OSLO, Norway (March 15, 2015) – A furious start to the 30k Holmenkollen event set the stage for aggressive racing and impressive performances from the U.S. women competing in the famed race to close the World Cup season. Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) finished ninth, tying her own USA-best-ever 30k set at Holmenkollen in 2013. Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) finished 14th and Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis, MN) 19th.
The race pace was high from the very start with Norwegians, Therese Johaug and eventual winner, Marit Bjorgen breaking up the packs of skiers from the outset. The result was a string of skiers in packs yo-yoing throughout the course. Stephen, Diggins and Gregg all skied in the lead group early on and managed contact throughout the majority of the race. Eventually, the lead group of ten broke up and only Stephen was able to use her sharp uphill climbing ability to regain contact with the front of the pack.
Liz Stephen (racing earlier this season at the Tour de Ski) led the U.S women today with a 9th place finish at the Holmenkollen 30K Freestyle World Cup. (Getty Images)
The day marked the strongest distance result in history by the U.S. women’s team echoing the goals of Head Coach Chris Grover who predicted a steady improvement throughout the year.
"We were really proud of how the women skied," said Grover. "Liz was fighting for fifth place for most of the race but ran out of steam in the last kilometer. Jessie lost a pole basket early in the race and needed to change poles several times but kept fighting back and for sure had her best Holmekollen 30k. Caitlin proved once again that she is in great skating shape, as evidenced not only by her World Championship medal but by her Engadin podium and her result today. All 6 of the women were digging really deep out there. It was a very satisfying way to end the season."
Liz Stephen led the U.S. women with a 9th place finish in the Holmenkollen 30k freestyle race.
Jessie Diggins finished 14th, Caitlin Gregg finished 19th, Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop WA) finished 44th.
The race was aggressive with many surges early on. Norway was again dominant sweeping the podium and placing six in the top ten.
The day marks the best long distance results from the U.S. women as a team ever, led by Stephen's record-matching ninth for a 30k.
I went in to today with the goal of a top five. I wanted to focus on something finite so I picked Heidi (Weng) as a target to stick to.
I took some chances and almost blew up at points. A good indicator for me is when my stomach is knotted and I wanted to throw up which came earlier than usual.
I knew that I needed to take the risk because I wanted to be in the top five. It was fun to look over at 6.5 k and have Marit skiing next to me. So while a top five didn’t happen today, it was a close race and I know what I have to do. In that way, it was a really successful day.
The top of the race is closer now. It gives me hope for next year and years in the future. I’m really happy with the day, I’m really happy with the season. I met a lot of goals this year. I had a podium goal and I got that. I wanted to be in the top five at the Tour de Ski and I got that. I wanted a top ten overall and to be there is amazing. I’m really happy for the season.
We’re losing some of our staff and I feel like I need to send a huge thanks to the staff and to people that make this possible. There are people on our staff who could go work for their home countries or for countries that have a bigger ski team, but they work for us and they’ve given us faith. I’m grateful for that.
We were really proud of how the women skied. Liz was fighting for 5th place for most of the race but ran out of steam in the last kilometer. Jessie lost a pole basket early in the race and needed to change poles several times but kept fighting back and for sure had her best Holmekollen 30 km. Caitlin proved once again that she is in great skating shape, as evidenced not only by her World Championship medal but by her Engadin podium and her result today. All 6 of the women were digging really deep out there.
The service team made incredible skis once again that allowed the US women to compete with the best. Like most of the top-20 finishers, none of our top 3 women took advantage of the ski exchange today. All of 3 them started and finished on the same pair of skis. It was a very satisfying way to end the season.