Kikkan Randall

Kikkan Randall leads cross-country skiing season storylines

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In 2002, Kikkan Randall, 19, debuted at the Salt Lake City Olympics and finished 60th.

Later at the Games, she watched Sarah Hughes, 16, place 59 spots higher in figure skating. Randall felt sorry for Hughes. Here’s why:

“[Hughes] had reached the pinnacle of her sport so early and knowing that I would have 10 years or more to look forward to doing that,” Randall recalled one year ago, according to USA Today.

She just about proved prophetic.

“My goal is to medal in 2010,” Randall told the newspaper in 2002. “In this sport, you cannot have quick success. You’ve got to put in the time, and you usually peak when you are close to 30.”

Randall, an Alaskan who won a high school bodybuilding contest, did not win a medal at her third Olympics in 2010. She and Caitlin Compton took sixth in the team sprint.

It marked the best finish by U.S. women’s cross-country skiers in Olympic history, but Bill Koch remained the only American to win an Olympic medal in the sport (1976 silver).

Randall will turn 31 on New Year’s Eve. She seems to be peaking, and she is predicted to win a medal in Sochi following consistent World Cup and breakthrough World Championships success.

“I remember being at my first Olympics at Salt Lake … and dreaming about the skier I wanted to become to eventually compete for the first-ever Olympic medal in women’s cross-country skiing,” she said in October. “It really feels like the blink of an eye.”

Randall spent the last decade ascending in sprint skiing. She’s the two-time reigning World Cup leader in the discipline, clinching last season’s title by edging Norwegian all-around superstar Marit Bjoergen by .07 of a second in her 100th career World Cup start.

She teamed with Jessie Diggins to make history at the World Championships in February, winning the team sprint and the first world title by American cross-country skiers, men or women.

Randall also won a 2009 World Championships silver medal, individually, but the recent surge in U.S. depth means she (and all of U.S. cross-country skiing) have more chances at breaking the Olympic medal drought.

“We’re in contention [in relays] for the first time in my Games experience,” Randall told the International Ski Federation (FIS).

This season’s World Cup results will be an early indicator of potential Sochi success. Watch for Randall’s individual performances against Olympic champions Bjoergen and Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk and Norwegian Maiken Caspersen Falla.

Sweden, Finland and Norway are the top competition in the team sprint.

Here’s this season’s cross-country skiing World Cup/Olympic schedule:

Kuusamo, Finland — Nov. 29-Dec. 1
Lillehammer, Norway — Dec. 7-8
Davos, Switzerland — Dec. 14-15
Asiago, Italy — Dec. 21-22
Oberhof, Germany — Dec. 28-29 (Tour de Ski)
Lenzerheide, Switzerland — Dec. 31-Jan. 1 (Tour de Ski)
Cortina-Toblach, Italy — Jan. 3 (Tour de Ski)
Val di Fiemme, Italy — Jan. 4-5 (Tour de Ski)
Nove Mesto, Czech Republic — Jan. 11-12
Szklarska Poreba, Poland — Jan. 18-19
Toblach, Italy — Feb. 1-2
Olympics — Feb. 8-23
Lahti, Finland — March 1-2
Drammen, Norway — March 6
Oslo, Norway — March 8-9
Falun, Sweden — March 14-16 (World Cup Final)

2. Who will make the U.S. Olympic Team?

The U.S. will base its Olympic Team selections off World Cup results and FIS Points standings through the Nove Mesto World Cup stop.

Currently, it is one of eight nations to qualify the maximum quota of 20 Olympians, a sign of progress after the U.S. sent 11 cross-country skiers to the 2010 Olympics.

The quota standings will change over the next two months, and the U.S. won’t necessarily fill every quota spot it receives.

A nation may have no more than 12 Olympians for one gender and four skiers per Olympic event.

The top U.S. women’s cross-country skiers last season were Randall (third in the overall World Cup), Liz Stephen (20th overall), Holly Brooks (35th), Diggins (36th) and Ida Sargent (39th).

The top men last season were Andy Newell (29th overall, fifth sprint), Noah Hoffman (48th overall), Kris Freeman (75th) and Simi Hamilton (91st).

All but Diggins, Sargent and Hoffman were on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

3. Norway’s domination

No nation owns more Olympic cross-country skiing medals than Norway, which has 96 and will likely win its 100th Olympic cross-country medal come February.

The world’s best male and female skiers are both Norwegian — Bjoergen and Petter Northug.

Bjoergen, 33, won three gold medals at the 2010 Olympics. She finished fourth in the 2012-13 World Cup overall standings despite missing the entire Tour de Ski after being hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. She came back to win four golds and one silver at the World Championships.

Bjoergen is three career Olympic medals behind the most decorated female Winter Olympian of all time, retired Soviet cross-country skier Raisa Smetanina, who won 10.

Northug, 27, is the reigning Olympic and world champion in the grueling 50km and the reigning World Cup overall champion. One of his biggest rivals, Swiss Dario Cologna, could miss the rest of 2013 recovering from ankle surgery.

Still, there is concern about Northug. His best finish in three events in a pre-World Cup stop in Norway last week was 10th, and he took 63rd in one race.

Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess a unique U.S. Olympic hopeful

2020 Tour de France standings

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2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

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TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions

Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia win Tour de France for the ages

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A Tour de France that almost didn’t happen ended up among the most exciting in the race’s 117-year history.

Tadej Pogacar, a 21-year-old Slovenian, rode into Paris on Sunday as the first man in more than 60 years to pedal in the yellow jersey for the first time on the final day of a Tour.

Let’s get the achievements out of the way: Pogacar is the first Slovenian to win the Tour, finishing with the other overall leaders behind stage winner Sam Bennett on the Champs-Elysees.

“Even if I would come second or last, it wouldn’t matter, it would be still nice to be here,” Pogacar said. “This is just the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with the words.”

He is the second-youngest winner in race history, after Henri Cornet in 1904. (Cornet won after the first four finishers were disqualified for unspecified cheating. The 19-year-old Frenchman rode 21 miles with a flat tire during the last stage after spectators reportedly threw nails on the road.)

Pogacar is the first man to win a Tour in his debut since Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1983.

And he’s part of a historic one-two for Slovenia, a nation with the population of Houston.

Countryman Primoz Roglic, who wore the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks before ceding it after Saturday’s epic time trial, embraced Pogacar after a tearful defeat Saturday and again during Sunday’s stage.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, who moved from fourth place to third on Saturday, made his first Tour podium in his 10th start, a record according to ProCyclingStats.com. The age range on the Paris gloaming podium — more than 13 years — is reportedly the largest in Tour history.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Three men on a Tour de France podium in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, each for the first time. Hasn’t been done since 2007, arguably the first Tour of a new era.

This Tour feels similarly guard-changing.

It barely got off, delayed two months by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days before the start, France’s prime minister said the virus was “gaining ground” in the nation and announced new “red zones” in the country, including parts of the Tour route.

Testing protocols meant that if any team had two members (cyclists or staff) test positive before the start or on either rest day, the whole team would be thrown out.

It never came to that. Yet the Tour finishes without 2019 champion, Colombian Egan Bernal, who last year became the first South American winner and, at the time, the youngest in more than 100 years.

Bernal abandoned last Wednesday after struggling in the mountains. His standings plummet signaled the end, at least for now, of the Ineos Grenadiers dynasty after five straight Tour titles dating to Chris Froome and the Team Sky days.

Jumbo-Visma became the new dominant team. The leader Roglic was ushered up climbs by several Jumbo men, including Sepp Kuss, the most promising American male cyclist in several years.

What a story Roglic was shaping up to be. A junior champion ski jumper, he was concussed in a training crash on the eve of what would have been his World Cup debut in 2007. Roglic never made it to the World Cup before quitting and taking up cycling years later.

As Roglic recovered from that spill in Planica, Pogacar had his sights on the Rog Ljubljana cycling club about 60 miles east. Little Tadej wanted to follow older brother Tilen into bike racing, but the club didn’t have a bike small enough.

The following spring, they found one. Pogacar was off and pedaling. In 2018, at age 18, he was offered a contract and then signed with UAE Team Emirates, his first World Tour team. The next year, Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Pogacar was initially slated to support another rider, Fabio Aru, for UAE Emirates at this year’s Tour. But his continued ascent propelled him into a team leader role.

Bernal and Roglic entered the Tour as co-favorites. After that, Pogacar was among a group of podium contenders but perhaps with the highest ceiling.

He stayed with the favorites for much of the Tour, save losing 81 seconds on the seventh stage, caught on the wrong end of a split after a crash in front of him.

“I’m not worried,” Pogacar said that day. “We will try another day.”

The next day, actually. He reeled back half of the lost time, putting him within striking distance of Roglic going into Saturday’s 22-mile time trial, the so-called “race of truth.”

Pogacar put in a performance in the time trial that reminded of Greg LeMond‘s epic finale in 1989. Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place. Roglic was a disappointing fifth on the day, but he could have finished second and still lost all of his 57-second lead to Pogacar.

Pogacar turns 22 on Monday, but that might not add much to the celebration.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I’m not really a fan of my birthdays.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

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