U.S. SuperTour Finals (Fairbanks, Alaska): Women’s and men’s skiathlons
The first day of racing was skiathlon day at the 2017 U.S. SuperTour Finals, also referred to as Spring Series, in Fairbanks, Alaska. It marked the first time in eight years since a skiathlon was held at the SuperTour level in Fairbanks.
The women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon (7.5 k classic + 7.5 k freestyle) was dominated by Jessie Diggins of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team and U.S. Ski Team (USST). Diggins crossed the line in 42:17.1 minutes for the win at the Birch Hill Recreation Area trails.
During the classic leg, it was clear Diggins was on form and in the zone with her striding.
“Classic skiing is something for me that is still a work in progress,” Diggins said on the phone post-race. “I think even with a World Championship medal in a classic event, it is still one of those things for me I am always going to feel like I am trying to fix it, always trying to work on it, which is good.”
Diggins has done her work and couldn’t be contained from the start. “It was a fun surprise to feel technically good in that classic leg and having good skis really helped with that,” Diggins added. “It was just fun to be like, ‘Hey I can do this classic thing. I am not only a skater.’ ”
The women’s top spot was never in doubt for Diggins after the ski exchange — the closest Diggins-chaser beginning the skate portion, and nearly a minute back, was Kikkan Randall of Alaska Pacific University (APU) and the USST. She was followed out of the stadium by a group of five skiers within 10 seconds that included Kaitlynn Miller and Caitlin Patterson, both of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP), Chelsea Holmes and Australian Jessica Yeaton of APU, and Liz Stephen of Burke Mountain Academy/USST. At that point, the race for third was wide open.
7.5 k of skating later, the chasers reordered and shook out; Randall placed second overall (+1:52.9), Patterson third (+2:09.1). Holmes missed the podium by 1.6 seconds in fourth, and Stephen lost some ground on the skate and finished fifth (+2:19.8).
“I think part of the reason I felt great today was I just really relaxed and was just looking to have a good time out there,” Diggins said. “I was like, ‘I am going to pace my own race and ski the way I want to ski.’ I didn’t have any real concrete race plan, I just went out and wanted to see what happens.”
The men raced a 22.5 k skiathlon (11.25 k classic + 11.25 k skate), and until the race’s midpoint when classic were swapped out for skate skis, ten skiers were within five seconds of one another.
The eventual winner, Scott Patterson (APU) was the clear pacesetter beginning the skate leg. Looming in his midst seconds back after the transition were the likes of David Norris (APU), Ben Lustgarten (CGRP), Tyler Kornfield (APU), Paddy Caldwell (SMS Elite/USST D-team) and Tad Elliott and Kris Freeman of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
“When we came through the transition there was a little separation that formed,” Patterson wrote in an email. “David Norris, Eric Packer, and I got through quite quick and were able to create a slight gap. I knew I could use that gap. I learned in Korea earlier this year, that I can charge right from the transition while some people take a little time to get going. Also skating has always been my stronger technique. I used that knowledge to build a lead as quickly as I could and never look back.”
Patterson’s lead stretched on the skate leg. He claimed the win in 59:17.6 minutes, 24.3 seconds ahead of Caldwell in second and 26.8 seconds ahead of Elliott in third. Lustgarten finished 14 seconds off the podium in fourth (+40.8), about 8 seconds ahead of Adam Martin of Northern Michigan University (NMU) in fifth (+48.9), while Norris and Freeman followed in sixth (+54.8) and seventh (+55.2), respectively.
The Junior women contested a 7.5 k classic race. Hannah Halvorsen (Sugar Bowl Academy/USST D-team) skied to first place in 24:00.6 minutes. Nicole Schneider (NMU) skied to second (+30.8), and 14-year-old Fairbanks local Kendall Kramer (Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks/FXC) placed third (+36.3)
Like the junior women, the junior men raced a single-technique race. Hunter Wonders (APU) won the 11.25 k classic race in 31:44.9 minutes. Luke Jager (APU) was second (+25.8), and Canyon Tobin (APU) finished third (+1:05.2).
Racing continues Wednesday with freestyle sprints.