Stratton Mountain T2 Elite athlete Jessie Diggins moved one step close an overall victory by prevailing in Tuesday’s fourth stage of the 2021 Tour de Ski in Tolbach, Italy.
The Olympic gold medalist selected a later start position during the 10-kilometer freestyle event and led at every time check while returning to the top of the podium. Teammate Rosie Brennan was runner-up during the interval-start format and holds on to the No. 2 overall spot in the standings. She trails Diggins by 20 seconds, while Sweden’s Frida Karlsson sits in third place and faces a 62-second deficit behind the leader.
The Team USA duo recorded a 1-2 finish Sunday, marking the first time U.S. skiers have accomplished that feat since 1982. The historic result was repeated Tuesday, with Brennan establishing the fastest time of the day before Diggins prevailed by 14.8 seconds. Karlsson started with a high pace but could not keep it up throughout the race. Swedish teammate Ebba Andersson gained some momentum following a difficult start to the Tour, placing third to move up to eighth place overall.
Landgrove product Katharine Ogden wound up 18th to earn the best World Cup freestyle result of her career. Hailey Swirbul (20th), Julia Kern (25th) and Caitlin Patterson (39th) were also fast for the North Americans.
“The course here is challenging with lots of climbing in the beginning and then lots of downhills that require a lot of work and aren’t terribly restful coming back into the stadium,” Brennan said during an interview with U.S. Ski Team. “Knowing that, I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste time getting down to business. But (I) also wanted to be sure I had enough in me to push all the way to the finish. I felt I did this well and skied a very consistent race, but it was not enough to not lose time to Jessie — especially on the working downhills, which I consider her to be best in the world at.”
Diggins started 30 seconds behind Kern and caught the Massachusetts skier around the 2-kilometer mark. After that, Diggins attempted to stay close to both Brennan and Ogden. Brennan took over second place by the 3k mark and maintained her position to lock up another podium result.
“I left it all out there and am happy with the way I skied,” Brennan said. “If I’m going to lose a race, losing it to a teammate is not a bad way to go. More importantly, I gained some time in the overall standings on everyone except Jessie. So for the long game, it was a good day. I feel that I am holding up well at the halfway mark of the Tour and really hope I can continue to fight hard in the second half. We made it another day with America 1-2 and that in itself is something to celebrate.”
Four U.S. women have earned a combined 10 World Cup podium appearances this season, including four victories. Brennan continues to lead the overall FIS Cross Country World Cup standings, with Diggins in third. Brennan also leads the World Cup distance standings.
Tuesday’s victory was the third win in Toblach for Diggins and her eighth career World Cup win. She surpassed Kikkan Randall with her 29th career World Cup podium finish, the most for any U.S. cross-country skier.
Gus Schumacher placed a career-best 14th for the U.S. men during Monday’s 15k event. He is now 25th in the overall standings. Scott Patterson (32nd) and Kevin Bolger (40th) were also solid for the U.S. men. Patterson is 37th overall and Bolger is 51st.
The Russian men swept seven of the top eight positions Monday. Denis Spitsov moved up from eighth to second by finishing 8.3 seconds behind teammate and Tour leader Alexander Bolshunov.
Racing will resume Wednesday with classic pursuits. The action will move to Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Friday for classic mass-start races. Saturday’s classic sprints will be followed by Sunday’s final events with 10k freestyle hill climbs.