Petter Northug of Norway won his fourth World Cup race Friday, winning the men's freestyle race at the Sochi Olympic cross-country course, while Canadian Devon Kershaw was eighth.

"Today was a step in the right direction and I am happy with it, but I still can't seem to react to that big pace change which has traditionally been my strength," Kershaw said. "This has been a great dress rehearsal for us. It is another World Cup, but the whole vibe is at a different level. Everyone is very diligent because the next time we are here it is the big show."

 Len Valjas of Toronto came in 20th.

Kikkan Randall of the United States won the women's 1.4-kilometre heats to claim her fourth top podium of the season.

Northug won in 3 minutes, 54.18 seconds on a 1.8-kilometre course in the mountains north of the Black sea coast. Dario LCologna of Switzerland was 0.57 seconds behind for second and David Hoffer of Italy was third.

Kikkan won in 2:43.28. Aurore Jean of France was 0.52 seconds behind for second and Celine Brun-Lie of Norway was a further 0.14 behind for third.

Daria Gaiazova of Banff, Alta., was 12th, with Perianne Jones of Almonte, Ont., finishing 18th.

Overall World Cup leader Alexander Legkov of Russia skipped the event, while women's leader Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland failed to qualify.

With files from