The seven-stage Tour de Ski ended with a staggering climb up the Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Jan. 6) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) combined to place two Americans in the top 15 as the seven-stage Tour de Ski came to a close on the staggering climb up the Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme. It was an impressive performance by Stephen, who was second fastest up the climb, and jumped from 22nd to 15th for a career best Tour finish. Randall, who was tenth a year ago, dropped from seventh to 12th. Tour rookie Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) moved up to 21st for an impressive first year showing. Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk needed all of her two minute plus lead as she took a 27 second win over a hard charging Therese Johaug of Norway who chopped off a minute, 40 seconds. Russian Alex Legkov took the men's Tour title over defending champion Dario Cologna.
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) cracked the top 15 in the Tour de Ski finishing 12th and 15th. Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) was 21st.
It was an impressive show by Stephen who was second fastest behind Johaug up the Alpe Cermis knocking a minute off her time from a year ago.
Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk won by 27 seconds over Norway's Therese Johaug, who knocked more than a minute and a half off the leader on the 9k climb up Alpe Cermis.
Holly Brooks (Anchorage) ended up 38th.
Randall ended the Tour de Ski with two stage wins and second in the Tour sprint standings.
Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) led the U.S. men in 44th with Tour rookie Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) 46th.
The FIS World Cup now heads to Liberec, Czech Republic for a sprint weekend. The athletes will return to Val di Fiemme in mid-February for World Championships. Randall will take a weeklong break from the World Cup for recovery, skipping the sprint races in Liberec to rest and train in France, returning to the World Cup the following weekend in La Clusaz.
After the Sunday's final stage, Stephen paired up with Brooks to win a local team sprint race in nearby Feltre, with Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) and Diggins finishing third. Stephen and Randall had won the event a year ago.
QUOTES Kikkan Randall I am still really satisfied with my Tour as a whole. To win two stages was amazing and I was really psyched with both of those performances. I had a couple solid classic races as well and to finish second in the sprint standings is a nice bonus. I really have to thank our team of staff and coaches. We had such dedicated support through this really demanding week and it feels especially good to have accomplished what we have with a fraction of the resources and man-power of some of the bigger teams!
Today was a tough race for me and not the performance I was hoping to get out of myself. But, it was still a good experience and I will pull some good lessons from it. I actually felt pretty good this morning. My warmup went smoothly and I felt like I had good energy. In my two previous Tours, I have struggled on the climb. Going into today I was optimistic that my skating form was stronger and my goal was to climb better this year.
With some good skiers starting just ahead of me I put in a big effort to get myself in their pack. After about two kilometers, I got into the group and was able to conserve some energy for the climb. Unfortunately, once we started to head up the steeper sections, I struggled with my focus and let my tempo settle too much . I was skiing with my legs too straight and not fighting hard enough to keep my skis moving. The further I went up the climb, the more I struggled. I'm pretty sure this race is tough no matter how rested you are. So somehow I have to figure out how to keep my focus better and use my leg strength.
Having a good performance at the Tour de Ski is exactly what we were looking for and it fits in perfectly with our plans for the rest of the season. We've done a lot of racing so far Now we will focus on recovery, some training and refining everything in preparation for Worlds. It was also really important to get some more time racing on the World Champs courses here in Val di Fiemme and we're more confident than ever that this will be a good venue for the whole team!
Chris Grover, Head Cross Country Coach We had a good day at the Tour de Ski today. Liz's second fastest time of the day was for sure the highlight. She skied with an incredible tempo from start to finish and just about everyone out there noticed her. But Jessie moving up to finish 21st in her first Tour was also fantastic. Very impressive for such a young skier to keep improving through the Tour as she did. She really shows a lot of racing maturity for such a young athlete. Kikkan didn’t have the day that she wanted, obviously, but 12th in the Tour is very respectable and her two stage victories are for sure some of the most inspirational moments for the Team in the last nine days. Noah also skied really fast for the 17th best time of the day today.
So although we didn’t accomplish every individual goal that the athletes had for themselves for the Tour, we need to remind ourselves that our plan has always been to use the Tour de Sk to build fitness through racing in the middle of the season and to use that fitness (and subsequent recovery) as a stepping stone to success at the World Championships. It is just easy to forget that fact when we are in the middle of an exciting race series like the TDS.