Athletes start the men's 30 km mass start race at the Tour de Ski event on January 2, 2016 in Lenzerheide. (Getty/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)
LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (January 2, 2016) – The U.S. women’s team skied another impressive race Saturday in the second stage of the Tour de Ski, placing three in the top 20 in a 15k classic mass start.
Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) and Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) found their groove at 5k where they skied as a team pacing each other until the finish. With a final boost of energy just meters from the finish line, Diggins secured 12th just ahead of Bjornsen who finished 13th. Diggins was only 14 seconds from a top-10 finish. Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) had a remarkable comeback where she started 63rd in the mass start and tactically skied her way to finish 20th.
“I had spectacular skis, and a ton of fun chasing Jessie around the course,” Bjornsen said. “Jessie and I have opposite strengths, so sometimes I was charging, sometimes her, but I think we really helped each other today.”
Jessica Diggins greets teammate Sadie Bjornsen in the finish area of the women's 15k mass start race. (Getty/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)
Therese Johaug led a Norwegian sweep of the stage, as Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg was second, followed by Heidi Weng in third. Johaug leads the overall standings by 4.5 seconds over Oestberg. Weng is currently third overall. For the Americans, Bjornson is eighth overall, Diggins ninth, Caldwell 23rd, and Stephen 27th. The U.S. women’s team is currently seventh overall.
“As a team, classic distance racing is not our race of choice, but the team put five athletes in the points with Diggins, (Sadie) Bjornsen, Stephen, Hoffman and (Erik) Bjornsen, so we are content,” said coach Matt Whitcomb. “With tricky conditions, I was very happy with the work the techs did as several of the athletes came back saying they had perfect skis.”
In the men’s 30k race, skiers juggled in and out of the leader’s position until 20k, when Norway’s Martin Sundby took control and broke away from the pack. Gaining more than 30 seconds on teammates Petter Northug, who finished second, and Didrik Toenseth in third as Norway swept the podium again.
Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) led the U.S. men’s team, making an astonishing comeback after starting 77th in the mass start and moving up to a 23rd-place finish. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) was 30th.
Erik Bjornsen competes ahead of France's Adrien Backscheider during the men's 30k mass start race. (Getty/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)
“Noah and Erik were very tough out there,” Whitcomb said. “Noah found a way to 23rd by picking apart his competitors with a fast pace on the climbs. This was a really large step forward for The Hoff. For Erik, he entered the final lap in 33rd. At the top of the last hill with only 1k of descent into the finish, 30th and 31st had pulled 15 meters away from Erik. That 30th place, while only worth one World Cup point, is one of the most important points of the season for the team."
Sundby leads the overall standings after two stages by 1:18 over Northhug. Toenseth is currently third overall. Hoffman is the top American in 25th.
Watch Saturday's stage at 3 p.m. ET on Universal HD. Up next in stage three Sunday, the men compete in a 10k freestyle pursuit and the women race a 5k freestyle pursuit in Lenzerheide.
Norway’s Therese Johaug leads the Tour de Ski by 4.5 seconds through two stages.
Norway’s Martin Sundby leads the Tour de Ski by 1:18 over teammate Petter Northug.
The U.S. women’s team is seventh overall in the Tour de Ski standings.
Therese Johaug has won all five individual distance races held in the World Cup so far this season. This is the first time Johaug has won five consecutive distance races in the World Cup.
The third stage of the Tour de Ski continues tomorrow in Lenzerheide, Switzerland with a 10/5k freestyle pursuit.
BROADCAST (times EST)
Saturday, Jan. 2 3:00 p.m. – 30k/15k classic mass start – Universal HD
Jessie Diggins I was really happy with my race yesterday and today. I've come into the tour confident in my plan and feeling fit and rested after a great Christmas break with my teammates in Davos.
Today my plan was to go hard at the start to get out of the mass start chaos and then settle into a rhythm. I had great kick so I was able to really get my power striding going on the long gradual climb, and I got to ski with Sadie for most of the race, which was super fun.
Sadie Bjornsen It was another incredibly tough and fun day today. We're one fourth of the way into the tour, and I'm loving the burn. It's so fun to tell your brain that everyone else is in an equal amount of pain, so let's do this! I had spectacular skis, and a ton of fun chasing Jessie around the course. She and I have opposite strengths, so sometimes I was charging, sometimes her, but I think that we really helped each other today.
Matt Whitcomb As a team, classic distance racing is not our race of choice, but the team put five athletes in the points with Diggins, Bjornsen, Stephen, Hoffman, and Bjornsen, so we are content.
Today was a huge race for Jessie and Sadie, and an exciting one to watch for those following Liz who started bib 62, and found her way to 20th.
Noah and Erik were very tough out there. Noah found a way to 23rd by picking apart his competitors with a fast pace on the climbs. This was a really large step forward for The Hoff. For Erik, he entered the final lap in 33rd. At the top of the last hill with only 1km of descent into the finish, 30th and 31st had pulled 15 meters away from Erik. That 30th place, while only worth one World Cup point, is one of the most important points of the season for the team.