Weng Earns First World Cup Victory in Years; Diggins Clinches Distance Globe in Fourth

Ella HallMarch 14, 2021
Out of the start gates in Engadin, Switzerland. (Photo: NordicFocus)

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Four months after the season debut in Ruka, Finland the women lined up at the start line one last time to conclude a season many were skeptical would even reach this point. While there was the occasional bump along the way in the form of venue cancellations or missing nations, the World Cup circuit persevered to end in Engadin, Switzerland (replacing the events cancelled in Oslo, Norway due to COVID travel restrictions). For Sunday’s point-to-point 30 k pursuit start skate race there was more on the line than simply glory for the day with the season distance globe still undecided and third place in the overall rankings close, though perhaps less likely to change. 

The lead four, led here by Ebba Andersson (SWE), working together for 27 of the 30 k skate race. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Going into the day, Rosie Brennan of the United States sat in fourth in the overall points with 897 points after losing time and places to Ebba Andersson of Sweden during Saturday’s classic mass start. Andersson began Sunday’s race with 931 points. With the format of Sunday’s event being a pursuit based on Saturday’s finish, Brennan would need to make up 50 seconds to the Swede in order to have a chance. 

Rosie Brennan (USA) bib number 14 skiing in the large chase pack. (Photo: NordicFocus)

For the distance globe, Jessie Diggins of the United States had the lead entering Sunday’s race with 603 points, just 43 ahead of Andersson. Yulia Stupak of Russia was just one point behind Andersson with 559. With all three of these athletes finishing within 20 seconds in Saturday’s event, they were poised for a good final battle Sunday morning. As previously noted, two of this season’s top distance finishers, Therese Johaug of Norway and Frida Karlsson of Sweden were both absent this weekend due to injury. 

In contrast to yesterday’s sun, today’s race took place in blustery winter conditions with cloudy skies and blowing snow. Stupak was first out of the gate with a +7.1 lead over Heidi Weng of Norway and +8.5 to Andersson. Laura Gimmler of Germany, who had a career best finish of fourth place on Saturday, started +16.4 and Diggins was +20.7. This twenty-second margin was breached within a matter of minutes and a lead pack formed with these five skiers. 

Yulia Stupak (RUS) followed by Jessie Diggins (USA) and Heidi Weng (NOR). (Photo: NordicFocus)

As they made their way up the first significant climb of the course, Gimmler dropped off the pace, whittling the front group down to four. They continued to change leads with Weng and Andersson doing much of the pulling, Diggins taking the occasional turn and Stupak content to sit continuously in the rear. Behind the top four, the first chase pack was coalescing, comprising eight athletes – three Germans, two Norwegians, a Swede, Russian and American. Around the time Gimmler was dropping off to join the chase pack, Helene Marie Fossesholm of Norway made a charge out on her own. With the wintery conditions and long sections of flat course that is more conducive to pack-skiing, her break did not last long. At 31 minutes on the race clock she was once again swallowed by the chasing group. 

Helene Marie Fossesholm (NOR) wearing bib 7, finished fifth in the 30 k pursuit start. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Contrary to a typical World Cup course, with small loops and plenty of coach access, the final event of the year was about self-sufficiency. Many of the athletes chose to wear water belts for feeds and in this environment, a snapped pole would essentially mean the end of your race. 

Pack racing in exposed, blustery conditions, shadowed by the ever-present snowmobiles. (Photo: NordicFocus)

At the fifty-minute mark, the second chase pack merged with the first group of chasers and their ranks doubled. With 10 k remaining, the four athletes up front cycled leads frequently while the gap to the large chase pack behind was up to +1:30. Behind the first chase group, the margin back to the next athlete was over two minutes, with Jonna Sundling of Sweden drifting slightly ahead of the next large pack, some 25 women strong. 

Katharine Ogden (USA) bib 33 racing in a pack, on her way to finish 33rd. (Photo: NordicFocus)

With 5 k to go for the leaders, the sun broke through the clouds and the tempo ramped up. With 2.3 k remaining, Weng made her move, hop skating away up a long, grinding climb. With Weng out front, Andersson made to chase her while Stupak and Diggins dropped back. For the next two kilometers, Weng and Andersson pushed. Andersson seemed to close on the Norwegian but when it came down to the line, it was Weng in first +4.5 seconds ahead of Andersson in a time of 1:28:11.6.

Heidi Weng (NOR) made an early break to take the win, Andersson (SWE) visible behind her. (Photo: NordicFocus)

The gap back to Stupak and Diggins widened to some 30 seconds, with Stupak pulling away from Diggins slightly to finish third, +33.7 behind Weng. Diggins finished fourth, +37.3. 

Jessie Diggins (USA) giving it all she’s got one last time this season. (Photo: NordicFocus)

To find the last time Weng topped the World Cup podium one must look all the way back to 2018 when she won the Tour de Ski. The last time she won, excluding Tour de Ski events, was 2016 when she took gold in the 10 k skate mass start in La Clusaz, France. After the race, Weng said, “Oh it was very tough. I tried to get fast in the down hill, but I don’t remember that hill [climb] was so long and it was so steep in the top and when I come down it was a little bit snow. It was very hard. The hill was a friend with me today so that was fantastic.” 

Sunday’s 30k race winner, Heidi Weng of Norway. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Brennan was the next American finisher, coming in 12th place.

“Today we did a 30km point to point that started in the pursuit format, based on our finish from yesterday,” Brennan emailed. “It was really fun to do a point to point race on a famous marathon course! It provided a different kind of challenge from our traditional World Cup races and I really enjoyed that. I started hard to try to bridge up to a pack in front knowing that the flats would be easier in a pack. We were treated to a wicked head wind and fresh snow making for some very challenging conditions. I made it up to the pack and skied comfortably in that pack the rest of the way. I miss judged the distance from the first climb to the last big hill and found myself further back in the pack than I wanted to go into the last climb. I was able to pass a lot of people on that climb, but was too far back to go with girls at the front of the pack. I felt very good so I was bummed about that, but it was really nice to feel good and have fun on the last day of the season.
“I would have really loved to hold onto the top 3 in the overall and distance and I fought with all I had yesterday, but luck was not on my side. I am disappointed to have missed that dream, but especially this year, there was a lot out of the control with races cancelled and moved that made it quite the moving target in the last month of racing. In the end, I did what I thought was best for me and I fought with all I had every time I lined up. To take a step back, I am also very proud of finishing 4th. Last year, I was 15th and that was my best ranking to date so to have moved up to 4th is a massive improvement and shows some of the big steps I made this season. It’s incredibly challenging to put together a perfect season when you pack your bag in November and live out of a suitcase for 4-5 months. I have incredible respect for how Jessie did that this year and am inspired to keep trying to put together good races throughout the whole season.
“A real highlight for me is that our women’s team finished 2nd in the nation’s cup! That shows the depth we are building and momentum we have behind us right now, not to mention the resiliency we all showed navigating one of the more stressful and uncertain seasons I have ever experienced.”
Rosie Brennan (USA) closing in on the finish line for 12th position. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Katharine Ogden stayed steady to finish 33rd again (her position in Saturday’s race as well), +4:42.8 back. Sophia Laukli was 38th, Julia Kern 41st and Hailey Swirbul 53rd, +8:53.5. 

Jessie Diggins (USA) hugs teammate Sophia Laukli (USA) at the finish line. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Dahria Beatty led the way for the Canadian women, finishing in 15th, a personal-best distance finish. “Today was awesome. It was so much fun skiing in a big group like that,” said Beatty to Nordiq Canada. “I caught the first chase pack, and it was fun to have so many women to ski with. I finished strong but had nothing left at the end. I can’t think of a better way to finish the season.”

Katharine Stewart-Jones also ended in the top thirty, in 24th position, +4:17.5. “I made a mistake with ski choice yesterday and struggled with my glide so was frustrated with how things went but I knew I was feeling good, so I channeled that energy into today’s race,” said Stewart-Jones to Nordiq Canada. “It was a cool race, definitely different than what we are used to on the World Cup.

“It was flat and slow conditions, so it was a pack race where strategy mattered a lot. I just stuck behind my pack until it started climbing with three kilometres to go, and then I followed (Ragnhild) Haga to the finish.”

Cendrine Browne came in 35th for the Candian squad.


Laura Mononen (FIN) and Dahria Beatty (CAN) followed by a snow-machine during Sunday’s 30k pursuit. (Photo: NordicFocus)

With the final race of the season concluded, it was time to award the globes. As previously noted, Diggins had already secured the World Cup Overall, the first time in history the title has been won by an American woman. She concluded the season with 1347 points, 268 ahead of Yulia Stupak (RUS) in second. Ebba Andersson (SWE) rounded out the podium in third with 1011 points. 

Jessie Diggins (USA) first American woman to win the World Cup Overall globe. (Photo: NordicFocus)

While the margins for the distance globe narrowed over the course of the day, the placings remained the same. Diggins topped the podium with 653 points, just 13 points ahead of Andersson in second with 640 points. Stupak finished the season third with 619 points, just 21 points behind Andersson. 

Ebba Andersson (SWE): second-place for the day, third place in the Overall and second in the distance standings. (Photo: NordicFocus)
A happy Yulia Stupak of Russia, third place for the day, second place in the season Overall standings and third place in the distance rankings. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Since the last World Cup sprint event was at the start of February in Ulricehamn, Sweden, the standings have remained constant since then. Last season’s sprint globe winner, Linn Svahn of Sweden, took third place with 275 points.

Linn Svahn (SWE) 2020/21 U23 leader and third in the Overall Sprint Standings. (Photo: NordicFocus)

In second place was Nadine Fähndrich with 296 points and in first place with 402 points, Anamarija Lampic of Slovenia.

Team finish pile and huddle for Linn Svahn, Johanna Hagstroem and Maja Dahlqvist of Sweden. The Swedish women’s team took home the team trophy this season. (Photo: NordicFocus)

30 k Pursuit Results | Women’s Overall | Women’s Distance | Women’s Sprint

Ella Hall

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.

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