I am looking forward to building on this result tomorrow and in the coming weeks.