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USA’s Diggins Career-Best 5th and Rookie Holmes Stellar 13th in Women’s 30K F as Bjoergen Takes Gold #Lahti2017 – Canada’s Browne PB in 26th

by Noah Brautigam
Jessica Diggins [P] Nordic Focus
March 04, 2017 (Lahti, Finland) – American Jessie Diggins finished a career best 5th in this event, followed by a phenomenal 13th place performance by world championships rookie Chelsea Holmes.

Chelsea Holmes (USA) [P] Nordic Focus
The Norwegian women put on another clinic today in Saturday’s 30km freestyle mass start – the final race for the women at these world championships. Marit Bjoergen claimed her fourth gold medal of the championships, leading a Norwegian sweep of the top four.

Bjoergen [P] Nordic Focus
Diggin’s 5th place is the top American finish in the women’s 30k, topping Liz Stephen’s 11th place in the 2015 Falun world championships. In this 30k, Stephen finished 25th (+3:09.4), and teammate Caitlin Gregg was 36th (+5:03.7).

“This was by far my best ever 30k, and I had so much fun I was actually smiling during the race! It was an icy fast course with big climbs and my skis were absolute rockets thanks to our service team,” said Diggins who was ecstatic about her 5th place finish – the first non-Norwegian.

Cendrine Browne [P] Nordic Focus
Canadian Cendrine Browne, 23, proved again that she belongs with the elite of the sport, finishing 26th at 3:16.0 behind Bjoergen. After the race, she commented, “”I really surprised myself today. I had the legs, the power and the shape so it was an awesome race.” Browne’s teammates Dahria Beatty, Emily Nishikawa, and Katherine Stewart-Jones finished 34th (+4:45.2), 40th (+6:41.5), and 41st (+7:18.6) respectively.

Bjoergen stayed at the front a large group of women for the first half of the race, sharing the lead with Finland’s Krista Parmakoski and Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla. American’s Jessie Diggins and Chelsea Holmes remained with the lead pack of 13 through 15km, with teammates Liz Stephen and Caitlin Gregg, as well as Cendrine Browne less than a minute behind at the halfway point.

Over the next 10km Bjoergen and Kalla began to string out the field with a punishing pace at the front, dropping Holmes out of the lead pack, but retaining a train of 10 athletes – including Diggins – through the 25km mark. The lead group continued to thin over the last 5km, with the Norwegian pushing the pace, and Diggins holding tough on the back of the pack.

Bjoergen again dropped the hammer on the last series of climbs, and with Kalla losing a pole on the climbs, three Norwegians – Bjoergen, Weng, and Jacobsen – broke away, leading teammate Ragnhild Haga, Diggins, and Parmakoski. Bjoergen was never challenged in the finishing lanes, and it was a race for silver between Weng and Jacobsen, with Weng winning in a photo finish.

“I felt like I had so much positive energy today and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more powerful or energetic during a 30km before,” added Diggins. “I stayed near the back to avoid wasting energy as people were moving positions in the last lap, and waited to try and move when we got closer to the inevitable sprint out.”

US women’s coach Matt Whitcomb was also enthusiastic about the day, “These two (Diggins and Holmes) were fighters today. It was incredible to watch their races unfold.” He added that, “today capped a World Championships to remember for the women’s team.”

Sunday is the final race of these championships, with the prestigious men’s 50km freestyle mass start on the docket.

Results here.

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