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The exciting new season continues! First off a skate sprint weekend along the Rhein river in Düsseldorf, Germany . In the individual sprint, I started off the day with a 10th in qualifying and then battled my way through the rounds on the narrow course to make the final. In the final, there was some bumping early on in the race but I was able to stay on my feet and make a free-skating charge at the end to take the win.

In the next day’s team sprint, I lined up with my APU teammate Sadie Bjornsen and made it through to the finals. On the first lap we had some bad luck and got stuck behind a fall, dropping us to last. We never lost faith however, kept charging and on the last lap I was able to make up a few spots and get us into the silver medal position. The first ever team sprint podium for a US sprint team!

The next weekend took us to Davos, Switzerland where the snow finally arrived and we got to contest a 15km skate on a 7.5km loop (a rarity on WC these days), and a skate sprint.

In the 15km, I had a good start early but then faded through the race, just managing to stay in the points at 27th place. It proved to be a great warm-up for the sprint however, and I was able to qualify 1st and lead through the quarters and semis to make the final.

In the final I took the lead midway through and made an aggressive acceleration over the top of the hill to break up the pack. I ended up breaking away for the win. I also got to wear the red Sprint Leaders jersey through the day, which was pretty fun!

Now we’re on to Rogla, Slovenia for the last weekend of Period 1. There’s not much snow here but the organizers are working hard to put on some good races. We’ve got a 10km classic mass-start and a skate sprint coming up!

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The Kikk Notes:
The 2011-2012 season is underway and has started off with a bang!  We’re now two weekends into the World Cup season and I’ve been skiing to some of my best ever results. In the opening weekend in Sjusjoen, Norway I skied to 8th place in the individual start 10km skate race, which was my best ever WC distance result.  I followed up the next day with the 2nd fastest split on the 2nd leg in the women’s 4x5km relay, where our team skied to a US women’s world cup best finish in 9th place. This past weekend I competed in the 2nd addition of the Ruka Triple mini-tour.  The tour started off strong for me with a fourth place in the classic sprint, my first time ever in a world cup classic sprint final.  In the 5km individual skate I skied to 12th place and went into the final day ranked fifth.  I fought hard in final day’s 10km classic handicap start, loosing just one spot to finish sixth overall. Last year I was ecstatic to finish in the top 20, so this year was a real breakthrough! It’s been an awesome start for the US team as several of my teammates have posted personal best finishes as well.  Now we have moved down to Central Europe and  head into three consecutive weekends of skate sprints.  Next stop will be in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday. My season race schedule is attached and make sure to check out the pictures below!

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Following the conclusion of the World Cup racing season, I made one last stop over in Sun Valley, Idaho for the final domestic races of the winter.  With five races in 7 days, it was a busy couple of weeks.

The first race was the 30km US National Championship.  It was a challenging mass-start race of four laps around a tough 7.2km loop.  I took the lead halfway through the race and despite some gnarly cramps in the final 10km managed to take my 16th US National title.  The next four races were contested as a mini-tour, with cumulative times and an overall champion.

In the opening race, the 2.8km skate prologue, I skied to a 16 second victory in just over seven minutes.  The second race of the tour was a 10km classic mass-start with some cash bonuses up for grabs.  I skied from the front once again, taking all four preems and held off some strong challengers in the last kilometers for another victory.  After a day off we were back at it with classic sprints.  The sun was hot and the snow was slow but I felt great and skied to the win.  I did manage to get a wicked sunburn on my arms in the process.  The final race was a 4km skate hill climb up Dollar Mountain.  I started with over a minute lead, but pitted myself against the clock and skied all out to take the stage victory and the overall.  In total I won six golden belt buckles over the course of the week.  It was the perfect end to my best season to date.

Before leaving Sun Valley I got to help lead an awesome Fast and Female ski day, enjoying ski drills, dancing, yoga and healthy eating with over 70 girls.  Now the season is over and it’s officially time for some R&R.  Enjoy spring everyone!

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Two weeks, two countries, six races, a red bib…and one heck of a finale!

World Cup ’11 wrapped up with 2 races in Lahti, Finland and then the World Cup Finals in Sweden.

Lahti – Distance PR with 11th in pursuit and donned the red bib in the classic sprint for 21st.

Stockholm – Final WC sprint, skied to 10th and held on to 3rd in the overall sprint cup!

Falun – Mini-tour finals, 19th in prologue, 21st in pursuit, 14th in 10k to finish 16th overall. Finished the season in 10th in the Overall World Cup standings.

One more series of races to go before its break time! More coming from Sun Valley next week!!

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The Cliff Notes:

This past weekend was the final World Cup races before the World Championships begin in Oslo on Thursday. On tap were a 10/15k classic and a skate sprint, both events that are on the schedule for Oslo.

I opted to sit out Saturday’s classic race to prepare for the back-to-back skate sprint races this week.

After a month away from racing I was happy to find that my shape was still intact and my sprint form was really coming around. I laid down the 6th fastest qualifying time and then used strong surges on the finish stretch to advance to the final.

In the A Final, I came from behind once again on the final stretch to pull past Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway to win the race.

Now in just four days, I am looking forward to the World Championships sprint. It’s a great opportunity and I can’t wait to test myself against the best in the World. Stay tuned!!

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There must be something magical about Liberec, Czech Republic because I seem to be able to pull out top performances there, even if I don’t always see them coming!

Despite feeling like a zombie for most of this post-Tour week, I was able to shake off the daze and overcome some challenging snow conditions to take my second World Cup victory!

By ignoring the heavy feelings in my legs during the warm-up, I started off the day with a third place in qualifying. Then in my loaded quarterfinal (I drew both Majdic and Follis) I came second and advanced to the semis.

In the semis, I drafted early and then put on a strong finish to win the heat and make it to the final. The final played out much the same way and I passed Hanna Falk of Sweden on the homestretch to take the win.

After two months on the road, I now get to head home for a short break and then training camp to prepare for the World Championships in Oslo next month.

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It’s been a week full of the highs and the lows here in Davos!  In similar fashion to last year’s races in Davos, we raced distance on Saturday and a skate sprint Sunday.

While I had hoped and expected to put in a strong performance in Saturday’s 10km classic race, I was again disappointed with a lackluster result of 47th place.  I struggled in the snowy conditions and ended backing off in the final kilometers to reserve some energy for the sprint.

Thankfully, day two provided some redemption.  I started off the day with 8th position in qualifying.  I used fast finishes in both my quarterfinal and semi-final to advance to the final.

In the final, after sitting in fourth for most of the race, I was in position to challenge for second place on the homestretch when Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk suddenly changed her trajectory and blocked my momentum.  I ended up finishing 4th.

A few minutes later however, Kowalczyk’s move was ruled as obstruction and she was relegated to sixth, moving me into third position.  So I got to stand on the podium for the second week in a row!

The Women's Podium. Photo: Liz Stephen

I had planned to race in France this coming weekend but due to some sickness this week I have decided to stay in Davos to get healthy, enjoy Christmas, and prepare for the Tour.

I’ll be back in action on New Year’s Eve for the start of the Tour de Ski.  Until then, Merry Christmas everyone!

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The Cliff Notes:

Despite some hurdles with travel, lost baggage and variable weather, I made it to Dusseldorf, Germany for a World Cup individual skate sprint this past Saturday.  The women raced just 900m around a tight and fast man-made loop in the heart of downtown.

In the qualifying round I focused on keeping a high tempo and secured 8th place to advance to the heats.  I then went on to lead both my quarterfinal and semi-final heats to make it to the A final.

In the final, in spite of a terrible start and coming out of the lanes in fifth, I never relented and worked my way into the top 3 off the final turn.  I had a strong finishing kick and was able to sneak into 2nd place right before the finish line for my fourth career World Cup podium!

After a short celebration, I’ve moved on to Davos, Switzerland to prepare for another skate sprint, along with a 10km classic, this weekend.

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The Cliff Notes:

The inaugural ‘Ruka Triple’ took place this weekend despite desperate attempts by Mother Nature to foil the races with cold weather. We did 3 races back-to-back, with daily stage winners and a final overall ranking.

My mini-tour got off to a rocky start with a non-qualifying 42nd place in the classic sprint. While disappointed, I was able to pin-point some explanations for the lackluster performance and use it for fuel in the next two events.

I rebounded well the next day, finding my attack and tempo in the 5km classic race. I finished in 17th place, just seven seconds out of the top ten. I skied aggressive and managed to escape the below 0 F temperatures with just a little frost nip on my nose and cheeks.

On day 3 in the handicapped start 10km skate race, I moved up from 22nd place to 19th in the overall standings and put down the 20th fastest skate split. Feeling strongest on the third day gives me good confidence for the Tour de Ski!

Now we move on to Central Europe with a sprint weekend on the city streets of Dusseldorf. Skate sprint coming up on Saturday, yeehaw!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

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The Cliff Notes:

First World Cup weekend kicks off with a bang in Gällivare, Sweden with an individual skate race and relays. Despite freezing cold temperatures midweek, things warmed up in time for some hot action out on course!

I may have been a little unsure of how these first few races would unfold, but I have been able to put my nerves at ease with two more solid performances. In the individual skate race I skied a really consistent pace for 19th place, less than a minute out of the podium. It was one of my best World Cup distance skate races.

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