Welcome to The Rundown, your quick primer of need-to-know information about the day’s racing. We’ll be updating this digest as the day goes on with additional results, photos and quotes. The Rundown is NOT a race report; stay tuned for complete race reports later today with interviews from the day’s top racers.
U.S. SuperTour opener in West Yellowstone: Freestyle sprints
[UPDATE] The U.S. domestic season opened in West Yellowstone, Mont., with 1.3-kilometer freestyles on Saturday, and Matt Gelso and Jennie Bender emerged as the day’s winners.
Gelso, of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Gold Team, won the men’s final, and two Alaska Pacific University (APU) skiers, Tyler Kornfield and Reese Hanneman, joined him on the podium in second and third, respectively.
In the women’s final, Bender, of the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF), held off Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 teammates Erika Flowers and Anne Hart, who placed second and third, respectively.
IBU World Cup in Östersund: 7.5/10 k sprints
[UPDATE] Americans Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee led their teams in 13th and 27th, respectively, and five North American men and four women finished in the top 60 of Saturday’s sprint to qualify for Sunday’s pursuits in Östersund, Sweden. Oh, and France’s Martin Fourcade won his third-straight race (in as many races this season) and his second individual race for his 51st career victory. France made it a double with Marie Dorin Habert winning the women’s sprint.
FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Lillehammer: 5/10 k classic
There aren’t many 5-kilometer skate races on the World Cup schedule. But when they do come around, Jessie Diggins makes sure to capitalize.
The 25-year-old U.S. Ski Team member and Minnesota native rocketed to the second victory of her World Cup career on Saturday, winning the women’s 5 k freestyle in Lillehammer, Norway, in 12:40.3 minutes and by nearly 5 seconds ahead of anyone else.
After winning her first individual World Cup last season in a 5 k freestyle in Toblach, Italy (then reaching the podium three more times in individual races through March 2016), Diggins achieved her first podium of the season in the fourth race of 2016/2017.
She started 34th of 76 finishers, with top-dog Norwegians like Heidi Weng (who won Friday’s classic sprint) and Marit Bjørgen behind her. Diggins trailed slightly at the first 0.8 k checkpoint, but she drew the race’s attention at 2.2 k, where she overtook Norwegian Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen’s time by 2.1 seconds. At the finish, Diggins bumped Jacobsen out of the leader’s chair by 16.4 seconds, and the American would sit in that seat for the rest of the day.
Except she didn’t sit much. Diggins chatted with teammates and team staff, smiled and waved at cameras, and bustled about the finishing area. After her closest challenging, Weng in bib 60, finished 4.8 seconds off her time in second place, Diggins knew she had done it. Bjørgen had already finished and was third (+15.8), Jacobsen fourth (+16.4), and yet another Norwegian, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg fifth (+17.2).
She hugged Weng and told her she had a great race at the finish.
“Before I started, I knew it!” Weng said to her of Diggins’s win.
Diggins smiled, and later stood on the podium between Weng and Bjørgen.
“I’m so happy with my day today. I’m so lucky to have the most amazing team,” Diggins said in a televised interview with FIS. “When you get to train with such cool people, that belief, that confidence, it opens up opportunities. And I had such a great opportunity.
“My coaches and staff work so hard. so when they gave me this opportunity I really had to take it,” she continued. “… It means a lot that when everything goes right you can ski with the best in the world. Hopefully this will mean a lot back home because I’m not special or different in any way. If I can do it, all the little kids back home, they can do it, too!”
While Norway occupied four of the top five, the team had six in the top 10, with Ragnhild Haga in eighth (+31.2) and Kari Øyre Slind in ninth (+32.0). Finland’s Krista Parmakoski placed sixth (+26.9) and Laura Mononen was 10th (+36.1), and Russia’s Yulia Tchekaleva placed seventh (+27.7).
The second U.S. woman in the top 15, Sadie Bjornsen broke through her pattern of 17th in the last three races and place 14th (+41.8). Liz Stephen (USST) scored points in 26th (+51.2) in her first “distance” race of the season.
Caitlin Patterson placed 38th for the U.S., Rosie Brennan (USST) was 48th, and Sophie Caldwell (USST) 59th, and Ida Sargent (USST) 67th.
Canada’s Cendrine Browne (NST U25 Team) 50th, Emily Nishikawa (World Cup B-team) 52nd, and Dahria Beatty (NST U25 Team) 62nd.
Diggins is now third in the mini-tour standings through two days of racing (21.6 seconds behind Weng in first and 0.9 seconds behind Østberg in second), with just Sunday’s 10 k classic pursuit to go, and Bjornsen improved to 12th.
In the men’s 10 k classic to start the day, Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden made it two in a row, winning the first distance race of the mini tour by 0.8 seconds over teammate Marcus Hellner. The competition is the second day of the World Cup mini-tour, which will conclude on Sunday with a classic pursuit. Halfvarsson also won the classic sprint on the first day of racing. For Hellner, it’s a strong result for the former World Champion after two straight seasons where he only stood on the podium once a apiece.
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov slotted into third with a hard closing kilometer, moving from fifth place and nearly nine seconds back at 8.3 k to the podium and only 6.7 seconds behind Halfvarsson at the finish.
That left Norway off the podium, but the home team swept the next three places with Finn Hagen Krogh (+7.4), Simen Hegsted Kruger (+13.2), and Martin Johnsrud Sundby (+13.5).
Alex Harvey was the top Canadian in 10th place (+23.5). Devon Kershaw and Lenny Valjas finished 40th (+1:16.7) and 42nd (+1:19.1), respectively, with Graeme Killick 64th (+1:46.6) and Knute Johnsgaard 73rd (+2:22.0). Bob Thompson and Andy Shields rounded out the Canadian roster in 88th and 89th.
Noah Hoffman led the way for the U.S. men, just outside the points in 33rd (+1:08.6). Erik Bjornsen was 45th (+1:22.2), followed by Simi Hamilton 69th (+1:55.8) and Eric Packer 78th (+2:28.7).
Visma Ski Classics: La Sgambeda 30 k Classic in Livigno
The Visma Ski Classics series began last weekend in Pontresina, Switzerland, with 8 k time trials. Racing continued this weekend just down the road in Livigno, Italy, where racers competed in the second race in the series, La Sgambeda. Skiers encountered superb conditions and firm tracks following cold temperatures the night before.
In the women’s race, a mass start over five laps of a 6 k course, Britta Johansson Norgren of Team Lager 157 took the narrow victory over Katerina Smutná of Team Santander, reversing their finishing positions from Pontresina a week before. Norgren finished 1.3 seconds ahead of Smutná after the two of them broke away from the main pack on the course’s final hill. Sara Lindborg of Team Serneke secured third, 17.4 back of Norgren.
The men raced on the same five-lap, 30 k course as the women. The men’s race also came down to a breakaway on the final climb. Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander took the narrow victory, rebounding from his sixth-place finish in the Pontresina prologue. Ilya Chernousov of Team Pioneer Investments was 1.3 seconds back. Team Leaseplan’s Petter Eliassen was third (+2.7) after leading most of the race.
Norgren and Gjerdalen are now leading the individual standings, with Gjerdalen’s Team Santander the top team, as the Ski Classics series approaches a month-long holiday break. Racing resumes in early 2017.