Randall climbs one spot to 7th in Tour de Ski

Beth Bragg

It's five down and two to go in the grueling Tour de Ski, and Anchorage's Kikkan Randall remained right in the mix Friday with a seventh-place showing in a 3-kilometer classic race in Toblach, Italy.

Tour leader Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland won for the third time to keep her grip on the overall lead.

Randall, who has two Tour victories, moved up a spot in the overall standings to seventh place and is a tantalizing 33 seconds out of third place and a spot on the podium.

The Tour is a demanding international race series -- nine days, seven races, three countries -- that now heads to Val di Fiemme, Italy, for the final two races.

There's a mass-start classic race Saturday, followed by Sunday's punishing finale, a 9-kilometer climb up Val di Fiemme's Alpe Cermis, an alpine ski hill.

"I'm pretty happy with today's result. Classic races can go either way for me," Randall said in an email. "I was happy to feel strong and have good skis today and keep my position in the overall.

"(My) body felt good, better than yesterday. I am hoping to feel as strong tomorrow."

Kowalczyk topped the 3-K race in 10 minutes, 8.1 seconds. Randall clocked 10:32.3.

The rest of the Americans were farther back -- Jessie Diggins of Afton, Minn., was 32nd (10:53.7), Holly Brooks of Anchorage was 38th (11:01.8) and Liz Stephen of E. Montpelier, Vt., was 45th (11:12.3.).

Kowalczyk leads the overall Tour standings with a five-race total time of 1 hour, 22 minutes, 1.2 seconds. Randall ranks seventh in 1:23:39.7, just 32.6 seconds away from third place.

Russia's Alexey Poltoranin won the men's 5-K Friday in 12:37.9, while Norway's Petter Northug placed second and held onto his lead in the overall standings.

The top American in the men's race was Andy Newell of Shaftsbury, Vt. (44th in 13:38.6). Kris Freeman of Andover, N.H., placed 61st in the 5-K but remains the top American in the overall standings in 48th place.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.