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Diggins Fifth in Lahti Skiathlon

By Tom Horrocks
January, 23 2021
Diggins, Brennan
Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan finished fifth and 11th respectively in Saturday's 15k FIS Cross Country World Cup skiathlon in Lahti, Finland. (Vianney THIBAUT/NordicFocus)

Jessie Diggins finished fifth to lead the Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team in Saturday’s skiathlon as the FIS Cross Country World Cup circuit resumed in Lahti, Finland.

Norway swept the top three in the women’s 15k race which featured 7.5k of classic, and 7.5k of freestyle with Therese Johaug earning her fourth World Cup victory of the season by 28 seconds over Helene Marie Fossesholm, who took a four-up sprint to the line for second, with Heidi Weng crossing in third. Sweden’s Ebba Andersson was fourth, just ahead of Diggins in fifth. Rosie Brennan was 11th and moved up to second in the overall World Cup standings behind Diggins.

“Today I dared greatly and tried to stay with Johaug for as long as I could in the classic half, and that was definitely my best classic effort on the World Cup so far!” Diggins said. “In the skate half I had to keep adjusting my strategy, but I was proud of myself for giving it my all and doing the best I had. In the end, you can only control your own race effort and I was proud of that.”

In the men’s 30k, Gus Schumacher led the way for the U.S. Team, finishing 18th in his first World Cup skiathlon. Scott Patterson posted an impressive result in 21st - his best World Cup result so far this season. David Norris was 32nd in his first World Cup race of the season, while Adam Martin was 45th and Hunter Wonders was 46th in his first career World Cup race. Norway also swept the men’s podium, with Emil Iverson taking the victory, followed by Sjur Roethe in second and Paal Goldberg in third. 

"It was nice to have a good one today after wanting a little more throughout the Tour de Ski," Scott Patterson said. "I was looking forward to today as one of the relatively few opportunities where we got to race more than 15k. The classic portion felt fairly chaotic and fast, but I was feeling quite good for the skate. I’m a little regretful that our pack couldn’t work together slightly better and pull up a few more places, but overall I am quite happy with today and looking forward to more fast racing in the weeks to come."

Sophia Laukli made her World Cup debut and finished an impressive 33rd. Her father Bjorn, grew up in Norway and she has dual citizenship and has been spending the past few weeks living, training, and racing in Norway while taking classes online for her sophomore year at Vermont’s Middlebury College.

“It was a lot of fun, pretty chaotic first race to have for sure,” said Laukli, who finished 13th in the skiathlon at the Norweigan National Championships last week. “I felt pretty good though!”

Chaotic indeed! Just two minutes into the race, Laukli avoided a pile-up on a fast downhill left-hand corner that scattered almost half the field. Unfortunately, her teammates were not as fortunate as Caitlin Patterson, Julia Kern, and Alayna Sonnesyn were all caught up in the melee. Patterson finished 37th, Kern was 40th and Sonnesyn was 43rd.

For Diggins, Brennan, Kern, Schumacher, and Scott Patterson, Saturday’s race was the first since the Tour de Ski ended on Jan. 10. Following the Tour de Ski, members of the Davis U.S. Cross Country Team retreated to Seiser Alm, Italy, for 10 days of rest and recovery. Jumping back into racing, the athletes are always left to wonder how their body will respond to race pace efforts. 

“It's always hard to know how the body is going to bounce back from an event like the Tour de Ski,” Brennan said. “As a result, I decided to start controlled and then see what I had when I switched to skating. I felt much stronger in classic than I have all season and as a result, maybe should have been more aggressive in the classic leg, but hindsight is always 20/20. After the transition to skate, my muscles struggled a bit, but I found better movements and strength as the skate portion went on. There wasn't much space to move in the skate portion and I feel I missed some moves that I shouldn't have but had a strong final climb to move up a bit.”

Up next, the women race a 4x5k relay for the women with Brennan, Diggins, Laukli, and Caitlin Patterson, and a 4x7.5k relay for the men with Norris, Schumacher, Scott Patterson, and Wonders representing the USA.

Women’s 15k skiathlon
Men’s 30k skiathlon

Women’s World Cup overall
Women’s World Cup distance
Men’s World Cup overall
Men’s World Cup distance

All times EST
Sunday, Jan. 24
3:30 a.m. FIS Cross-Country World Cup Women's 4x5km Relay - LIVE, Lahti, FIN, Streaming Peacock
4:30 a.m. FIS Cross-Country World Cup Men's 4x5km Relay - LIVE, Lahti, FIN, Streaming Peacock