Jessie Diggins finished fifth in Wednesday’s 10k pursuit to maintain her fifth place overall standing through four stages of the 2017 Tour de Ski. (Getty Images Nils Petter Nilsson)
OBERSTDORF, Germany (Jan. 4, 2017) - Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) skied a lonely race, but held onto her fifth place Tour de Ski overall standing in a 10k freestyle pursuit Wednesday in Oberstdorf. Sweden’s Stina Nilsson played a cat and mouse game with Norway’s Heidi Weng and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg to eventually take the win.
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov took a 37-second victory in the men’s 15k pursuit over Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby. Ustiugov leads the overall Tour de Ski standings through four of seven stages. Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) is the top American in 37th overall following his 37th-place pursuit finish.
Jessie Diggins skied to a fifth-place finish in Wednesday’s 10k pursuit. (Getty Images Nils Petter Nilsson)
Nilsson maintained the early lead in a tightly packed group at the start, but ceded the position by the midway mark as the three skied casually at times before a torrid sprint to the finish won by Nilsson. Both Parmakoski and Diggins were in time gaps where there was little direct visual contact.
“Today wasn’t a great day for me, but that’s why it’s a stop on the tour - you keep going and you never know when it’s going to be your day,” said Diggins. “I skied completely alone the entire race and with the gusts of wind it would have been a good day to be able to team up and work together with other skiers, but that’s just how it is sometimes.”
Diggins started the day 51 seconds behind the leader Nilsson and 12 seconds back from Finland’s Krista Parmakoski. She’s now one minute, five seconds behind Parmakoski and after changes in the rankings behind her, has a 48-second margin ahead of Germany’s Nicole Fessel who is sixth.
“This wasn’t a great one. It is a little harder to race solo vs. in a pack – a pretty lonely race for Jessie,” said coach Jason Cork. “I also think we missed a little something on her skis. But we have a rest day tomorrow and the course at Toblach is a favorite of hers. The weather is cold and that’s something she thrives in.”
One of the most impressive finishes of the day came from Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), who skied up from 19th to finish 10th. Sadie Bjornsen dropped one spot from 11th to 12th while Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) moved up from 35th to 28th.
Athletes compete during the 10k pursuit, the fourth stage of the Tour de Ski in Oberstdorf, southern Germany Wednesday. (Getty Images/AFP-Christof Stache)
Randall was in a large group and made a move with around two kilometers to go, making strategic passes to move up considerably in the field.
“Today was another solid race for me,” said Randall. “I was able to catch up to a few skiers ahead of me right away on the first lap and we worked together to gradually reel in a few more skiers on the final lap. I had good energy in the final climb and got to the front of our train.”
After a somewhat slow early comeback in December, Randall has started to show more of her championship form since the start of the Tour de Ski. “It's been really good to test myself over a variety of formats and the back-to-back racing is helping me sharpen my race form and my confidence,” she said. “Plus my teammates have been skiing really strong which is so motivating for me.”
Randall plans to race the 5k freestyle in Toblach on Friday, but is undecided if she will finish out the Tour in Val di Fiemme. She is also eyeing the freestyle sprint and team sprint a week later in Toblach. She and coaches will make a determination going into this weekend.
The Americans are now all well situated for stage five in Tolach, Italy on Friday with a 5k freestyle individual start. Diggins, Randall and Bjornsen should all be strong. Diggins won the 5k at the Tour de Ski last year.
NBC Sports will carry same day coverage of the Tour de Ski on Universal HD Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. for the women’s 10k and 5:00 p.m. EST for the men’s 15k.