Diggins Earns Another Early-Season Victory
Jessie Diggins (Stratton, Vt.) and Kyle Bratrud (Eden Prairie, Minn.) kicked off the Winter Games NZ cross country events with individual freestyle victories Tuesday.
“We are pleased with our start to this three-day series”, said U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Matt Whitcomb. “We had great weather, and the venue setup was fit for a major championship. While the fields are quite small this time of year in the Southern Hemisphere, the event was very competitive, and the OC made it feel like a World Cup.”
In the two-lap 5k women’s race, Caitlin Patterson (Anchorage, Alaska) and Sophie Caldwell (Stratton, Vt.) started aggressively and lead the race by seven seconds through three kilometers over Diggins. However, Diggins was able to use her come-from-behind strength to win the event by 10 seconds.
“The New Zealand Winter Games are a huge opportunity to get back into racing mode and test out all the technique work we’ve been putting in so far,” said Diggins. “I’m so grateful to the Snow Farm and race organizers for keeping such a fun, hard, and fast race alive! I forgot how much it can hurt to go so hard for 5k, but it was fun to really get that lung burn back for the first time since last winter.”
“I was really happy with how today went and felt better than I thought," said Caldwell, who finished second. "I think these races are a great opportunity to figure out what we want to fine tune in the next couple months before the (World Cup) season begins.”
In the four-lap 10k men’s race, Bratrud bested the field, despite starting very controlled. After five kilometers, there were still four guys within 13 seconds. But Bratrud was able to gradually pick up the pace and ended up winning by 21 seconds over Japan's Kaiche Naruse.
The New Zealand Winter Games is an international multi-sport event held every two years in New Zealand. The event is organized by the Winter Games New Zealand Trust.