Marit Bjørgen (NOR) used a perfectly executed move on the tough 180 degree turn above the stadium to move past Julia Ivanova (RUS) to take a commanding lead in the women’s classic sprint in Lahti, Finland.
Earlier in the race, Ivanova and Bjørgen overtook Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and opened an insurmountable gap.
Kowalczyk had skied away in both her first two heats, opening an unbelieveable gap, but was unable to drop the field in the final.
Kikkan Randall (USA) finished 5th. She looked somewhat fatigued in the final after strong performances in her first two heats. Randall used efficient technique on the steeper sections of the climbs to open space to advance, but bogged down in the herringbone in the final
One of Randall’s main rivals in the Sprint Cup, Natalia Matveeva (RUS) was eliminated in the semis, but Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR) edged out Randall for 4th, though this was only a difference of five World Cup points.
Randall came back on Falla after the later pulled away on the first climb. The American made it close in the homestretch, but ran out of space.
Dasha Gaiazova (CAN), the only other North American to make the heats, placed 13th. Gaiazova was in the mix in her quarterfinal and ended up as the fastest woman not to advance.
Notes From The Rounds
Marit Bjoergen (NOR) basically led the entire heat. She was challenged by Nicole Fessel (GER) as they dropped back into the stadium and then the two Russians came up along side her as they skied around the final curve before the homestretch. Anastasia Dotsenko (RUS) was able to match Bjoergen down the finish lanes as the Russian came to the line in second, she was followed by her teammate Julia Ivanova, who out-sprinted Fessel over the final hundred meters.
Bjoergen’s time was 3:41.7, the quickest of all the heats and Ivanova and Fessel, who finished just behind would be quick enough to advance as well.
The second heat became a three women race quickly as Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR), Katja Visnar (SLO) and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) broke clear. By the end it would be Falla and Visnar that would advance just ahead of Oestberg.
The third included Kikkan Randall (USA) and Charlotte Kalla (SWE), with only Masako Ishida (JPN) matching their pace. Randall was able to pull away as they came into the famous Lahti corner before dropping into the stadium. Kalla closed the gap on Randall over the final meters for second and Ishida claimed third in a time slower then the first heat, so she is finished for the day.
In the fourth quarterfinal heat, Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) made sure that she was away from any trouble right away as she hammered out of the starting gates. The rest of the ladies in heat seemed comfortable battling for second and the remaining spot to advance. As the rest of the group came back into the stadium and down the homestretch Finland’s Anne Kylloenen had gapped Russia’s Valentina Novikova for second.
The fifth heat was easily the most exciting as early on it looked to only be a three women race as Natalia Matveeva (RUS), Heidi Weng (NOR) and Daria Gaiazova (CAN) battled at the front, but the heat regrouped as they entered the challenging corner before dropping into the stadium. By the end it was a well-time sprint by Norway’s Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes for second behind Matveeva.
Julia Ivanova (RUS) took control of the first semifinal heat with Marit Bjoergen (NOR) just on her tails. At the end it was the pair that came to the line with a comfortable lead.
In a stacked second heat it was clear what would happen from the beginning as Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) forced a punishing pace right away. Kikkan Randall (USA) was able to close over the second half of the course and gapping the rest of the heat. Randall closed as they finished the heat with a solid gap back to the rest of the women.
The lucky losers would both come out of the first semifinal heat as Falla and Dotsenko advanced.