Crashes Mar Tour de Ski Stage 5
Crashes took their toll during stage five of the Tour de Ski in Oberstdorf Thursday, a day after mother nature threw her wrath over the region with a massive lightning storm that canceled the classic sprint. In the women’s 10k freestyle mass start, Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) and Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) both skied at the head of the pack early in the race before each of them lost ground in crashes.
Norway's Ingvild Flugstad Østberg extended her Tour de Ski lead. Norway's Imil Iversen won the men's 15k with Tour leader Dario Cologna of Switzerland fourth.
Diggins saw her hopes for a podium finish dashed in the final 200 meters, crashing into the sideboards and finishing 24th. Bjornsen was 26th with Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.) 28th in the women’s 10k freestyle mass start. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) led the men in 32nd.
Despite being well back in the stage, both Diggins and Bjornsen remained in strong position for top Tour finishes. Diggins is third and Bjornsen seventh in the Tour de Ski overall rankings heading into the final two stages in Val di Fiemme, Italy this weekend.
Wednesday’s severe weather wreaked havoc with the course, felling trees and blowing course bannering away forcing organizers to make changes to the planned course for the mass start events. The new course was essentially the women's sprint course plus an additional 800 meters. It featured very little vertical, which kept virtually the entire field packed together from start to finish and allowed very little opportunity for passing.
Diggins and Bjornsen skied at the front of the lead pack most of the first half of the race, taking turns in the race lead, before Bjornsen fell on the uphill into a sprint prime on the third lap, dropping back just past the midway mark. Diggins remained in the hunt and was in good striking position coming into the finish before she crashed into the sideboards less than 175 meters from the line, dropping from a top position back to 24th in the blink of an eye, losing around 15 seconds.
“I got into great position to sprint for the bonus seconds,” said Diggins. “Unfortunately, I hit ice and crashed hard into the boards, spinning around and losing quite a bit of time and places. But that happens sometimes in racing and I shook it off already!”
Diggins showed little frustration and kept her focus looking forward. “Fortunately I had great skis and did the best I could today,” she said. “I have a lot of energy left to fight as hard as I can in these last two stages.”
“Another interesting day in Oberstdorf,” said Bjornsen. ”With the salted course, it kept people pretty tight together and was a challenging day to get an edge into the snow. The highlight of the day was controlling lap two alongside Jessie.”
That highlight was dashed a lap later for Bjornsen with her crash. “In the four seconds on the ground, I managed to get passed by 20 people, and then struggled to fight my way back up,” she said. I was pretty bummed, but then again, it’s tour skiing. You can’t think about a race more than 10 minutes after it’s over or you waste energy for the next.”
The Tour now heads to Italy for a pair of races that will decide the Tour de Ski. Saturday it’s back to mass starts, this time classic technique. Then Sunday is the final freestyle pursuit featuring the 9k climb up Alpe Cermis.
Diggins is poised for a potential podium finish while Bjornsen is fighting for a top 10. All eyes will also be on Stephen who is a master on the Alpe de Cermis climb.