Jessie Diggins finished eighth in Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski, a mass start 5k classic event Sunday in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Getty Images-Nils Petter Nilsson)
VAL MUSTAIR, Switzerland (Jan. 1, 2016) - Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) welcomed in the new year with a strong classic stage in the Tour de Ski, finishing eighth in a 5k classic mass start at Val Mustair. She retained her sixth place standing in the Tour through two events.
Jessie Diggins skied to an eighth place finish in Sunday’s 5k mass start classic race in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Getty Images/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)
Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Westberg took a seven-second victory over teammate Heidi Weng, and with it the overall Tour lead. Russian Sergey Ustiugov took his second straight win for the men in Sunday’s 10k classic mass start.
Diggins’ finish was among her best ever in a classic event. She started out skiing with teammate Sadie Bjornsen (Anchorage, AK) before Bjornsen dropped back midway through the race. Diggins dropped out of the top-10 for a while in a tightly packed field, before coming back to finish strong.
“Today was a solid day for me,” said Diggins. “It was tricky to pace. If I could do it again, I would have paced it slightly differently. But I was happy with my skis and I'm chipping away at that striding technique! Overall I think I'm in a solid place for the Tour and I'm really looking forward to the next set of races!”
It was also another good race day for Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) who finished 19th - a strong classic finish for Randall, who is returning after a year off from the circuit.
“I was happy with another strong race today,” said Randall. “My shape feels a lot better and sharper than it did in period one of the World Cup.”
Randall was aided by a good start position as a result of her finish in the opening sprint on Saturday. A fall midway in the race cost her a few places but she felt strong the entire race. “My skis were great today,” she added. “The tracks were firm and fast and kick was easy - my favorite type of classic skiing! The course actually skied quite well at race pace, I really enjoyed the technical turns and the flow of the terrain.”
Randall was also thrilled at the effort the organizing committee undertook to provide a baby room for all the mothers on the Tour with diapers, a changing table and toys, plus gifts for all the mothers. “The organizers did an amazing job with this race including a nice baby room where my mom would use with Breck,” said Randall. “It’s really neat to see the organizers supporting the mothers!”
Sadie Bjornsen was 35th in Sunday’s stage 2 of the Tour de Ski in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Getty Images/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)
One of the keys to the race was a sprint bonus just three minutes into the race. Diggins, Randall, Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) all had great starts with Diggins and Bjornsen skiing very aggressively to get through the bonus point mark in seventh and eighth after a strong first climb. The race format – short, meandering, fast and narrow – made it exciting for the crowd but challenging if you didn’t have a good start position from the opening day sprint.
“I could watch this race over and over,” said Women's Coach Matt Whitcomb, who was especially gratified with Randall’s continuing progress and charging hard even after a crash. “Seeing an athlete make a breakthrough is very fulfilling.”
Whitcomb is looking for more good things in the Tour. “The great thing about the Tour is that there are so many opportunities to move up and we are all positioned for success. The bottom lien is that we’re having a great time as a team and that’s when we do well.”
Per the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team’s Tour plan, Caldwell and Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) will now drop from the tour to prepare for OPA races in Planica, Slovenia next week. They will train in Toblach, Italy and will be joined by Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) and Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT).
With two of seven stages in the books, the Tour de Ski has a travel day Monday before racing again Tuesday in Oberstdorf with a skiathlon combining both classic and freestyle technique. Diggins is seeking to best her 10th place Tour de Ski finish from a year ago. Her eyes are squarely focused on Wednesday’s 10k freestyle pursuit and the 5k freestyle Friday in Toblach, Italy, which she won a year ago.
Sunday’s races will be broadcast on Universal HD at 6:30 p.m. EST for the men and 7:30 p.m. EST for women.
Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) had a strong classic finish Sunday, taking eight in a 5k classic mass start in the Tour de Ski at Val Mustair, Switzerland
Diggins is now sixth in the Tour de Ski after two of seven stages
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) was 19th - a strong classic finish in her comeback after a year away
Erik Bjornsen (Anchorage) led the U.S. men in 42nd
The Tour now takes a one-day break before resuming Tuesday in Oberstdorf, Germany