CRAFTSBURY, Vermont — Even though she now has a World Cup podium to her name, a win at SuperTour Finals had eluded Sadie Bjornsen (APU/USST) until Sunday morning, when she claimed the 10 k mass start classic on the second day of racing at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
Rain isn’t usually at the top of the list of desirable ski conditions, but as the snow soaked through prior to start, Bjornsen couldn’t wait to start racing.
“When it started raining, I was like, ‘This is pretty awesome — this is Alaska weather, I’m used to this,’” said Bjornsen.
When the siren signaling the start of the race went off, Bjornsen might have had more pent-up energy than she’d realized. She took the lead position right off the bat and never left it.
Women’s mass starts typically go out fast and string out, while in men’s race a pack can stay together until late in the race. Sunday was no exception — by the middle of the second lap, the field had already thinned out behind Bjornsen. With a hill climb preem up for grabs the second time around, the spread was perhaps more pronounced.
Bjornsen, for one, attacked the bonus sections of the course, the second of which came on the third lap.
“Before I knew it I was sprinting for the second one and I kinda looked around and was like, what happened to everyone?” said Bjornsen.
The early surge may have cost her speed later on, but she managed to keep an even pace in her final two laps and hang on for the win. As Bjornsen faded slightly, her teammate Rosie Brennan wove her way from eighth place to third on the penultimate lap, only five seconds off the lead and less than a ski length behind Holly Brooks (APU), who was steadily in the top three for the entire race.
“I had a bad start,” said Brennan. “I don’t know, I was just slow, so I was focusing on picking one person off at a time.”
When she passed Brooks and pulled up behind Bjornsen, she was simply excited to be skiing on pace with her good friend and teammate, and decided to keep pushing the pace.
“She pulled up next to me and was like, ‘Come on Sadie, we can do this,’” said Bjornsen. “So then we just worked together until the end. It was fun to ski with a teammate — fun to come back and have teammates to work together with to go for a win.”
Brennan was surprised to find herself in such a position. A former Dartmouth standout, Brennan’s first season of post-collegiate racing got off to a more variable start than she’d wanted.
“It’s been very up and down trying to figure things out, and I finally feel like I’m coming around now, so it’s better late than never,” she said.
She ended up finishing 5.7 seconds behind Bjornsen.
Brooks hung onto the third position, but slowed significantly in her last lap and appeared to be struggling. She motivated herself with the thought of an APU sweep to fend off Liz Stephen (Burke/USST) for the bronze medal.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘You know you’re tired, but don’t give up, and let’s go for an APU sweep,’” said Brooks.
Brooks wasn’t the only one digging deep in the final stages of the race. The slushy snow was a challenge to ski through, and each double pole plant seemed to take extra effort as the women crested the final hill and came within sight of the finish line.
“This time of year it’s sometimes tough to stay super spunky; everyone’s a little tired. But today was really fun,” said Stephen, who finished just over three seconds behind Brooks.
Becca Rorabaugh (APU) rounded out the top five (+40.4) for a four out of five showing for APU. Jessie Diggins (CXC/USST), uncharacteristically off the front, finished sixth, 44.8 seconds back. Ida Sargent (CGRP/USST) came in seventh on her home course (+54.0).
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.