World Cup racing returned to Davos, Switzerland, for the second weekend in a row, marking the last races of period one. With a 10/15 k freestyle individual start and a 1.3 k freestyle sprint, the international circuit wrapped up racing as competitors enjoy a holiday break before starting the Tour de Ski Jan. 3 in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Below are quotes from the U.S. Ski Team interviews that didn’t make it into our weekend race reports:
On feelings going into the weekend of racing…
“I got sick going into the week of Lillehammer and didn’t want to miss the chance to race three races in a row. [I was] definitely a bit under so having done three races after fighting a cold kept me under going into last weekend. I have been taking it easy, trying to get back to zero so I can build from there.”
– Kikkan Randall, describing factors that resulted in a “strange start” to the season. She explained that she felt more like herself this weekend of racing. Randall earned her first top 10 of the season with a ninth place finish after falling in the semifinal.
“I had a head cold for the week and took most of it off. I woke up yesterday and felt it move into my chest. I was a little worried about that because I have a bad history with respiratory stuff. I decided I still wanted to go for it this morning.”
– Simi Hamilton, who sat out last weekend’s races in Davos to recover from illness.
“I think this hard block of racing and training is starting to catch up with me. Racing every weekend for four weeks doesn’t sound too bad but when you tack on race prep every Friday, and intervals on Wednesday to keep the body from falling asleep, it adds up. After tomorrow I will have completed my first period of racing on the World Cup. That right there was my goal – I got to start every race and I really think this experience is going to pay off.”
– Erik Bjornsen, who was the lone USST male in the 15 k classic. He finished the race in 56th, and in the sprint he placed 41st.
On Saturday’s distance race…
“We were hoping for a little better overall. Liz had a great race for her, definitely the highpoint to today’s race. This race was her best she been able to put together [in Davos].”
– USST Head Coach Chris Grover, on the 10/15 k races and Stephen’s performance.
“I keep trying every weekend to not start slow and it just keeps happening. I think eventually I’m going to figure this out after some mass starts, but I have this tendency to be conservative. At altitude I have more of a tendency because I don’t want to redline too early. It’s something I need to figure out before I have some spectacular races. That’s a goal for my next period of racing.”
– Sadie Bjornsen, on her tendency to start conservatively in distance races. She finished 29th in Saturday’s 10 k and 36th in Sunday’s sprint.
On Sunday’s sprint race…
“We practiced that course a lot this week, as did everybody else… We were as well prepared as we could have been. We never would have guessed that there would have been that many slips and tangles out there. In general it was more on the bad luck side. That’s part of sprinting. Last weekend [Federico] Pellegrino fell and he went on to win today.
“At the same time we made some great corners out there. The last corner, a lot of people scrubbed speed coming into the final stretches. We knew how to ski that and we tried to take the wide line around that corner and carry momentum into the finish. Everyone was ready to do that, but unfortunately they didn’t get a shot because some people didn’t make it that far.”
– Grover, on the abundance of USST crashes in Sunday’s sprint. All five skiers in the finals either fell or tangled with another competitor.
“I came through and I was very out of breath and Guss [Kaeding] was in the finish pen, and he was like ‘Sophie, you finished lucky loser, that heat was three seconds faster than any other one,’ and I was just like, ‘thank God.’”
– Sophie Caldwell, on her quarterfinal strategy in the 1.4 k sprint. She ‘blew up’ after attempting to stay with Ingvild Flugstad Østberg of Norway, but still advanced to the semifinals after earning lucky loser. She ended her day in 11th after placing sixth in her semifinal heat.
“I came around the downhill corner and I saw someone else had fallen, and as soon as I saw a dark suit out of the corner of my eye I thought, ‘oh no, I hope that’s not Kikkan.’”
– Caldwell, on witnessing Randall’s fall in the semifinal. Caldwell fell earlier in the same heat and the two finished fifth and sixth in the round.
On the holiday break….
“I’m going to be here [in Davos] with my husband Jeff. Because of the snow conditions, most of my team members have decided to stay here in Davos and train. We will probably get together a few times and we got invited to the FIS chief of marketing’s house for Christmas Eve. It will be nice to be in a home for a little bit of Christmas tradition. I am looking forward to some nice training and spending some time with my husband.”
– Randall, whose husband Jeff Ellis works for the FIS cross country marketing team.
“[Davos] seems to be one of the few places in the world that has snow. So we’re just going to be here, training. I’m very excited to do some family skis on Christmas day.”
– Jessie Diggins, whose family will be with her in Davos until Dec. 30
On the upcoming start of the Tour de Ski…
“I loved starting the Tour last year. I think it’s a really good way to get used to racing a lot. You learn that you can’t get nervous about each race because you’re doing it every single day. So I think both physically and mentally it’s a good test. The races I’m planning on doing are two short skates and two longer classics. That’s what I prefer, skate sprinting and classic distance.”
– Caldwell, who will appear in the Tour for the second time in January.
“I’m always excited about the Tour as it’s always fun. I guess we’ll see how the snow situation is and see where we’re racing. I’m looking forward to doing it and finishing with Liz – that’s always really cool.”
– Diggins, who has plans to race the entirety of the Tour alongside Stephen this year.
On the rest of the season…
“It was a slower start to the year, and I’m really happy with the way the form is coming and where I’m at. I’m really happy with where our team is as well. It’s a big season with the World Championships and that’s where we want to be performing best. Our sights are there and we’re all happy with the small breakthroughs we’ve had each weekend.”
– Liz Stephen, who was 4.9 seconds out of the top-10 in Saturday’s 10 k after finishing 12th.
“We’re all super motivated and we know that we want to be on our game 100% in February for World Champs and I think we’re all headed that direction. So the energy is good around here and we’re all super positive.”
– Hamilton, who finished 23rd in Sunday’s sprint.
“I’m excited to have some breakthrough performances, maybe, in the next periods, so I think it’s going to be just great to take a few weeks of rest for a mental recovery and come back with confidence and excitement.”
– Sadie Bjornsen, who has consistently placed in the top-30 throughout the first period of racing.
On public perceptions of the USST’s results…
“I’d like to point out something really interesting that we’re hearing a lot from the media and from other people – ‘Oh, obviously you must be so disappointed in your race.'”
“You can never take for granted a top-30 on the World Cup and you can never take for granted qualifying. If you’re just the tiniest bit off in this field you’re way off the back.
“I think it is interesting that everyone always immediately says, ‘oh you must be kind of disappointed but good job anyway.’ I think it’s important for us to look at that and realize we are doing our best and we’re doing everything that we can. There’s literally nothing we could be doing to try harder to do our job.”
– Diggins, who finished in the top 30 in both races this weekend.