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Diggins Wins, Takes Home 19th World Cup Victory; Three Americans in Top 10

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
January, 28 2024
jessie diggins
Jessie Diggins celebrates across the line in the 20k skate. (NordicFocus)

The Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team showcased an impressive performance in Goms, Switzerland, during the final race of the series. Jessie Diggins secured an incredible victory in the 20k skate, with Sophia Laukli and Rosie Brennan rounding out the top 10, finishing fifth and seventh, respectively.

As the picturesque scene unfolded on yet another sunny day in Switzerland, 58 women and 76 men set out on the crunchy cold snow and embarked on a fast-paced four-lap, 5k course from the mass start line.

Eli Brown, a wax technician for the U.S. team, captured the essence of the pre-race conditions, "we had a delightful ski in as the moon set and the sun rose. The mountains are simply beautiful; it's shaping up to be a fantastic day!"

In the women's race, Diggins dominated from the outset. Navigating the challenging course with steep uphills and winding downhills, she led the pack for the majority of the race, jumping from first to third with Germany's Victoria Carl and Sweden's Frida Karlsson; Brennan and Laukli were closely in tow.

Laukli, who was at the back of the pack at the start then faced more adversity after going down in an early crash, but quickly recovered and made her way to the front in seamless fashion, showcasing her ability to navigate a pack of skiers going top speed and to never give up. For Brennan, she maintained her position in the lead pack the entire race. 

"Today's race was hectic and stressful - this course is just so fast," said Brennan. "But, it was awesome to have three of us in the top 10, it really shows that we're coming back into form, and we just have a really strong skate squad, and it's exciting to carry this momentum as we go into the North American World Cups!"

As the athletes approached the final kilometer of the race, with the crowd's cheers echoing through Goms, Diggins put the hammer down in a thrilling neck-and-neck battle with Sweden's Karlsson. Looking back to her team sprint victory at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Diggins once again was in the finishing stretch with a Swedish athlete, in a sprint finish that would decide who was first and second. In the last several hundred meters, "Here Comes Diggins" was ringing true, as Diggins outsprinted Karlsson and crossed the line, hands in the air, for her 19th World Cup victory.

Today, Diggins celebrated her 57th World Cup podium, alongside her teammates and support staff, who had a strong weekend of results across the board. 

"To be honest, I didn't have that much faith in my very top speed, so it was a cool surprise to be able to make my body work the way I wanted it to into the finish," said Diggins post race. "I was really happy to have been able to come out of that final corner, knowing that the last couple kilometers of that race, I had to go as hard as I could. I definitely had flooded legs, it was quite painful. But really, I am just really happy. This weekend was the first series of races since my crash in the Tour that my ribs haven't hurt. My energy was back and it was a relief! It's nice to not be in pain and I was just trying to enjoy it, ski smart and ski hard."

"This result really means a lot," said Laukli. "It’s hard to compare with the Tour de Ski stage win, but I would say this top five in a so-called “regular” World Cup race means more in my overall progression as a skier. It’s hugely motivating to know I can be so close to the top, especially in a mass start race like this. I’m certainly specializing more in skate, but today's race makes me very psyched to see what I can do in the rest of the distance races this year, so basically a huge confidence booster type of day!

In the men's race, it was a similar story, the course was fast, there was little room for movement and the pack stayed intact until the final lap. Leading for the Americans was Alaska's Gus Schumacher. Schumacher skied a tactical race, maintaining a good position within the lead pack and drafting behind the leaders. Notably, Schumacher was on the fourth lap, approaching the second bonus points, he made a move and found himself at the front of the pack, right behind the two leading Norwegians, sitting third. Into the final stretch of the course, Schumacher jumped around, comfortably navigating the technical course, and ultimately crossed the line in 14th, a solid result for the young American.

"My strategy was to try to relax in the pack as long as possible so I could have the energy to move up when it got hard," said Schumacher in post-race comments. "Also, I wanted to ski the downhills well to take places where it was a bit easier. Honestly, I struggled to maintain a good position in the first couple of laps, so that part didn’t go super well, but I had energy when it started to string out and made those said “money moves” into some bonus points on lap three. Right after that, the pace got real and I had to dig to keep skiing. Happy with it! Skis were good and my body was responsive for almost all the race and I’m stoked to be back in distance top 15."

Right alongside Schumacher was another Alaskan, Scott Patterson, who ended the day in 18th, after skiing a very similar race by sticking with the lead pack, making tactical and smart moves at the right times and never getting jostled up around the tight corners.

Now, the team will pack not only their bags, but their ski bags, and head straight to the airport to head back to North America for the North American World Cup tour, including a stop in Canmore and the highly-anticipated Stifel Loppet Cup in Minneapolis, Minnesota.