Simi Hamilton’s description of the last few stages of the Tour de Ski
What a week it’s been over here across the pond! The Tour de Ski wraps up tomorrow in Val di Fiemme, Italy, and the red, white, and blue has been crushing house over the last 7 stages in three different countries. It’s pretty normal to see one of those Scandinavian skiers, who also wear red, white, and blue, standing on top of the podium, but this week it’s been a different story. On Tuesday, Sophie made history by winning the 1.2 km classic sprint in Oberstdorf, Germany. She is the first U.S. skier to have ever won a classic sprint, and only the 3rd US female to have ever stood on top of the World Cup podium. And probably the best part of all of it? She held off a surging army of three Norwegian girls, all of whom have basically won every prior race this year, to take the victory at the line. Watching her classic ski is a thing of beauty. There are plenty of fast sprinters out there who thrash and bash around, and move around the course pretty fast based on pure energy output. But Soph glides effortlessly and gracefully and moves faster than everyone else out there. Pretty impressive to say the least. There are always going to be the naysayers out there who will say that US skiing will never reach the same level as Scandinavian racing, but it’s getting pretty obvious that our results of late are proving otherwise.
Yesterday marked the 6th stage of the Tour with a 5/10 km individual skate race in Dobbiaco, Italy. The course is gradual and winding and requires a lot of gut and aggressive skiing to ski fast here. Thankfully, the one and only Jessie Diggins is pretty darn good at that kind of racing. She fights as hard as one can possibly fight from the start gun and doesn’t drop an ounce of effort until she’s well over the finish line. Yesterday, that fighting spirit broke through when Jess won the 5 km World Cup race, only 0.9 seconds ahead Norway’s Heidi Weng. Since I got sick last Monday and had to abandon the Tour, I’ve resorted to taking quite seriously the all-important job of holding spare poles and cheering my face off on the race courses. Watching Jess race yesterday and yelling for her with 1 km to go, it was obvious she was going to have a race for the history books. She’s able to drop her technique and energy output into an extra gear and find speed where nobody else can.
For some, tomorrow’s Tour stage will be the last race before a long break. Jessie will finish the Tour and then head to Seiser Alm, Italy with a few of our other teammates who will also finish the Tour. Jess will fight for a top-10 in the overall standings, and her fitness right now is definitely pointing in the direction of her getting it. For us sprinters (Soph, Andy, and myself), we will use an off weekend for some quality training here in Dobbiaco and on Thursday we’ll make the drive east to Slovenia for a weekend of World Cup sprinting in Planica. It’s still warm and rainy pretty much every where over here, but it’s looking like mother nature might grace us with some snow this week, so keep your fingers crossed for us!