Jessie Diggins continued to set the pace with strong U.S. Cross Country Ski Team performances in Russia for the third straight day in a row, finishing 12th in a 15k skiathlon in Rybinsk leading three Americans into the points. The skiathlon mixes a 7.5k classic leg followed by a “pit stop” equipment change then a 7.5k freestyle leg. Kikkan Randall finished in 25th and Liz Stephen took 26th. Norway’s Therese Johaug won over Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk in the mixed classic and freestyle event, while Russia dominated the men’s 30k led by Maxim Vylegzhanin.
The team continued to perform strongly despite being completely exhausted from the previous days of competition.
Diggins explains, “Yesterday definitely took a toll on my body, but I was still excited to hammer out a race and see what I could do. I definitely went through a few phases of feeling super tired, then much better after a little recovery on the flat section, then super smashed again. Sometimes I just had to put my head down and fight to keep up with the pack I was with, other times I’d be feeling good enough to bridge a gap to the next group.”
Kikkan Randall still managed to hold on to her fourth place position in the FIS World Cup overall standings, but only retained a 21-point margin over Charlotte Kalla.
Randall experienced a similar level of fatigue, “I was feeling OK, but not 100% out there. I tried to hang with the opening pace and stayed up in the top ten for most of the classic leg, but couldn’t quite find the pop I’ve had earlier this season. I had some good moments and then some rough moments in the skate portion. I still have some recovering to do. I think I may have underestimated the effect that stomach flu had on my energy stores. Didn’t feel like I was at my best today. It will be good to have this next week to put in some good distance training and hopefully kick around.
The World Cup now heads for Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for a distance race and relay.