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It was a cloudy day in Val di Fiemme, Italy for Stage 7 of the Tour de Ski. Today marked the final event before the looming Alpe Cermis hillclimb, with the athletes completing a classic sprint where the inside line on a corner could mean the difference between advancing or not and precious seconds for the overall tour.
Linn Svahn of Sweden won the qualifier in a time of 3:11.98. For the U.S. women, four of the six remaining tour participants qualified for the heats with Jessie Diggins 8th, Julia Kern 10th, Hailey Swirbul 13th, and Rosie Brennan 17th. Katharine Ogden and Caitlin Patterson placed 36th and 39th, respectively. Kern and Swirbul were both knocked out in their quarterfinals. Diggins and Brennan were seeded in the second semi-final where they finished 5th and 6th, respectively.
After today’s sprint Brennan wrote, “It was a very tight turn around from yesterday’s race and today’s race, so after an extremely tough day yesterday, I wasn’t sure how my body would fare today. In the quarterfinal, I finally found a little bit of snap and was very happy to move on to the semifinal. Jessie and I were in a very fast semifinal heat which certainly gives you the best chance of a lucky loser, but I just didn’t have the power I need to get those few extra places. This was the first time I have made it to the semis in a classic sprint so I’m happy to have crossed that barrier.”
Advancing to the final was Linn Svahn, Maja Dahlqvist and Emma Ribom of Sweden, Natalia Neprayaeva and Tatiana Sorina of Russia, and Krista Pärmäkoski of Finland. Svahn, who won both her quarter and semi-final heats in addition to the qualifier, looked to be the favorite. As the racers came into the final corner above the descent to the stadium all six were still in podium contention. Neprayaeva led with Svahn tucked in behind her, ready to slingshot into the final straightaway. Echoing her tactic from the earlier rounds, Svahn did exactly that, pulling away to take her second sprint victory in this year’s Tour de Ski. Behind her, Dahlqvist placed second and Ribom third to make a triple Swedish podium.
This is a maiden podium finish for Ribom. Her previous personal best came in Ruka at the start of the 2020/21 season where she finished 6th in the classic sprint.
“It was so so fun,” said Svahn after the race, “I said to Maja [Dahlqvist] before the final, ‘OK let’s do a triple again’. And it’s all so amazing to be inside with the Swedish girls, we are such a strong team. I am so glad to be a part of this, it’s so so fun.”
The Swedish women are renowned for their sprinting, in fact, they opened the season in Ruka with a triple podium where Svahn once again took gold followed by Dahlqvist and Jonna Sundling placed third.
For Svahn (age 21), this victory makes her the youngest woman to win multiple sprint stages in the Tour de Ski. In addition to winning the opening sprint in Val Müstair, she took gold in the 10 k classic mass start the following day. Today marks her fourth win of the season and seventh win in total.
After her elimination in the semi-final, Diggins finished in 10th place for the day. “That was a good day today,” she wrote, “Once again, so incredibly proud of our staff for all their hard work and for the amazing skis they keep giving us! I did exactly what I needed to out there today in terms of the overall tour. I would have loved to make the finals since my body was feeling great, but that’s just a little extra energy in the bank for tomorrow! Focused on one moment at a time, and ready to absolutely destroy myself on that hill climb tomorrow. The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be crossing that finish line with absolutely nothing left! I’m proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished together, and excited to go charging one last time.”
Overall Tour Standings:
Leading into the final day of racing, Diggins holds the lead, +54 seconds ahead of Russia’s Yulia Stupak in second. Frida Karlsson of Sweden, who was in third place in the tour standings, withdrew from the tour before today’s race. Karlsson sustained an injury from strength training earlier in the week and cited this as a reason for her withdrawal. With the absence of Karlsson, Parmakoski (FIN) moves into third place in the overall rankings (+1:51). Just seven seconds behind her is Neprayaeva (RUS) who finished second in last year’s edition of the Tour de Ski.
Also for the U.S., Brennan remains in 7th place, starting +2:19 after Diggins. Looking towards tomorrow Brennan said, “I am still in the fight for a strong overall and am looking forward to duking it out on the hill tomorrow.”
Swirbul will start in 18th (+5:46), Ogden in 22nd (+7:28), Patterson in 34th (+10:53) and Kern 38th (+13:16).
The Tour concludes tomorrow with the final hillclimb up the Alpe Cermis.
Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.