Diggins Gets to Podium in Tour de Ski Pursuit
Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) skied a lonely race but held her position to take her first World Cup podium of the season to celebrate the New Year in Lenzerheide, Switzerland Monday. Diggins started third in the 10k freestyle pursuit and held her spot, remaining third after stage three of seven in the Tour. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) dropped from fourth to fifth as Norway's Ingvild Flugstad Østberg retained her lead.
Swiss hero Dario Cologna took the win in the men's 15k freestyle with Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) continuing to perform well, finishing 22nd.
While Diggins has been having a strong season both on the World Cup and in the Tour de Ski, a podium has eluded her in the opening five weeks of the season. “I’ve been really patient this year and believed in my plan,” she said. “In this Tour I’ve finally been feeling those sharper race feelings again! Which is so much fun!”
Diggins went into the start a minute five seconds behind Østberg and more than 30 seconds from Heidi Weng. So closing the gap would be tough. “Today my plan was to go out hard and ski a gutsy race, and try to put some time into the girls behind me,” said Diggins. “It’s sometimes hard to be skiing alone but I actually loved it because I could just put my head down, hammer, and do my thing!”
Bjornsen admitted it was a bit terrifying to start fourth. “It was my goal to try to catch Jessie, and ski with her, but I knew I needed to get it done in the first kilometer, because she was going to be on a mission,” she said. “I got darned close, but not quite close enough.”
Like Diggins, Bjornsen recognized that she would end up skiing alone. “I could tell right away I was going to be on a solo mission, and needed to really push hard to stay ahead of the group working together behind me,” she said. “I managed to stay ahead until literally the last downhill, and got passed by Krista, so lost one place, but I left the day pretty satisfied. It required digging deep those last kilometers. I was feeling pretty good for the first lap, but started to really burn for the last two.”
In the Tour de Ski rankings, Diggins is third, Sadie Bjornsen fifth and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) 18th. Erik Bjornsen is 22nd. "The vibe is pretty amazing among our team right now," said Bjornsen. "To have a podium every day of the Tour is pretty exciting!"
“It’s really fun to be in podium position right now in the tour,” said Diggins. "But my plan, as always, is to just take it one day at a time and focus on each stage separately. If I can give my best effort each day, hopefully it all adds up well."
An ongoing factor for the U.S. Ski Team has been ski preparation. "I was really proud of our wax tech team because the past two races have been extremely tricky waxing conditions with varying snow all over the course," said Diggins. "It was hard to pick skis but my technician (Jason) Cork was so calm and collected and got me through the pre-race testing."
The Tour now takes a short one-day break with athletes traveling to Oberstdorf, Germany for a classic sprint on Wednesday. “I’m really looking forward to a day off, and then some classic sprinting,” said Bjornsen.
The present plan is for all remaining U.S. athletes to start in Oberstdorf, with some dropping out after the two days and heading to a training camp in Ramsau, Austria. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), who started Saturday, did withdraw before Sunday's classic race to continue to rest a sore foot.