Diggins Leads the Pack in Toblach Finale
It was all about Norway in the finale of the pursuit weekend in Toblach, Italy. Norway's Marit Bjoergen lead a five place sweep in the women's 10k classic pursuit. Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) was leader of the chase pack, finishing seventh. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) ended up ninth.
Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) led the U.S. men in 26th as Norway's World Cup leader Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo was back on track with another win.
In the pursuit format, athletes went out onto the course based on their times from the freestyle race on Saturday. It only took a kilometer before both a lead and a chase pack formed. Sweden's Charlotte Kalla, who won the 10k freestyle a day earlier, held a precarious eight second lead until just before the mid point when the Norwegian train rolled on by. The six stayed together most of the way building a 40 second margin over Diggins' chase group.
While the chase that came together was formidable, it was impossible to close the gap. Both Diggins and Bjornsen held their own within their pack.
“Pursuit races are pretty fun - I love being in the hunt,” said Diggins. “I had an awesome pack of girls to ski with and everyone took turns pulling at the front so we were moving along at a good pace. I just love that feeling when everyone is still racing each other, but also working hard and taking their turn so that the pack is ripping along the course! The race felt like it flew by.”
Diggins initially tried to bridge up to Norway’s Ingvild Oestberg. “She had an awesome and impressive race so when I realized we wouldn’t be able to bridge the gap, I was still skiing really hard but also preparing mentally for the final sprint-out. Which came as predicted - the final 2km felt like an all-out sprint.”
“Great skis out there today, and super fun to ski with Jessie,” said Bjornsen. “I think we have some similar strengths, and also some opposite strengths, so we can almost work together both physically and mentally.”
"All the racing from Period 1 started is catching up with me," said Brennan. "I hung tough and managed to salvage a decent result. I am very happy with all of my Period 1 racing. It's always the hardest period so to have some strong results in all disciplines gives me an immense amount of confidence for the rest of the season."
The finishes left Diggins and Bjornsen seventh and ninth in the overall World Cup standings to close out Period 1 of the World Cup.
“I can feel my brain needs some rest right now,” added Bjornsen. “Period 1 is an intense block, with a lot of travel, and a lot of excitement for me. I felt today that my mind and body were digging deep down for the final fumes in the tank so I’m excited for some holiday time.”
The team will now take a holiday break with athletes heading to different spots in Europe from Italy to Seefeld to Meribel and more, before reconvening for the Tour de Ski that starts in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on Dec. 30 with a freestyle sprint. This year's edition of the Tour will feature seven stages in three resorts - Lenzerheide, Oberstorf, Germany and Val di Fiemme, Italy.