Holly Brooks (APUNSC) was leading the overall Nor-Am mini-tour in Rossland, BC, Sunday morning and was the first skier out of the gate in the women’s 10K classic race. She was ahead by 7.3 seconds after winning the 5K skate on Saturday by 11 seconds over Sadie Bjornsen (APUNSC), and placing third in the sprint Friday. But when Jessie Diggins (CXC Elite) passed her on the last lap, there was nothing she could do. Diggins, who started in third place, 19.1 seconds behind Brooks on Sunday, was able to widen the gap and won both Sunday’s stage and the overall mini-tour title.
“Sadie (Bjornsen) caught me on the big uphill after the first lap. We skied together for a long time; most of that second lap, and then Jessie (Diggins) basically blew by us. Then Sadie gapped me a little bit. I was able to hold off Perianne Jones and stay on the podium for the aggregate,” Brooks said.
“I much rather be one of the chaser than being chased. You’ve got to ski fast, because you don’t know where people are. It makes it hard to ski smooth, and easy to get bad technique, forget long strides and skiing smooth,” Brooks said.
“The race today felt awesome! I went into today’s race without a strong race plan – I didn’t really know what to expect since I haven’t done many races in this format” Jessie Diggins said in an email to FasterSkier, explaining that her plan was simply to ski fast.
“I definitely like to chase people down more than I like being chased, so I wanted to focus on trying to catch the leaders and not on all the people trying to catch me! I ended up catching Holly (Brooks) and Sadie (Bjornsen) at the start of the second lap, and when I passed them on a downhill I just decided to go for it and see what happened, hoping they wouldn’t reel me back in. And I got lucky and had a great race,” Diggins said.
Diggins explained that the dumping snow made for some tricky conditions, not only on the waxing side of operations, but also for the racers on the course.
“The conditions were really interesting, since it was snowing hard and although some of the tracks had been skied in, there were definitely a few spots where it was advantageous to switch lanes,” Diggins noted.
Diggins also contributes her success to the CXC coaches.
“I’m beyond impressed with our coaches; they absolutely nailed the wax and my skis felt like they were on fire. They’ve also been helping me a lot with my classic technique this year and I feel like it’s all starting to come together. It’s weird because I’ve always considered myself a better skater, but today made me feel more confident in my ability to hold my classic technique together.”
Feeling the toll
Sadie Bjornsen (APUNSC) was almost surprised to beat Brooks in the classic race, and maintain her second place overall. She was 7.3 seconds behind Brooks at the start, and was in second place overall after the first two stages.
“Warming up I knew I was going to have to work for this race,” Bjornsen said to FasterSkier, explaining that a 3-day mini-tour on top of the longest racing stretch in her career so far was starting to take a toll on her. While Bjornsen was surprised that she was able to catch and hold Brooks, she had not accounted for Diggins.
“It was a really close race with like 50 girls going out in two minutes, and none of us wanted to look back. So it was quite a surprise when Jessie (Diggins) came by us so quickly. We tried to stay with her, but she as on a roll,” Bjornsen said.
Caitlin Compton (CXC) was also impressed with her teammate.
“I think Diggins put a ton of time on everyone that second lap. I saw her as she crested the hill and then never again,” Compton said.
“My strategy was to catch the girls ahead of me. When I realized I wasn’t going to catch Perriane (Jones), I realized that there were still a ton of girls behind me chasing me down! So my focused shifted to holding them off for the last half of the second lap. I was happy to cross the line without giving up any places. Overall, a solid classic day for me,” Compton concluded. She was in fifth place after stage one and two, and started 36.8 seconds behind Brooks on Sunday morning, and finished fifth overall for the aggregate after an eighth place in the classic race.
Organizers and volunteers shine
While snow was falling throughout the weekend, the racers all chime in on how great the organizers were and how well maintained and prepped the courses were.
“Black Jack did a great job with the event and the courses were in great shape,” Compton said.
Diggins also noticed the effort the organizers had put into making the mini-tour a smooth, fun experience for everyone involved, from racers to spectators and support staff.
“What I do know was that the volunteers out there this weekend made it so nice – the courses were very clearly marked, there was a sweet DJ playing, and the people at the start and finish were friendly and helpful. It was just a fun weekend,” Diggins said.
Complete results here.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.