Jessie Diggins Leads Historic U.S. 1-2 Finish In World Cup Tour de Ski
Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan powered to the top of the overall FIS Tour de Ski standings, finishing a historic 1-2 in Sunday’s 10k freestyle pursuit in Val Müstair, Switzerland.
Coming into Sunday’s third stage, Diggins, who trains during the off-season at Stratton, Vermont, was second overall, and Brennan, from Park City, Utah, and trains in Anchorage in the off-season, was fourth. Starting 19 seconds back of the race leader–and winner of the first two stages–Sweden’s Linn Svahn, Jessie settled into a pace with Sweden’s Frida Karlsson and Rosie, who started 20 and 22-seconds back respectively.
"I started out trying to help pull the group, but then nearly imploded in the altitude and spent the next few laps getting my legs back after feeling extremely wobbly," Diggins said after leading Rosie to the first ever 1-2 finish for two American athletes on the World Cup circuit.
The trio caught the leader on the second of four 2.5k laps. At the midway point of the race, Karlsson, Diggins, and Brennan held a 24-second advantage over Linn and a further 43-second advantage over the chase group that included Slovenia's Anamarija Lampic and Russia’s Yulia Stupak.
"I was fortunate to start in a strong group with Jessie and Frida. We are all workhorses so I knew it was going to be game on from the start," Brennan said. "Frida really took reigns and charged hard the whole race. Being more of a climber I tried to make a move at the top of the climb on the last lap. It worked to get a gap to Frida but also made a perfect launch for Jessie to utilize her fantastic downhill skills."
On the final lap with Karlsson setting the pace up the last climb, Diggins launched her winning attack over the top and once again, enjoyed the fast skis prepared by the Davis U.S. Cross Country Service Team. Brennan followed and the two, separated by a couple of seconds, put a further five seconds into Karlsson, who finished third.
“Frida was amazing and I kept trying to push the poles and be there, but I kept thinking that every lap I’m going to get dropped,” Diggins said after her first victory of the season, and third-straight podium. “I was just hanging on by a thread and I just got really excited for the downhill. I thought that maybe I could hold on, and if not, then I blow up, but it was worth a shot.”
Worth a shot indeed! The victory moved her atop the overall Tour de Ski standings, with Brennan second overall, just five seconds back. Karlsson sits third at 10-seconds back of the overall lead.
"I did my best to follow (Jessie's) counter move but didn’t quite have what I needed," Brennan added. "It’s a pretty cool feeling to finish and realize that two Americans are 1-2 in the Tour right now!"
In addition to Jessie and Rosie landing on the podium, Sunday was another impressive day for the Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team with Hailey Swirbul finishing 13th (seventh fastest Time of Day), and moving from 17th to 13th in the overall standings. Katharine Ogden finished 25th (22nd fastest Time of Day) and sits in 25th overall. Rosie continues to lead the overall FIS World Cup Cross Country standings and the overall World Cup distance standings.
“I love this team and we have such a positive environment,” Diggins said. “It’s a fun time to be on this team.”
In the 15k men’s race, Gus Schumacher continued to impress in his first World Cup season, finishing 32nd to lead the Americans, he also had the 24th-fastest Time of Day, tying his World Cup career-best result from earlier this season in Ruka, Finland. Scott Patterson was 38th (24th fastest Time of Day); Simi Hamilton was 47th and Kevin Bolger was 55th.
Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov dominated again, winning his third-straight race by 53 seconds over his countryman Artem Maltsev. Maurice Manificat was third. Bolshunov holds the overall lead through three stages by 53 seconds over Artem.
Monday is a rest day followed by stage 4 Tuesday, which features a 10k freestyle for the women and a 15k freestyle for the men in Toblach, Italy. Toblach holds a special place for Jessie as she won a World Cup stage race freestyle event there in 2017, sharing the podium with her teammate Sadie Maubet Bjornsen.
"It’s important for me not to put pressure on myself and take the tour one day at a time," Diggins said. "But it’s also important to not take these special moments for granted, and to enjoy a few moments knowing how hard so many people have worked to help me get here!"