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Bjornsen, Diggins Lead in Ruka Finale

By Tom Kelly
November, 26 2017
Sadie Bjornsen skied to 10th in the Ruka Nordic Opener pursuit Sunday. (Getty Images)

RUKA, Finland (Nov. 26, 2017) - It was a strong opening weekend for the U.S. Ski Team in the Ruka Nordic Opener. In the freestyle portion of the pursuit Sunday, Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) was 10th with Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) 12th. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla won for the women with Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo took his third straight win of the weekend for the men.

The pursuit combines Saturday’s 15k classic for men and 10k for women in similar freestyle distances Sunday with the start seeded based on the classic results. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) had the eighth fastest time of the day. Bjornsen ended the weekend 10th in the overall World Cup standings buoyed by her second in the opening sprint Friday.

In the first skate race of season, Bjornsen and Diggins were both strong. Digging had the 10th fastest time of the day with Bjornsen 11th fastest.
“Today was a good race for me. I always work into the season and was carrying a pretty high load of training into the last week, so overall I’m really happy with how the season opener went!,” said Diggins. “For me the best part of the season has been seeing how well the team is working together - everyone is in great spirits and as a team we’re incredibly cohesive, and that positive energy really works for us!”

Bjornsen had her best opening weekend ever showing strength in both classic and freestyle on tough courses in Ruka.
“Today was another fun and tough day of racing here to complete the tour,” added Bjornsen. “It was nice to have skate skis under my feet after two really challenging classic days! Ruka is what I consider one of the toughest race courses on the circuit. It is just wall after wall (steep climb after steep climb), and you never seem to get a break.”

Randall ended up 25th in the pursuit with Rosie Brennan (Park City, Utah) also in the points at 28th.

Head Coach Chris Grover was also pleased with the performance of the men, led by Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) who finished 26th. “This was a great opening World Cup Tour for Erik and we got to see his versatility, skiing equally strong in both skate and classic, sprint and distance, as well as his improved fitness,” said Grover. “Erik has been in outstanding shape all prep season and it is showing already on the World Cup.”

Scott Patterson (Anchorage), Paddy Caldwell (Lyme, N.H.) and Noah Hoffman (Aspen, Colo.) all moved up in the freestyle half of the pursuit. Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colo.) did not start due to illness. 

Next weekend the team heads to Lillehammer, Norway for another classic sprint plus a 15k/10k classic

Men’s 15k freestyle pursuit

Women’s 10k freestyle pursuit