Canadian National Ski TeamGeneralNewsRacingTour de SkiUS Ski TeamTDS Stages 5, 6, 7: Toblach/Val di Fiemme Quotes

FasterSkier FasterSkierJanuary 8, 2017
American Jessie Diggins (l) checks on Norway's Ingvild Flugstad Østberg at the finish of the final climb up Alpe Cermis on Sunday. Østberg finished fourth and Diggins was fifth to end the 2017 Tour de Ski. (Photo: Salomon/Nordic Focus)
American Jessie Diggins (l) checks on Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg at the finish of the final climb up Alpe Cermis on Sunday. Østberg finished fourth and Diggins was fifth to end the 2017 Tour de Ski. (Photo: Salomon/Nordic Focus)

That’s a wrap, folks! With the 11th Tour de Ski coming to an end on Sunday with the infamous Alpe Cermis final climb in Val di Fiemme, we wanted to share some of the athlete and coach comments that didn’t make it into the race reports. Below are quotes from the last three stages of the Tour, all in Italy.

***

Stage 5 (Toblach, Italy): 5/10 k freestyle

Women’s report | Men’s report

On pre-race feelings:

“I think nerves were a little higher, but not a lot higher. It was more just a feeling of belief and confidence: I’ve done it before, I can do it again type-thing. I was telling myself this was my course. This course was basically built for all of the things that I love to do, I think it’s very fun. I love it when it’s cold out, I loved everything about the day, and I was just letting that excitement and the joy of the sport kind of fill me up. I was pretty pumped, standing on the start time.”

Jessie Diggins (U.S. Ski Team), after winning the women’s race that day

“I felt really tired yesterday and this morning on my run, but when I got on skis for the warm up today I felt like a different person! Lots of energy and feelings of fresh legs, which I was really excited about! I am always really excited for these last stages of the tour in Val di fiemme, as they are my favorite race courses on the circuit and the more racing we get to do the happier I am.”

Liz Stephen (U.S. Ski Team)

On race goals:

“There’s always going to be a level of disappointment if you don’t perform to the level you know that you’re capable of. I knew I was capable of winning, so if I hadn’t [won], maybe I would have been disappointed. But it’s the same as if I finish in a 30 k classic below where I think I can, and that’s obviously not winning, I’d be disappointed with myself. If I knew I had more, and I didn’t give it, that’s when I’m disappointed. But if I go out there, and I give a race everything that I had, and I know that I held nothing back, then I’m not disappointed. All you can do is your best, I mean it’s mathematically impossible to give more than 100 percent, it’s all that you’ve got.”

— Diggins

“My goal was just to go out and lay down a hard final effort to finish off my tour. I have been strong at 5km skate races in the past and I was optimistic that I could have a strong performance today.”

Kikkan Randall (U.S. Ski Team)

On American Sadie Bjornsen (who finished a career-best third):

“Sadie definitely flew under people’s radar, she really didn’t do the damage that she did until the final stretch of the race. Kind of in the last 1.6 k. She really surprised people. Incredibly fast.”

Matt Whitcomb (U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach)

On the weirdness of the Toblach course:

“Of course I was hoping to at least ski into the points. I have struggled at this venue for distance racing over my career for some reason which I can’t quite put my finger on, and today was no exception. There are no steep hills but the working sections are long and I guess that’s probably what kills me – especially in skating. Anyway, I wanted a little more than this today but the body feels good and it was a good wake up after the rest day if nothing else ahead of tomorrow.”

Devon Kershaw (Canadian World Cup Team)

On interval-start racing:

“I skied a bit with [Norway’s Niklas] Dyrhaug on the first lap — but that didn’t turn out to be a good idea since he wasn’t having one. Alex caught me with about two kilometers to go, so I tucked in behind him for the last descents — which obviously helped — but with how I felt today I would have needed a proper ride to achieve anything. Of course I hoped that Alex would have a beast day and that if I could stay with that pace it could slot me in nicely — but Alex, while solid, wasn’t strong enough for me to get a good result gifted. I struggled to find that rhythm and speed today alone and while I felt fine — without finding that power (which for whatever reason eluded me today) you are bleeding time on such a gradual course.”

— Kershaw

On making the most of things:

“I’m still pretty happy with where I am, where I’m standing at the end of the day. But it was just not a great race. I kind of saved it, I guess. It was not great, but I limited the losses.”

Alex Harvey (Canadian World Cup Team)

On deciding between the Tour or returning home for U.S. nationals in an effort to qualify for World Championships:

“I guess I thought about it a little bit, but I really wanted to do the Tour, and I felt like if I was skiing the way I thought I should, I would be able to get the points I needed during the Tour, and then it wouldn’t be a problem. Especially after having a good result in France, I felt really encouraged then, so I didn’t really question my decision to stay, at that point. I was sick for the whole time over Christmas, and only skiing a few times. Obviously the Tour has not gone the way I hoped, or the way I left off in France, so I think I had a really hard time killing this cold for good, and it’s like taken it’s toll on my body. I just hope that every day I get further away from that illness, the better I’ll start to feel and hopefully come back to the kind of results like today and the results I had in France, and more where I think I should be.”

Rosie Brennan (U.S. Ski Team), after placing 23rd

On recovery:

“Last year [after winning this race], I was so thrilled, there was so much going on, there was a press conference, doping control, traveling, and I remember feeling so tired the next day. And this year, I’m just learning how to handle it a little better, in terms of just managing my energy. I think that’s helped a lot. We had a little less to deal with today, in terms of press things, I think was able to manage my energy. So I’m hoping for a solid day tomorrow.”

— Diggins

On going on a World Cup tour with a baby:

“It’s definitely been a little more challenging to travel the tour with a baby along but now I can’t imagine doing it any other way. We’ve tried to be respectful of the team and the rest for the other athletes, so we’ve been driving our own van and eating at a separate table. Breck has been a really good baby and after some sleep training over Christmas, he’s sleeping through the night and taking naps during the day. The support of my parents and Jeff’s parents have been invaluable and the team is also helping a lot too. It requires traveling with a lot more stuff and I can’t always follow the exact routine I’m used to but it’s surprisingly manageable and so wonderful to have such an amazing new part to my life. The baby rooms provided by the organizers have also been really helpful. I’m excited to stay in Toblach for the next week and a half and just get to enjoy some down time with Breck and recover.”

— Randall, who has a nearly 9-month-old infant

***

Stage 6 (Val di Fiemme, Italy): 10/15 k classic mass starts

Women’s report | Men’s report

On how the body’s feeling through six races in eight days:

“Felt good, yeah. Felt good in the morning, went for a jog. Felt good in the warmup, and early during the race. But then I just, I don’t know, couldn’t lay down a good race. So that was bad.”

— Harvey

On day-to-day strategy:

“I’m not like stressing about the final climb on Stage 2, and on Stage 3 I’m not going, ‘Oh, I’m here in the overall, and I need this and that.’ It’s just, go out every day and ski as hard as you can, ski each race as well as you can, and then, you know, if you get every step, eventually you’re climbing up, right? … I know that’s my strength, is I can dig really deep and I can deal with a lot of pain, and I can grind it out.”

— Diggins

On pack skiing and sketchy corners:

“Stuff happens in a race, and that’s why we practice for the unexpected. Practice agility, and our downhill skills, because you need ’em.”

— Diggins

On finishing in the top 30 for World Cup points:

“Even getting one point – I never complain when I’m in the points. And definitely moved up in the Tour to 30th, although it’s really tight in there with several of us. But, you know, tomorrow suits my strengths super well, and I’m looking forward to that. Definitely feel like it was another good step forward from where I was at the beginning of the Tour and for much of Period 1.”

Noah Hoffman (U.S. Ski Team), 30th in the 15 k classic mass start

On staying focused late in the Tour:

“I think it becomes easier, you have so much clearer motivation. I mean, a regular World Cup, if you’re skiing, you know, 45th place in a mass start and a minute behind the top 30, like, that’s a challenging place to stay motivated. Because the difference between 40th place and 50th place is not very big. So in terms of getting yourself to fight for those places, it’s more challenging. … It’s quadruple points at the end of the Tour, so time is very important today.”

— Hoffman

On the second-to-last stage:

“A top 20 is always a top 20, but I was hoping for a bit more energetic feeling out there. Maybe my body knows what’s about to happen to it tomorrow.”

— Stephen

***

Stage 7 (Alpe Cermis/Val di Fiemme, Italy): 9 k freestyle pursuit climb

Women’s report | Men’s report

On entering the last stage:

“At the moment I am feeling like a zombie. I’m really really tired. I think it will all sink in tomorrow, but as of right now I am ready for a break.”

— Diggins

“It’s just knowing that that’s it. Sometimes you can eke out more energy to get up the climb.”

— Brennan

On racing up an alpine mountain:

“I realize why we do it and it’s the real show and it’s a fitting end to a grueling week, but I absolutely hate monkey skating up an alpine ski hill. I have never been good at and even when I was fourth and seventh in Tour de Ski overall, I have had vicious times up it.”

— Kershaw

On being in the wave start, or not:

“Last year I had quite a good race up the hill and I was 19th [for time of day]. I was in the waves so that really helped, being packed in a group all the way down to the first 5 k. Today, [Sweden’s] Daniel Richardsson and I tried to work together but we were both just so shitty, and when you know you have two bad bodies trying to do something for the first 5 k, you are just bleeding time, and when you get to the hill you already lost a minute in that section. Then climbing the hill, we weren’t that much better so it was too bad because the Tour had some bright spots for me and but it was a really forgettable day today. One you have to throw over your shoulder and just keep telling yourself that you were better earlier.”

— Kershaw

I kind of treat this as a time trial anyway. Usually I do start in the wave, but this year it was nice not to. I did have a Swedish skier on my tail for the flat part and I was hoping to be able to take turns and work together, but she was maybe not feeling the necessity to pull. But that was fine. I just kind of wanted to go fast along the flat, as fast as I could. And I think Hedi put quite bit of time into us, or into me, on the flat. So I have to work on that a little bit, too.”

— Stephen

“I don’t know. I’ve only ever done it in the wave, so I don’t really know what it’s like otherwise, but it’s probably a toss up.”

— Brennan

On pacing the flats before the climb:

“It’s such a different kind of skiing. I always feel like you can probably push it a little on the flats without having too much impact on your climb. It’s just narrow, and gradual terrain the whole time, so it’s a different kind of skiing.”

— Brennan

I have always kind of pushed as hard as I can on the flat, because as hard as I can push on a flat is still not going to blow me up. It’s not where I can really hit my groove and be able to really put damage into people — I never feel like I have blown myself up even if I have a time trial on a flat course. I just can’t get to that mark yet with my technique. So yeah, I go as hard as I can on that flat part while trying to stay relaxed, because the less relaxed I am on flats the slower I go. I have to find that happy balance. I felt like I skied the flat as well as I could today, and then was just psyched to turn the corner and go up.”

— Stephen

On final placement in the Tour:

“I am happy to be in the top 15 because I didn’t think that was really a possibility for this tour when I looked at the standings last night so that was good… I am never going to be disappointed with a top 15, but also, it’s hard to come from knowing that I can be top five in this tour. So you always kind of want to get back to your best result and then try to beat that. 15th was not what I was hoping for this year, but at the same time, I am not disappointed with it.”

— Stephen

On the team:

“Our team lost a few people for sure due to illness, but it’s always so nice to celebrate with not only with the team that finished to the top fo the hill but also the wax staff and the coaching staff. This is such a taxing event for them and they are on it all the time. And their moods are always good. I don’t know how they do it — even when they are sick they still have a happy mood on. So that is so key for our performance. A huge thank you needs to go out them for all their work and their spirits.”

— Stephen

On teammates:

“Jessie and I are in a room together, and we have kept the same roommates the entire tour to minimize how many germs are being spread around. Sadie’s being quarantined, for sure. It’s heartbreaking, with her having such a good tour, but I think her [Toblach 5 k] result is still so fresh, that helps with having to make the tough decision to drop. The tour is so grueling, and I think you have to decide for yourself: how does my energy feel right now, and is this digging a hole that I can’t get out of? I think that it”s really mature and smart to think about the rest of the season now.”

— Stephen

“I am so proud of Jessie. To get fifth this year and have her best climb ever, and she told me she thinks she had her best classic race she ever had yesterday, it’s really fun to watch her mature as an athlete and be skiing so well. She is a force, as we all knew she would be. It’s really fun to see it all working out for her for sure. And Rosie in the top 30. And we have our fingers crossed here cheering for Noah on the climb — we are hoping he gets a top 20 on the day.” [Note: Hoffman’s time was 15th-fastest up the climb.]

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