Three days ago Vermont’s Sophie Caldwell skied fast, stayed upright and held on against tight contenders to become only the third U.S. woman in history to win a World Cup Nordic race. Today, (Friday, Jan. 8), her teammate Jessie Diggins has become the fourth.
Jessie Diggins became the second American in three stages to take a Tour de Ski win Friday in Toblach. Diggins skied to an historic victory in the women’s 5k freestyle individual start, just three days after Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) claimed a win in a classic sprint. Diggins’ win moved her back into the top 10 overall in the Tour standings. It was her first individual World Cup victory and the first time USA has won two stages in the Tour.
“It’s really fun to have such a strong team,” said Diggins. “Sophie wins and it gets everyone pumped up – it helped me go fast today. We feed on each other and use our teammates as role models. This win was a big surprise for everyone, especially me. I couldn’t believe it.”
Starting 24th, about five minutes before the tour leaders, Diggins charged out of the start gate, initially setting the fastest 1.7 and 2.1k split times until Norway’s Ingvild Oestberg, starting 14 places behind, began controlling the race, out-skiing Diggins by eight seconds by the 2.1k checkpoint. Diggins moved into the leader’s chair and anxiously awaited the unpredictable final results. She clearly fought the toughest in the final kilometers as she stole first, just 0.9 seconds ahead of Norway’s Heidi Weng. Oestberg started strong but could not hold onto her position as she fell back to third, 1.5 seconds behind.
“There are very few skiers in the world that can close down the final kilometer of a course like Jessie,” said Head Coach Chris Grover. “She was fierce and unrelenting on the downhills and flats leading back to the stadium; pushing extremely hard on her skis. We’ve been wowed by this ability of hers many times, most notably in the recent Lillehammer 4x5k women’s relay.”
Grover continued: “Jessie charged from the gun and, by our splits, was even with the leaders in the first kilometer. She started well before Kalla, Ostberg, Johaug and Weng so we tried to get Jessie back-split information but with such a short race, she didn’t get a lot of information on those late starters. In the middle several kilometers of the course, Ostberg, Weng, and Johaug were very strong and gained some time on her. Jessie was third behind Ostberg and Weng around the 3k mark where I was giving splits, although within several seconds of both skiers. There are very few skiers in the world however, that can close down the final kilometer of a course like Jessie. She was fierce and unrelenting on the downhills and flats leading back to the stadium – pushing extremely hard on her skis. We’ve been wowed by this ability of hers many times, most notably in the recent Lillehammer 4x5k women’s relay.”
Diggins has now moved up to 10th in the overall Tour de Ski Standings. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) moved up to 13th, Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) 25th, Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT) 34th and Caitlin Gregg (Minnapolis, MN) 39th.
Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT), who won Tuesday’s classic sprint, and Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) retired from the Tour de Ski. Coach Chris Glover explained: “Sophie and Ida are focused now on the upcoming sprint weekend in Planica, Slovenia which is why they have retired from the Tour. Those skiers who complete the entire Tour will not race in Planica; they simply will need more rest than is possible in five days. Sophie, Ida, Andy and Simi are primarily sprinters, so Planica is one of their big focuses.