It is now September, but there is more ski racing occurring these days, in various formats, than you may realize. Here’s a brief roundup of two notable American results from across the globe last weekend.
Diggins wins Merino Muster once more
The pandemic put a pause on Jessie Diggins’s traditional trip to New Zealand for August snow time, but this year Diggins has picked up right where she left off. Racing in the Merino Muster for the first time since 2019, she pulled away from SMS teammate Julia Kern late to take the victory.
The race, which occurred Saturday morning New Zealand time, was officially a 42-kilometer mass start skate race. But Diggins’s winning time was 1:18:11, and even though she is a really good skier, and popular marathons typically do not take place over homologated courses, I am politely dubious that they were able to hold it over the full 42km course. Indeed, that would make for a speedy 1:51/km average pace overall, and Diggins’s splits through halfway left her on “just” a 2:14/km average pace.
Other sources on Instagram variously referred to the course as 32km or 34km, so let’s call it 30-something kilometers. (Relatedly, a belated happy birthday to Diggins, who turned 32 on race morning, thereby rendering her a 30-something athlete in a 30-something-kilometer race.)
However long the course was, Diggins’s winning time was, as noted, 1:18:11. Kern crossed the line five seconds later as the day’s second woman. Diggins skied in a pack with the first two male skiers, Fabian Stocék of the Czech Republic (formerly of: Dartmouth College ski team) and Christian Winker of Germany, through at least 21km, the last intermediate checkpoint for which I have timing data. I assume that Kern was with them as well, but her intermediate splits are lacunose.
Stocék ultimately finished slightly over a minute ahead of Diggins to take the overall win in 1:17:08. Winker was seven seconds back for second. Diggins was third overall, and Kern fourth, roughly a minute later.
Fifth overall, and third man, was Quinn Wilson of the U.S., who skis collegiately for Williams, around nine minutes later. Linnéa Magnusson of Sweden was the third-place woman, finishing roughly 20 minutes after Kern.
My former colleague at FasterSkier, and currently very nice guy, Gerry Furseth of Canada, was 24th overall, and first in his age group (M55–59), in a healthy 1:46.
Saturday morning marked Diggins’s fifth victory in the Merino Muster, New Zealand’s entry in the Worldloppet series, in as many tries, a positively Sonnesyn-esque track record.
Diggins and Kern spent August of 2022 at Falls Creek, getting on-snow time high in the Victorian Alps in the southeastern region of mainland Australia while Falls Creek was not an option due to Covid precautions. Diggins won the 2022 Kangaroo Hoppet there, again over Kern in second.
Between Worldloppet racing and Australia/New Zealand Cup racing at the Snow Farm, Diggins last failed to win a race in the southern hemisphere in a classic sprint in tricky conditions in September 2017, six years ago this week. Diggins won three other races at the Snow Farm that week, then went on to win her next nine races in New Zealand, and counting, over the next several years, as well as the 2022 Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek. Diggins, like, frequently wins races against full midwinter World Cup fields, so maybe I shouldn’t overstate the significance of her antipodean exploits, but I still find this stat impressive.
Lauren Jortberg samples crit rollerski racing in France
In the northern hemisphere, the weekend brought rollerski racing in the fourth annual Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival in Annecy, France. Lauren Jortberg, also of the globetrotting SMS team, was the sole American, man or woman, to race there.
Jortberg competed in the cross-country skiing rollerski race on Saturday afternoon. The contest was a six-lap elimination race: the slowest athlete was dropped from the field at the close of laps one through five, then all remaining athletes sprinted it out for the win on lap six.
Jortberg did not win; the win in the women’s race went to French biathlete Lou Jeanmonnot, who thrilled the home crowd with what I think it is fair to call an unexpected victory. Second and third went to Teresa Stadlober of Austria and Victoria Carl of Germany, respectively. The rest of the podium has Olympic medals in cross-country skiing, while Jeanmonnot has a medal from “only” the Youth Olympic Games, in biathlon, which is why I call her victory in Saturday’s nordic ski race somewhat unexpected.
You can see the finish of the race in the above clip. Jortberg appears to have been eliminated before this lap, and so was not among the final ten athletes on course.
The American’s absence notwithstanding, racing in an urban festival environment with scads of spectators looks, and I am going to use a technical term here so bear with me, really friggin’ cool.
For her part, Jortberg concurred, writing on Strava of the event, “COOLEST THING OF MY LIFE 🇫🇷.”
[I could never find overall results, sorry, and so none are linked here. Here is a broadcast screenshot showing the top ten from the final round, is about the best I can do.]
— Gavin Kentch