While teammate Kikkan Randall (USA) stole the headlines with her first classic sprint podium, both Sadie Bjornsen and Ida Sargent had excellent days of their own.
Bjornsen set the done with a blazing qualification round, placing 3rd, just .33 seconds behind Marit Bjoergen (NOR) in first.
“I have been training a lot with Sadie over the last couple of months,” Randall said of Bjornsen. “She has been in great shape…Really cool to see her lay one down.”
Bjornsen ultimately was eliminated in her quarterfinal, a heat in which Randall said she thought her teammate didn’t “quite feel her full power.”
U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach did not see Bjornsen’s day as a surprise. “There aren’t a whole lot of doubters out there when it comes to Sadie Bjornsen, and we have known that was in her realm of potential and I think that she has known that as well,” Whitcomb said. “But jt is one thing to think that and it is a whole another thing to think that because you have done it.”
Both he and Head Coach Chris Grover point to Bjornsen’s ability to manage several chronic injuries, allowing her to train at full speed.
“It is already the second weekend in a row that she has had some fantastic results,” Grover told FasterSkier. “She had a standout result with the fifth place in the classic race in Beitostølen and I am excited to see what she can do.”
Bjornsen said the heat “didn’t go as well as hoped. I slipped at the top of the big hill, and on the World Cup it’s close enough that you’re not in the game anymore.”
She ended up in 26th overall.
She is looking forward to Saturday’s 5k classic as she has been working on steep climbs, perfect for a Kuusamo course replete with such hills.
Sargent qualified in 18th, and finished 16th on the day after a good race in her quarterfinal. She battled with eventual race winner Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and Ida Ingermarsdotter (SWE) who also advanced to the finals. While the Pole skied away, Sargent barely lost out to the Swede in the homestretch.
Last season Sargent advanced to the semis in this event, and missed out by no more than a foot length this year.
Sophie Caldwell placed 36th, a result that Whitcomb described as a “big race.”
“We are not reading too much into the results that we have achieved last weekend or this weekend, but we’re just seeing this as a great place to start,” Whitcomb said. “For Sophie I feel very confident in her result.”
Holly Brooks was 48th, Jesse Diggins 64th, Rosie Brennan 77th and Liz Stephen 96th.
Dasha Gaiazova, the lone Canadian starter placed 43rd.
— Matt Voisin contributed reporting
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Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.