World Cup Update: Tour de Ski Stages 4-5 Recap
Skinnyski: Another remarkable two stages for the US women, let's start with a strong freestyle interval race. What can you tell us about the race on Tuesday? Any advantages for the US women starting four at the end of the field?
Jeremy: The US women have historically been stronger in skate races than the classic races so I am sure that they were looking to make some gains on the field on the day. Once everything was settled, it showed that the results from Sunday’s freestyle pursuit was not a fluke. Diggins and Brennan were able to repeat an already historical performance with another 1-2 finish further extending their overall TDS lead.
The younger team members also had fantastic races! Ogden had a career best finish in 18th, while Swirbul and Kern also were able to finish inside of the top 30 with a 20th and 25th place finish respectively. If these results continue, we may be able to see multiple women finish in the top 20.
At the end of the day it was exciting to see Diggins and Brennan distance themselves from the overall standings, growing their lead to nearly a full minute. In addition, one favorite coming into the tour, Frida Karlsson, dropped additional time. This was a huge blow to her chances to stand on top of the podium.
Skinnyski: Almost as stunning was the performance of 20 year old Gus Schumacher -- 14th in the men's 15K freestyle! And it looks like he collected some significant names?
Jeremy: I completely agree. He has shown consistency through the beginning of the tour, and has now stepped up his results to a career best 14th place finish. It is amazing to see some of the veteran names behind Schumacher like Musgrave, Cologna, Halfvarsson, and many more. If he continues on this trajectory he could finish with the best ever finish by an American male!
Skinnyski: Wednesday's classic race looked like a grueling affair. It was impressive to see Diggins and Brennan bend but not break, Diggins recovering for yet another fantastic finish. What did you notice about that race?
Jeremy: I believe that there are two hurdles for Diggins and Brennan to overcome and this was the first. I mentioned earlier that they are both historically stronger in the freestyle technique. The classic pursuit was not as much about putting more time into the field, but trying to not let them catch up too much. They both did a spectacular job of defending their positions. Diggins was able to finish basically even with Stupak (RUS) and Andersson (SWE), while Brennan was only 17 seconds off the podium.
The biggest thing I noticed from the race was Diggins and Brennan's ability to deal with adversity. It is always mentally more difficult to start with a significant lead and get caught. At the point that Diggins was caught by Stupak, Andersson, and Brennan she had a small fall. It was great to see her get back up quickly and reattach herself to the trio and not lose significant time. This to me was a more significant race than any of the previous few podiums that she has had this week.
Skinnyski: Rest/travel day on Thursday, then the final three events. What's in the line up for those final events?
Jeremy: There are two more classic events, a mass start and a classic sprint before the famous final hill climb up the ski area. If Diggins and Brennan can limit damages like they did on Wednesday during the mass start race, I believe that both will have the fitness during the sprint and final climb to be heavy favorites going into the final stage.
- January 8th - 10/15km Mass Start Classic (6:15 am CST)
- January 9th - Classic Sprint (5:00 am CST)
- January 10th - Freestyle Hill Climb (5:45 am CST)
Skinnyski: It has been encouraging to see a "normal" winter at the first two venues this series. What are you hearing about conditions in Toblach, and can we expect the same in Val di Fiemme?
Jeremy: Toblach was definitely more tricky for the wax technicians than in Val Mustair earlier in the week. Temperatures were slightly warmer and the way the course is situated, there were significant differences in snow conditions between the shady and sunny areas. Wax techs were working hard to find wax that would be able to kick in the sunny spots on the course without icing in the cooler sections. They clearly were able to do this with great success shown by the results across the entire team. Val di Fiemme will be equally tricky for finding the sweet spot of kick and glide. Temperatures will drop overnight below freezing, but warm up to near 32 degrees through the day and with partly cloudy conditions that will make sun spots on sections of the course. If the wax techs can give the team competitive skis, I believe that we may see a historic podium finish on Sunday.
About the author...
Jeremy Hecker is the current racing service manager at Pioneer Midwest and Rex Ski Wax technical representative for the US. He has been skiing for his entire lifetime, racing competitively in college for St. Scholastica. Since graduating in 2013 he has coached for numerous teams including Endurance United, Stratton Mountain School, and the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. In addition to his coaching experience, Jeremy has a Masters degree in the Biology of Physical Activity which he obtained from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.