The U.S. Ski Team and thousands of American fans are heading to the FIS Cross Country World Cup Finals in Quebec City this weekend. (USSA-Reese Brown)
QUEBEC CITY (Mar. 16, 2017) - The Plains of Abraham will be the epicenter of the cross country ski racing world for the second straight year as the FIS Cross Country World Cup Finals come to Quebec City this weekend.
Originally scheduled in Tyumen, Russia, the International Ski Federation moved the event to Canada as a result of Russian doping allegations in January. More than 150 athletes from more than 20 nations will compete, including an expanded quota from the USA.
Action will open Friday with the final freestyle sprint of the season. Saturday will see 15k classic racing for the men and 10k for the women. It will wrap up Sunday with a men’s 15k freestyle and women’s freestyle pursuit.
A mid-week storm dropped 35cm of snow on the Plains of Abraham course. (USSA-Reese Brown)
American fans that cannot make it up to Quebec City can watch all the action live on NBCsports.com/live.
“It's a really special place for me and I’m really excited to be racing in Quebec once again,” said Jessie Diggins. “In addition to a lot of good results on these courses what’s even more important to me is that my family will be here cheering for me! I have amazing support crew and to have my friends and family able to come see me race is really special for me.”
Diggins has had a strong season with two World Cup victories, matching the best ever U.S. finish in the Tour de Ski at fifth, followed by winning an unprecedented two medals at the recent World Championships.
“My season overall has been incredibly fun,” she said. “As an athlete you hope to make each season a step forward from the last; to continue to learn and grow and improve, and this season surpassed my expectations with two World Championships medals, two World Cup victories and becoming a true all-around skier. It's an honor to be leading the US team's results and my hope is that what we are doing on the World Cup will inspire all the young skiers I get to help coach during the summer!”
What has been especially notable this season is Diggins’ ability to score in both classic and freestyle events, as well as recording top finishes in sprints, middle distance and long distance races. She is presently sixth in the overall World Cup rankings, as well as sixth in distance.
“It's so great being back in Canada to finish out the World Cup season,” said Simi Hamilton, who was third a year ago in the freestyle sprint at Gatineau, ON. “As we saw last year and in 2012, Quebec puts on one of the best World Cup races of the year. The courses ski really well as they wind just outside of the parliament, and the atmosphere is always electric as thousands of North American fans line the trails.”
One of the highlights for the Americans is the opportunity to have their own fans trackside. “I'm especially looking forward to having tons of family and friends here yelling for me and our whole U.S. team as we race this weekend,” he added.
U.S. athletes previewed the FIS Cross Country World Cup Finals course in Quebec City Thursday. (USSA-Reese Brown)
Hamilton has had a strong season, with a podium finish at Toblach, Italy in January. “I am most looking forward to the skate sprint on Friday,” he said, “and I will try to finish off a season in which I have felt strong and have produced some solid results with one more. Our team has amazing momentum coming off of our best World Champs ever, and we will be looking to capitalize on that.”
World Championships bronze medalist in the classic team sprint, Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) has had success in Quebec, finishing 11th in last year’s Ski Tour Canada including a 10th in the pursuit at Quebec City.
“I am really looking forward to the closing weekend of racing for the season,” she said. “I have a history of really loving these courses here in Quebec, and loving being back in North America, so it should be some good races for me. I have also always loved the tour format of racing, so it will be fun to end on that note.”
Bjornsen joined all athletes in recognizing what Canadian organizers had been able to produce in the past.
“Quebec always does a wonderful job of putting on a great show, so I am also looking forward to all the American spectators out there cheering our name,” she said. “We don't always get such loud cheering on course, so that is always a highlight when we are here!”
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) will not compete in the World Cup Finals at Quebec City. During warmup training Thursday, Randall was not feeling 100% and decided it was best to sit out the races.
It’s the final World Cup of the season. U.S. athletes will then get a short break before then heading to Fairbanks, AK for the USSA SuperSeries finals and the U.S. Cross Country Championships long distance races March 27-April 2.
WORLD CUP FINALS Quebec City (all times EDT)
Friday, March 17 11:45 a.m. - Freestyle sprint qualifying 2:15 p.m. - Freestyle sprint heats - nbcsports.com/live - LIVE STREAM
Saturday, March 18 10:40 a.m. - Women’s 10k classic mass start - nbcsports.com/live - LIVE STREAM 1:00 p.m. - Men’s 15k classic mass start - nbcsports.com/live - LIVE STREAM
Sunday, March 19 11:20 a.m. - Women’s 10k freestyle pursuit - nbcsports.com/live - LIVE STREAM 12:45 p.m. - Men’s 15k freestyle pursuit - nbcsports.com/live - LIVE STREAM