The World Cup season officially kicked off this past weekend with the annual 3-day mini-tour in Ruka, Finland. The races started with a 1.4km classic sprint, which I’ve done several times now. I’ve had some great races on this course and some really tough ones. Here are my previous seven starts:
2006 – Qualified 18th / Final result 12th
2007 – Qualified 12th / Final result 16th
2008 – 33rd
2009 – 36th
2010 – 42nd
2011 – Qualified 15th/ Final result 4th
2012 – Qualified 16th/ Final result 10th
It was an anxious wait during the week to see where my shape would be this time around. Thankfully, I started the day off strong with a 12th place in qualification and I had strong finishes in each of my rounds to make the final. In the final, despite getting momentarily caught behind a crash midway, I was able to make up serious ground on the main climb, pulling into second over the top and holding on to the finish for my first World Cup classic sprint podium!
The next day we raced a 5km classic individual start. We don’t get to do 5km’s very often, so it was a fun challenge to race one hard lap against the clock. Unfortunately I was not able to replicate my sprint gear from the day before and was a little sluggish over the 1st half of the race. The 2nd half was better, but I finished a little further back than I had hoped. 15th place, +47.7 secs out. The high point of the day however was my teammate Sadie Bjornsen getting her first distance top 10 in 7th place!
The final race was a 10km skate handicap start. I was so psyched to be back on my skate skis and in a great starting position to make up some places. We skied 4 laps around a 2.5km course that resembles a half-pipe. Right away I got settled in a good pack and made sure to cover any breakaways. By the 4th lap we were down to 3 of us fighting for places 5th-8th. My Norwegian training partner from this summer, Astrid Jacobsen, put on a couple mean surges over the last lap and as we came into the final climb, it was an all-out sprint. I went to the front and went as hard as I could up the hill. My legs were pretty dead at the top but I still had enough gas left for a finishing sprint to capture 5th place. It sure felt good to lie in the snow at the end! It was another strong day for USA and super exciting to see my teammate Noah Hoffman ski up from 38th place to 9th place and log the fastest time of the day!!
That wraps up our first weekend of World Cup racing. I am feeling really good about the way this season has started as we move on to Lillehammer, Norway for the next world cup stop. We’re pretty fired up to get the relay socks out and see if we can fight for another podium finish!!