World Champion Jessie Diggins finished fifth and newcomer Sophie Caldwell (pictured) finished ninth at the women’s Tour de Ski 3k prologue Saturday in rainy Oberhof, Germany. (Getty Images/Bongarts/Christof Koepsel)
OBERHOF, Germany (Dec. 28) – World Champion Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) issued a strong opening statement Saturday with a fifth-place finish at the women’s Tour de Ski 3k prologue. Newcomer Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) finished ninth in her career-first Tour race while Norway’s Marit Bjoergen took the victory. The Tour continues Sunday with men’s and women’s sprints instead of the usual distance races due to warm temperatures and very limited snow.
World Champion Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) issued a strong opening statement Saturday by taking an early lead and then finishing fifth at the women’s Tour de Ski 3k prologue.
Newcomer Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) finished ninth in her career-first Tour race while Norway’s Marit Bjoergen took the victory.
Holly Brooks (Anchorage) also led the race during her early start and then finished 21st.
World Champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) opted out of the Tour to continue training for Sochi.
Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk also opted out of starting the Tour after officials changed the distance race to a sprint due to warm weather and very limited snow. She has skied in all seven past Tours and won the Tour title four times.
Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) topped for U.S. men in 20th in the men’s 4.5k race while Canadians Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw went one-two.
The eighth running of the grueling nine-day, seven-stage event began Saturday with short 4.5k and 3k men’s and women’s races despite rain and very little snow. Workers hauled in snow to build the narrow strip used as the track for Saturday’s races.
Athletes will ski six more stages in the next eight days across courses in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
Only Diggins, Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) and Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) plan to complete the whole Tour, while the rest of the U.S. athletes plan to ski in the first four events.
The Tour continues Sunday with men’s and women’s sprints, where Diggins, Newell and Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) hope to use their strongest events to move up in the tour standings.
QUOTES Jessie Diggins Today was a great way to begin the Tour de Ski. I had good energy and fantastic Salomon boards thanks to our staff doing an incredible job, and it was so fun to see the rest of the team kick off the races well!
I'm not bummed out by the added skate sprint, that's for sure, as I like skate better than classic. So I'm excited for the upcoming races. The tour is a fun, extremely hard, exciting series, and I think the key is to put together as many solid performances as you can. No day needs to be an A-plus, but if you can have a lot of A-minus days in a row without building too much fatigue, the tour goes pretty well!
Sophie Caldwell This is my first time starting the Tour de Ski and it's pretty rare that we get to race prologues, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The snow was really wet and dirty, but they salted some parts of the course beforehand so those parts hardened up a little. I think I executed my plan well because I felt great my first lap and even though I started to get tired my second lap, I held it together enough to have a strong finish.
I think it's a little funny that a prologue is considered a distance race since it's only 3k, but it's also definitely not a sprint. I've never been in the top 30 in a distance race and now I have one top 10 in a sprint and a prologue is somewhere in between the two, so I wasn't sure what my expectations were, but a ninth definitely exceeded them!
Chris Grover It was a great start to the Tour de Ski for the cross country team today. The freestyle prologue has become one of our best events. Today's result for Jessie Diggins (fifth) ties her best individual World Cup result. Today's result for Sophie Caldwell (ninth) ties her best World Cup finish from Davos in the sprint two weeks ago and marks her first-ever World Cup distance race points. For Andy Newell, it was his fourth straight year taking points in this event in Oberhof. As a Team, we should build momentum over the next two stages, which include a skate sprint here in Oberhof on Sunday and another skate sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on Tuesday. We are very excited to be entering the Tour with a handful of athletes that are fit, healthy, and excited to be racing despite some inclement weather and low-snow conditions here in Germany.