Four Stage Winners Highlight USA Tour de Ski Team
Four stage winners will highlight athletes named by the U.S. Ski Team to compete in the upcoming Tour de Ski. The Team heads into the seven-stop tour with optimism based on strong early season results with two different athletes on World Cup podiums. The Tour opens Dec. 30 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. All events will be streamed live on OlympicChannel.com and broadcast daily on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA with the finale also on NBCSN.
The grueling seven-stage tour will cover three stops in three nations over a nine-day period before the Sunday, January 7 finale up the towering Alpe Cermis hill climb in Val di Fiemme, Italy. It opens with three races in Lenzerheide, Switzerland kicking off with a freestyle sprint, followed by classic distance racing and a freestyle pursuit. The Tour then swings to Oberstdorf, Germany for a classic sprint plus mass start skate distance. The classic sprint is the final Olympic selection event for athletes to qualify via a top-eight finish. The Tour wraps up in Val di Fiemme with classic distance racing and the hill climb finale.
Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) will be back seeking to better her fifth overall ranking year ago - matching the American mark held by Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.). Stephen will be starting her seventh Tour de Ski - most of any American woman. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), who has two stage wins, will make her fifth start. Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) is looking forward to coming back to Oberstdorf, Germany where she won the classic sprint two years ago.
One dark horse to watch is Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.). Bjornsen is coming off her best start ever with a pair of podiums, starting her fifth Tour.
On the men's side, Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colo.) is looking forward to the return of the freestyle sprint in Lenzerheide, which he won in 2014. After a one year break, Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, Vt.) will make his eighth start. He debuted as the first American in the Tour de Ski in 2010. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.), off to his best World Cup start ever, will make his fourth Tour appearance.
Head Coach Chris Grover is looking forward the Tour with one of the strongest and deepest teams ever. "It's a huge boost to come in with six athletes who have been on Tour de Ski podiums, including four winners," said Grover.
The team is especially stacked in sprint with five women from the top-13 of the World Cup sprint standings including Bjornsen, Diggins, Caldwell, Randall and Ida Sargent (Orleans, Vt.), who is returning for her third Tour after a one year hiatus.
"I’m really happy that I found good race performances in Period 1 which give me confidence that my shape is strong," said Randall, who was on a sprint podium earlier this month. "Now it’s just a matter of staying healthy and getting in good consistent training and hard efforts until the Olympics."
Randall plans to ski the three races in Lenzerheide, before taking a break to train in Davos, Switzerland to prepare for the Dresden, Germany city sprints a week after the Tour.
“The Tour de Ski has been my favorite series of racing in the entire winter,” said Bjornsen, who has her sights set on completing the Tour. “I love the challenge of it, and the perfect balance of racing hard, recovering, traveling, racing hard, recovering, traveling. It takes such a unique skill mentally and physically to take on this beast, and I have loved trying to get better and better at it each year.”
Bjornsen and her teammates are very cognizant that this year’s Tour de Ski falls just a month prior to the Olympics, which is the primary focus. In particular, she has her eyes on the Oberstdorf classic sprint - which teammate Caldwell won two years ago.
"For me, the Tour de Ski is always a great opportunity to get a lot of race starts in," said Diggins. "I’m planning to race the full tour as it always gives me a great fitness boost when I get a solid recovery after the tour ends, and it helps me come into sharper race form for the rest of the season."
"I see the first half of the Tour as a great opportunity to do some racing on two sprint courses I love (Lenzerheide and Oberstdorf) and to also get two distance races in," said Sophie Caldwell, who won the classic sprint in Oberstdorf two years ago. "It's an exciting change to the schedule because usually we are racing once or twice every weekend and this is a week of more intensive racing with a nice break on either end. I hope to be rested, healthy, and skiing fast through the first four stages and then look forward to cheering on my teammates who plan on finishing the tour!"
"I love tour style racing," said Brennan, who is focused on skiing the entire Tour. "It is so fun to challenge the mind and body like that so I am looking forward to the experience. No tour is the same so it's hard to predict what your body will feel any given day, but that is part of the fun, just working with what you have and knowing that everyone is going to be fighting fatigue at some point. Racing so many days often gives my body a big boost in fitness so I hope to have a good rest after the Tour and then use the fitness boost to carry me forward."
"The Tour is a blast because it's go-go-go the whole time," said Sargent. She will ski through the classic sprint in Oberstdorf before taking off to prepare for Dresden. "I also think the new wax truck is going to be a game changer for our team when it comes to an event like the Tour. Having the stable environment that does not require a lot of packing and unpacking will make a huge difference for the wax techs."
"The Tour de Ski is my favorite event of the year," said Stephen. "I feel a giddy excitement creeping in as it gets closer. Climbing Alpe Cermis on the ninth day is a pretty incredible feeling for me. In the past, the Tour de Ski has been the turning point of my season, with each race tuning me up more and more and I always feel like it gets me into the shape I am looking for heading into the Olympics."
The only newcomer to the Tour de Ski this season will be Paddy Caldwell (Lyme, N.H.). "Paddy is in great shape and has been skiing with a lot of poise for a rookie in his first season on the World Cup," added Grover.
Many of the top team athletes are presently training in Seefeld, Austria, site of the 2019 World Championships. Other are scattered across France, Italy and Switzerland with family and friends.
Live streaming of every stage is available on OlympicChannel.com or the Olympic Channel mobile app. Same day broadcast coverage will be featured on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA TV. Live scoring data is available at FIS-Ski.com, including GPS tracking at some distance events.
2018 U.S. SKI TEAM TOUR DE SKI ROSTER
Erik Bjornsen, Winthrop, Wash.
- Fourth Tour de Ski start
- Strong early World Cup season
Paddy Caldwell, Lyme, N.H.
- First time in Tour de Ski
Simi Hamilton, Aspen, Colo.
- Sixth Tour de Ski start
- Won 2014 Lenzerheide freestyle sprint
Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, Vt.
- Eighth Tour de Ski start - most of any American
- Was first American to compete in Tour de Ski in 2010
Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop, Wash.
- Fifth Tour de Ski start
- Finished 14th in 2016 in only Tour finish
- Two classic sprint podiums in early season World Cups
- Presently eighth in World Cup overall standings
Rosie Brennan, Park City, Utah
- Third Tour de Ski start
- Strong early season distance results
Sophie Caldwell, Peru, Vermont
- Fifth Tour de Ski start
- Won Oberstdorf classic sprint in 2016
Jessie Diggins, Afton Minn.
- Sixth Tour de Ski start
- Fifth in 2017 matching best U.S. finish ever; was 10th in 2016
- Two podiums in 2017 Tour including a win
- Won Toblach, Italy 5k freestyle in 2016 and 2017
- Four full Tour finishes
- Standing sixth in FIS World Cup overall
Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK
- Fifth Tour de Ski start (skipped 2014 Tour to prepare for Olympics and 2016 while pregnant)
- Won two stages in 2013 including Oberhof prologue and Val Mustair freestyle sprint
- Finished 10th in 2012
- Three full Tour finishes
Ida Sargent, Orleans, Vt.
- Third Tour de Ski start
Liz Stephen, E. Montpelier, Vt.
- Seventh Tour de Ski start - most of any American woman.
- Has finished all six Tours she has entered - also most of any American athlete
- Holds top U.S. Tour de Ski finish of fifth (2015) as well as a seventh (2014); was 14th in 2017
- Second in Alpe Cermis hill climb in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017
- 5th in Val di Fiemme 10k classic mass start in 2016
2018 TOUR DE SKI SCHEDULE (all times EST)
All events to be streamed on OlympicChannel.com with broadcast coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA TV or NBCSN for many events.
Saturday, December 30
7:00 a.m. - Men’s and women’s freestyle sprint (Olympic Channel TV)
Sunday, December 31
4:30 a.m. - Men's 15k classic (Streaming only)
9:00 a.m. - Women's 10k classic (9:30 a.m. Olympic Channel TV)
Monday, January 1
5:00 a.m. - Women's 10k freestyle pursuit (Olympic Channel TV)
7:00 a.m. - Men's 15k freestyle pursuit (Streaming only)
Wednesday, January 3
8:50 a.m. - Men's and women's classic sprint (12:00 p.m. Olympic Channel TV)
NOTE: Final Olympic selection event to qualify through a top-eight finish
Thursday, January 4
4:00 a.m. - Women’s 10k classic mass start (Olympic Channel TV)
5:00 a.m. - Men’s 15k classic mass start (Streaming only)
VAL DI FIEMME
Saturday, January 6
8:15 a.m. - Women's 10k classic mass start (11:00 a.m. Olympic Channel TV)
9:45 a.m. - Men's 15k classic mass start (Streaming only)
Sunday, January 7
5:30 a.m. - Women’s 9k freestyle pursuit - hill climb (7:30 a.m. NBCSN, 11:00 a.m. Olympic Channel TV)
8:30 a.m. - Men’s 9k freestyle pursuit - hill climb (Streaming only)
USA TOUR DE SKI HISTORY
USA Tour de Ski Stage Winners
Jessie Diggins - 2017 Toblach 5k
Jessie Diggins - 2016 Toblach 5k
Sophie Caldwell - 2016 Oberstdorf classic sprint
Simi Hamilton - 2014 Lenzerheide freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall - 2013 Val Mustair freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall - 2013 Oberhof prologue
USA Tour de Ski Stage Podiums
Jessie Diggins - 1st 2017 Toblach 5k
Sadie Bjornsen - 3rd 2017 Toblach 5k
Jessie Diggins - 2nd 2017 Oberstdorf skiathlon
Jessie Diggins - 1st 2016 Toblach 5k
Sophie Caldwell - 1st 2016 Oberstdorf classic sprint
Simi Hamilton - 1st 2014 Lenzerheide freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall - 1st 2013 Val Mustair freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall - 1st 2013 Oberhof prologue
Kikkan Randall - 2nd 2012 Toblach freestyle sprint
USA Tour de Ski Other Top Three (time of day or scorable race segment)
Liz Stephen - 2nd 2017 Alpe Cermis 9k
Liz Stephen - 2nd 2016 Alpe Cermis 9k
Liz Stephen - 2nd 2014 Alpe Cermis 9k
Noah Hoffman - 1st 2014 Toblach to Cortina to Toblach freestyle leg
Liz Stephen - 2nd 2013 Alpe Cermis 9k