Skiers chase each other down in the women's 15k pursuit in stage seven of the Tour de Ski with American Kikkan Randall fifth. (Getty Images/AFP-Giuseppe Cacace)
TOBLACH, Italy (Jan. 5) - American Kikkan Randall turned in another strong performance finishing fifth in the women's 15k pursuit in stage seven of the Tour de Ski. Randall, who came into the pursuit seeded fourth, won a three-skier sprint to the finish to claim the fifth spot. Norway's Marit Bjoergen won to takeover the Tour lead from Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk. Swiss Dario Cologna won to extend his lead over Norwegian Petter Northug with two stages remaining. Same-day TV coverage is available at 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Universal Sports TV, available on DirecTV.
Stage seven of Tour de Ski was a pursuit, with skiers seeded based on their overall Tour time ranking with leader going first and being pursued by others.
Kikkan Randall started women's 15k freestyle pursuit fourth and hung onto fifth, winning a three-skier sprint to the finish.
Randall is in a strong position going into the final two stages. In her only other full Tour appearance (2011) she finished 21st overall.
Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) was 34th, Holly Brooks (Anchorage) 46th - both moving up significantly in the standings.
Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) had a strong day, moving up from 42nd into 29th.
Norway's Marit Bjoergen scored a crucial win over Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk to take the women's lead.
Swiss Dario Cologna scored a decisive victory over Norway's Petter Northug in the men's 35k.
The Tour now moves to Val di Fiemme, Italy, site of next year's World Championships, for a classic mass start distance race Saturday followed by a 9k climb up a ski area for the Tour finale Sunday.
QUOTES Kikkan Randall It went pretty well today. I was able to keep close to my starting position and I didn't have to completely bury it to do it. Two very important races coming up now after the rest day. I think my energy is still good, just need to dig down and be gritty now!
My plan today was to start off aggressive and make those girls work to catch me. If they did catch me, I planned to latch onto their pace and try to be strong in the last few kilomters. When Lahteemaki caught me around seven kilometers, I couldn't quite stay on her. But I was able to latch onto Kalla and once I caught onto her rhythm I started feeling better and better. Kristopherson and Flugstag were really crankin' and caught us going into the final lap. I got right on their train and followed their tempo. As we neared the top of the course I decided to try and go after Lahteemaki and took the lead of our train. I think we dropped Flugstad. In the last two kilometers. The three of us were really flying and pulling seconds back. We all came off the last turn together and had a great battle to the finish for fifth.
Skis were great. Body was pretty good too, especially over the second half. I think I was a little stiff and tight at the beginning.