Sweden's Stina Nilsson (2) leads Jessie Diggins (5) and the women’s field in stage six of the Tour de Ski Saturday in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Getty Images/AFP-Giuseppe Cacace)
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Jan. 7, 2017) - After six of seven stages, the Tour de Ski is heading into its final hour with Sunday’s hill climb finale. American Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) is poised to record her best Tour, finishing eighth in Saturday’s 10k classic mass start in Val di Fiemme to remain solidly entrenched in fifth in the Tour standings. Sweden’s Stina Nilsson came back after losing the Tour lead Friday to win and regain the top spot.
It was a bittersweet day for the USA with Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) waking up sick and having to withdraw from the Tour. It came just a day after a brilliant career-first individual podium alongside race winner Diggins in the Toblach 5k freestyle.
In Saturday's race, Diggins maintained strong contact within the lead group the entire race, moving up and down the rankings but always staying within the time range to protect her fifth place overall Tour standing. Finland’s Krista Parmakoski, who Diggins had been chasing in fourth, made a big move up to third in the Tour while Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Westberg dropped back considerably in time to fourth. Diggins is just 23 seconds behind Oestberg, and has more than a minute margin back to sixth.
“I had good skis and one of my better 10k classics today,” Diggins said. “It was really fun to to so close to the leaders for almost the entire race, and a great confidence booster in my classic skiing. All those drills and technique work in the summer are starting to pay off! We’re all pumped to kick off one last hard race and finish strong in the Tour.”
Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT), moved up from 21st to 19th and is poised for a strong finish on Alpe Cermis where she has finished second in the past.
“I am really excited for tomorrow,” said Stephen, who was fifth overall on the Tour de Ski two years ago - the best American finish ever and the mark Diggins is seeking. “I look forward to this race all year and so bring it on. My goal is to go out and catch as many people as I can, but also have the winning time of day split. It's been my goal since the first year I watched the tour, so I'm hoping to be able to put together a really strong race tomorrow.”
Per pre-Tour plan, Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) retired from the Tour after Friday's 5k to rest in preparation for next weekend's freestyle sprint in Toblach.
Universal HD will carry same day coverage Saturday evening with women at 6:30 p.m. and men at 7:30 p.m. EST. Sunday's hill climb will also be streamed live on NBC Sports with women starting at 5:30 a.m. EST for women and 9:30 a.m. EST for men.
Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) was eighth in the Tour de Ski 10k classic mass start in Val di Fiemme to hold her fifth place standing going into the hill climb finale Sunday.
Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) awoke sick and was forced to retire from the Tour while running in the top 10.
Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) moved up from 21st to 19th and will be among favorites in the hill climb pursuit Sunday.