After earning a Tour de Ski victory last year in Toblach, Italy, Jessie Diggins said she was confident she could repeat that feat Friday. “I went into the day feeling ready and believing in myself,’’ the Afton native said. “Ready to make it happen again.’’
Diggins delivered on that hunch, defending her title in a 5-kilometer freestyle race in the fifth stage of the Tour de Ski. Her 13.6-second triumph over Krista Parmakoski of Finland came with a side order of history, as teammate Sadie Bjornsen finished third. It marked the first time two U.S. women made the podium in a World Cup distance race.
The victory kept Diggins in fifth place in the overall standings in the Tour de Ski, a seven-stage series of races held in Switzerland, Germany and Italy. If she maintains her position in the overall standings, she would match the best-ever performance by an American in the Tour de Ski. Liz Stephen finished fifth in 2015.
“I attacked every inch of the course, skiing as fast as I could on each section,’’ said Diggins, who finished in 12 minutes, 45.6 seconds. “I love this course, and it plays to my strengths, because you have to work every inch of it and never let up.’’
Friday’s race featured an interval start, with Diggins 12th in the start order. With many of the world’s best skiers starting after her, her strong performance in the last half of the race helped her build a margin that held up.
The victory was the third in a row for Diggins in a 5K freestyle with an interval start. She is only the second woman to win three consecutive races of that distance, technique and format, equaling Russia’s Elena Valbe.
The Tour de Ski ends this weekend in Val di Fiemme, Italy, with Saturday’s 10k (women) and 15k (men) classic mass start and Sunday’s 9k freestyle pursuit.