Maubet Bjornsen Third in Opening World Cup Sprint
Sadie Maubet Bjornsen kicked off the 2019-20 FIS Cross Country World Cup with a third-place photo-finish in the classic sprint opener Friday in Ruka, Finland.
“It has been an interesting fall battling through some frustrating tendinitis in my feet that didn't allow me to run or ski a whole lot for three months, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect coming into this season,” Sadie said. “I knew I had strengthened my brain, but it is hard to know what to expect when you are doing less than ideal training to try to survive. I also have a new wax technician, so I was excited to see what we could put together in our short 10 days of working together. But all the stars aligned, and I had an incredible day!”
“The first World Cup podium of the season for the team is a very special feeling," said U.S. Ski & Snowboard Head Women's Cross Country Coach Matt Whitcomb. "While a podium is something to celebrate, how she got there is what made it so enjoyable. Sadie got tangled on the corner that historically causes trouble, as the hard left at the top of a four-tracked climb causes a rush for the inside. We’ve been on the bottom of the pile-up before, and while today was more of a traffic jam, it was enough for the leaders to getaway. The fight required of Sadie, to ski her way back to the podium, is really the gift she has as a racer. She was locked in on that last climb—determined not to let that tangle define her day—and that made the difference. Sadie doesn’t quit.”
Sadie led four Davis U.S. Cross Country National Team Program athletes into the heats, qualifying second. Sophie Caldwell qualified fourth, followed by Jessie Diggins in 12th and Rosie Brennan in 29th.
“I had a great qualifier, which gave me some confidence going into the heats,” Sadie said. “I also was just having a ton of fun out there. I love this course and love that it is absolute work from the halfway point back. I think that suits my strength, so I was ready to believe in that.”
In the quarterfinals, Sadie took the win in the opening heat, as Sophie finished second in the second heat. In the fourth heat, Jessie and Rosie were fourth and fifth respectively, with Jessie just missing the Lucky Loser slot by 0.11 seconds. In the semifinal round, Sadie charged late in the race on the final climb and finished second to advance to the finals. Sophie finished sixth.
In the finals, Sadie looked comfortable in the pack. However, she got caught up near the top of the second climb and dropped back to fifth. But she clawed her way back up to fourth and down the finish stretch, she nipped Norway’s Ane Appelkvist Stenseth for the final podium spot. Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla took the victory, as Sweden’s Jonna Sundling was second.
“I'm not sure if my ski or my pole was stuck under someone...but I tried to just be patient and let them get off without breaking any equipment,” she said. “When I finally got to go, I was ready to fight with every bit! Rounding the final corner, I was still in fourth place, but confident I could find one more gear right at the end... and that is what I did. As I lunged, I knew I had given it all. In a perfect world, I would have loved to fight for the win without the tangle, but the season is very young, and there a tons more races to come!”
Overall, it was a great start to the season for the U.S. women with four athletes making it into the heats. But most importantly, the team synergy with the athletes, coaches and wax techs is kicking on all cylinders.
“Enormous shout out to our team, and my new wax tech, Per Erik Bjornstad, for some amazing skis,” Sadie added. “I couldn't have run up that hill the way I did today without those! And also impressive to see my teammates fighting today as well. There is a fun season ahead!”
“I am very satisfied with the race today,” noted Rosie, who added that due to some illness and challenging weather conditions this fall in Alaska, she was unable to get any sprint time trials or simulations this year, so she really had no expectations for today's race. “I was particularly happy with how I was skiing and felt my fitness was good. My speed was not quite there, but I believe that will come in time...I was really happy with the process and skis that our staff put together today. I'm looking forward to getting a few more races under my belt this weekend.”
On the men’s side, Kevin Bolger was the top-placed U.S. Cross Country Team athlete in 32nd. Up next, the women compete in a classic 10k, and the men in a classic 15k Saturday, in Ruka.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Saturday, Nov. 30
3:35 a.m. - Women’s 10k, Ruka, FIN - Olympic Channel.com & NBC Sports Gold
5:20 a.m. - Men’s 15k, Ruka, FIN - Olympic Channel.com & NBC Sports Gold
11:00 a.m. - Women’s 10k, Ruka, FIN - Olympic Channel*
10:00 p.m. - Women’s 10k, Ruka, FIN - NBCSN*
Sunday, Dec. 1
4:00 a.m. - Women’s 10k pursuit, Ruka, FIN - Olympic Channel.com & NBC Sports Gold
5:15 a.m. - Men’s 15k pursuit, Ruka, FIN - Olympic Channel.com & NBC Sports Gold
8:30 a.m. - Women’s 10k pursuit, Ruka, FIN - Olympic Channel*
Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow.