Over the course of a trying Tour de Ski Holly Brooks learned what it means to overextend herself, and after a recovery period plans to take a brief step back from the World Cup circuit to regain confidence in smaller races.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this might have been the busiest week of the year to be a North American ski fan. With the Tour de Ski practically every day, U.S. Nationals, and some big NorAms used to determine junior and U23 trip rosters, plus biathlon and nordic combined, here are the highlights.
While Kikkan Randall slipped from seventh to 12th in the overall Tour de Ski standings, she said she was happy with her final place – but mostly “psyched” to see teammate Liz Stephen on the podium for the day. Stephen’s second-fastest time on the climb moved her to 15th. Jessie Diggins was 21st and Holly Brooks 38th.
Norwegian Teamwork Can’t Stop Kowalczyk in Tour Mass Start; Pole Now Has Two Minutes in Overall Standings
With four women starting in the top top ten spots in the 10 k classic mass start, Norway seemed to have an opportunity – albeit a slim one – to steal at least some bonus seconds from Justyna Kowalczyk. But it was to no avail as the Polish star cruised to another victory and more or less sealed her Tour title. Kikkan Randall, meanwhile, is in seventh and hoping for a better climb than she’s had before.
Kris Freeman and Noah Hoffman improved in the overall Tour de Ski standings, but neither were psyched about their results, considering Hoffman fell and Freeman’s been fighting an uphill battle since he crashed in stage two. Andy Newell broke two poles and skied a total of about seven kilometers on broken ones, settling for 67th.
After getting locked out of their bus, the Canadians didn’t have a great start to the day. But for the most part they turned things around. Alex Harvey led the way in 6th and Devon Kershaw placed 12th; Kershaw complimented Ivan Babikov (21st) for attacking hard on the 15 k climb, and Lenny Valjas (25th) for finishing his longest race in years – and doing so quite honorably.
The days when Switzerland’s Dario Cologna won Tour after Tour seemingly effortlessly have come to an end. Cologna still has a shot, but after Petter Northug of Norway defeated Cologna and Russians Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin in a sprint finish in stage four, he’ll have to work a little harder. After today’s showing Northug, meanwhile, is confident that the title is his.
Holly Brooks and Liz Stephen joined Kikkan Randall in her Tour de Ski quarterfinal, which gave the U.S. star a boost; both Stephen and Brooks had career-best sprint days, placing 18th and 25th. Jessie Diggins was 17th and Andy Newell ninth, which moved him up to fourth in the World Cup sprint standings – all in all a good day for the American team.
They entered the Tour with high ambitions and a fair amount of confidence, but on the whole the first two stages of the Tour de Ski in Oberhof, Germany, have not gone as planned for Kris Freeman, Noah Hoffman and Andy Newell. Freeman crashed in the pursuit after a promising prologue and leads the Americans in 58th.
After the 9 k classic pursuit stage of the Tour de Ski, three American women sit in the top 30 of the overall standings. Kikkan Randall, following an impressive win in the prologue, leads the way in 14th, 1:48.3 seconds behind Tour leader Justyna Kowalczyk. Liz Stephen ranks 23rd and Holly Brooks sits just behind her in 25th. Jessie Diggins moved up 12 places to reach 50th at the end of the pursuit.
It didn’t take long for the three-time defending Tour de Ski champion to remind everyone how dominant she can be. Starting from the third position, nearly 15 seconds down to prologue winner Kikkan Randall, Justyna Kowalczyk swallowed that deficit by the third kilometer of the 9 k classic pursuit and went on to win by over 40 seconds.