World Cup Update: Ulricehamn Recap
Skinnyski: Another weekend in Sweden, and another podium appearance by Jessie Diggins! How'd the team do on Saturday?
Jeremy: It was another great weekend for the team. Ulricehamn is a much different style of sprinting course than what we have seen so far this season and requires skiers to approach it much differently than previous races. This is a long course with few large climbs or descents which made it a gliders course. Those that could glide on their skis more efficiently and powerfully had better success. There were also few places to drop, or make up distance and the most successful tactic during the heats was to go to the front and stay there. Six Americans were able to move onto the heats (Diggins, Maubet Bjornsen, Halverson, Hamilton, Hanneman, and Bolger), but only one moved on any further. Diggins was able to move on from her quarterfinal by leading from start to finish. She had some more difficulties in the semi final narrowly avoiding a crash but was able to hang on for the luck loser position to move into the finals. Diggins was towards the back of the group the entire race, but after a great finish she was able to move into the third position for her eighth podium finish of the year!
Skinnyski: Sunday featured the team sprints, this time pairing Diggins with Sadie Maubet Bjornsen. Team sprints seem like an interesting dynamic, with much of the racing happening on the last legs. But on Sunday, it looked like Diggins was pushing the pace on every leg, maybe attempting to wear down the other teams. What's your take?
Jeremy: Team sprints have always been an exciting race to watch. I only ever competed in a team sprint during my racing career once and it was extraordinarily difficult. Having repeat, near max efforts, with minimal recovery time between is something the body is not used to and the athletes racing need to find the right balance of speed and intensity through the event to ensure enough gas is there in the end. On a course like this one, it is very difficult to break the race open at all in normal conditions, and during a windy day it becomes even more difficult. This race was more about which position you were in coming into the final stretch for the final 20 seconds than the previous 19 minutes of racing. Diggins and Maubet Bjornsen indeed tried to push the pace through the race, but ultimately what cost them a podium position was falling into the tail end of the group on the back half of the course. Coming into the finishing stretch in fifth position is a big ask with the caliber of sprinters they were racing against.
Skinnyski: A weekend of ups and downs for the Swedes. Saturday saw them collect the victories, but once again a star fell as favorite Linn Svahn crashed out in the quarterfinals. And then Sunday, wow, definitely not the results the home field was expecting. What happened?
Jeremy: This is sprint racing! It is why so many people get excited to watch these events. While you can guess as to who will perform on any given day, there is always the unexpected that can happen. Watching the quarterfinal where Svahn fell the best way I can describe it is that a sneaky snow snake was able to take her down! Upon slowing down the replay it looked as if she got a little close to Smedaas (NOR) and tangled up her skis.
You could tell that Svahn was looking to come back on Sunday after having a rough go the last two sprint events she was in. Unfortunately, I believe that a lack of experience may have been the deciding factor in the final results. While Svahn may have been the strongest athlete on the day, she was still bested in the final sprint to the line. I mentioned above that positioning going into the final stretch would decide the race and Svahn came around the final corner leading the seven woman group. It was veteran Anamarija Lampic (SLO) that came around in Svahn’s draft and used that momentum to propel her team to victory.
Skinnyski: One more weekend before the World Championships. What's the final weekend entail? And any early indication what Americans will be competing?
Jeremy: The last World Cup weekend before the World Championships will be on Feb 20-21 in Nove Mesto (CZE). There will be one classic sprint and one distance freestyle race. I would imagine it will be another mixed field with some athletes taking the weekend off to prepare for the World Championships, while others will use these races as tune-ups before the big event. I suspect that we will not see many of the younger Americans as they are currently in Lahti, Finland racing at the World Junior Championships. Note that Midwest's own Caitlin Gregg has earned a start for this weekend's freestyle race!
- Feb 20 - Classic Sprint - 9:30 AM CST
- Feb 21 - Freestyle Distance - Men's 15K 4:00 AM CST, Women's 10K 7:10 AM CST
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.