Diggins Fourth in 30k, Wraps up Overall, Distance World Cup Titles
Jessie Diggins made history Sunday, becoming only the second American to win the FIS Cross Country overall World Cup Crystal Globe, and the first American woman to win the title. But in her true “deep into the pain cave” gritty fashion, she also secured the distance discipline World Cup Crystal Globe following her fourth-place finish in the 30k freestyle pursuit in the final race of the season.
"I knew the (World Cup) distance globe was definitely up in the air going into this weekend," Diggins said, "and I knew I was going to have to fight really really hard to keep it. I cross the finish line Saturday and Sunday with nothing left which is always the goal for me."
Sunday’s race provided a unique opportunity with a 30k rolling downhill point-to-point race that followed mainly along the profile of the prestigious Engadin Skimarathon route. The women started in St. Moritz, Switzerland, finishing in the small town of S-Chanf, Switzerland. Saturday’s 10k classic winner Yulia Stupak of Russia started first in the pursuit format, with Diggins starting fifth, at 21 seconds back.
The lead pack formed quickly with Stupak, Diggins, Norway’s Heidi Weng, Sweden’s Ebba Andersson, and Germany’s Laura Gimmler. However, Gimler fell off the lead pace on the first sustained climb. Meanwhile, Rosie Brennan, who was fourth in the overall World Cup and distance standing heading into Sunday’s finalé pushed the pace to catch the chase group about a minute back of the leaders.
“I started hard to try to bridge up to a pack in front knowing that the flats would be easier in a pack,” Brennan said. “We were treated to a wicked headwind and fresh snow, making for some very challenging conditions.”
Diggins, Stupak, Andersson, and Weng continued to push the pace, with Andersson putting in a dig at 2.3k to go. Her effort was countered by Weng who was able to build a small advantage with less than 2k to go over the top of the final climb. Only Andersson was able to keep close contact as Diggins and Stupak were left to fight it out for the remaining podium spot in the final kilometer.
Weng took the victory, her 23rd career World Cup win, with Andersson second. Diggins and Stupak played cat and mouse in the final kilometer with Diggins getting the initial jump, but Stupak was able to come around her for the final podium spot. However, with her fourth-place finish, Diggins secured the World Cup distance title by 13 points ahead of Andersson.
Brennan finished 12th to wrap up her most successful season ever, finishing fourth in the overall World Cup standings and fourth in the distance standings. “Last year, I was 15th (overall) and that was my best ranking to date, so to have moved up to fourth is a massive improvement and shows some of the big steps I made this season,” Brennan said. “It's incredibly challenging to put together a perfect season when you pack your bag in November and live out of a suitcase for four to five months. I have incredible respect for how Jessie did that this year and am inspired to keep trying to put together good races throughout the whole season.”
Katharine Ogden wrapped up her season, finishing 33rd Sunday, while Sophia Laukli finished 39th to finish a stellar season that saw her competing in her first World Cup races and the 2021 World Championships. Julia Kern was 41st and Hailey Swirbul was 53rd.
For Diggins, the World Cup Crystal Globes are icing on the cake for a season in which the entire Davis U.S. Cross Country Team endured numerous challenges. But their perseverance led to six World Cup victories, 13 World Cup podiums, and countless personal and career-best performances.
"It was really really nice to finish this season of my wildest dreams and it happened because of the team," Diggins said. "We have so much incredible support behind the scenes. We have people back in the States, and an amazing crew over here. Through the four months that we were over here we really just held tight together as a team and took care of one another and had a great atmosphere. Everyone worked so hard and put their heart and soul into this, and I couldn't be more grateful. The chance to race at all is amazing, but the chance to have a season like this, with a team like this is just incredible. I couldn't be more thankful to be part of this team and get to celebrate this thing that we've achieved together."
In the men’s 50k race, three Americans finished in the top 30 with Gus Schumacher skiing in the front group and battling to a 20th-place finish to wrap up his first full season competing on the World Cup Tour. Scott Patterson was 25th, David Norris was 26th. Ben Ogden was 51st, Hunter Wonders 53rd, Kevin Bolger 67th, and Johnny Hagenbuch was 69th in his first World Cup weekend of racing.
“So nice to end on a positive note,” said Schumacher, who finished the season ranked 30th in the overall World Cup standings, and 25th in the World Cup distance standings. “I worked hard with the U.S. boys at the beginning to catch the main pack, and then skied easy in that big group until about halfway, and then was basically covering attacks for the rest of the race.”
Norway took the top two spots with Simen Krueger and Christer Holund going 1-2. Sweden’s Jens Burman was third, and Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov finished sixth to wrap up the overall World Cup title, and the World Cup distance title.
Just making it to the finish line for Diggins and her Davis U.S. Cross Country Team teammates was a victory in and of itself following a chaotic season completed in the shadow of a worldwide pandemic. Five World Cup events were canceled this season during the pandemic, while others were rescheduled.
“A real highlight for me is that our women's team finished second in the nation's cup!” Brennan said. “That shows the depth we are building and momentum we have behind us right now, not to mention the resiliency we all showed navigating one of the more stressful and uncertain seasons I have ever experienced.”