LILLEHAMMER, Norway (Dec. 6) – Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) led the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team with a gutsy 15th place finish in the 5k freestyle second stage of the three-day Lillehammer World Cup mini tour. Diggins was an early starter and skied into the strong finish after a conservative start. Teammate, Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) also continued skiing well at the Lillehammer stage finishing 20th and bringing her overall stage placing to 17th. Norway was dominant in both the men’s and women’s races sweeping both podiums. Martin Sundby won for the men with Therese Johaug taking the women’s race to lead Norway, which placed six skiers in the top seven. The tour wraps up Sunday with a pursuit.
Jessie Diggins, shown here racing in Sochi, led the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team finishing 15th in a 5k freestyle event in Lillehammer. (Getty Images-Harry How)
It was a step in the right direction. The courses are really fun to ski but I went out a little conservatively because there’s a big climb and I didn’t want my legs to be burning on the following descent. I finished and I was hop skating up that last hill, which I shouldn’t have the energy to do. So pacing on a 5k is something I’ll keep focusing on. But overall today was improvement.
The race was a big confidence boost for me. I fell in Kuusamo and I almost fell twice yesterday and I really needed to get that confidence back and I did today.
Classic distance racing is a big goal for me and I’m going to put all the technique work I’ve been working on this summer. My goal is to be calm and deliberate and to glide up the hills and not just run them.
I just have this habit of starting slow and going faster but I was quite terrified of that massive hill. I learned today that I need to believe and have a bit more confidence and just go with it.
I had spectacular skis and that was a huge plus today.
Tomorrow’s final stage could be challenging conditions and I know what to expect. Each race I start and I feel better than the day before and I love classic racing so I couldn’t be more excited about the race tomorrow.
Chris Grover, Head Coach
Jessie was in it from the start today - she was a really early bib so she didn’t have much information, but the cool thing was that she really closed down on people in the last kilometer and a half or so. She felt great and left a little in the tank for tomorrow. It’s a sign for good things to come.
Sadie had a great day as well finishing 20th, her first distance points in (Word Cup distance) skating. We’re really looking forward to seeing how Sadie can close down this mini tour. She had a good start in Ruka and she’s skied well here before.
It was also good day for Liz Stephen in 22nd on a course that doesn’t play to her strengths. The long A climb in the second half of the race was great for her. On that uphill she moved up 18 to 20 splits.
Kikkan is still trying to find her rhythm and she’s planning on racing tomorrow. She feels like the thing she needs is to get some racing in and everyone is planning on starting tomorrow with the exception of Andy who may rest as he is not skiing where he wants to right now.
Today was also not a bad race for Erik Bjornsen who started pretty strong because he wanted to get in the mix. He faded but it’s great to see him going for it and it will help him grow as a racer.