TOBLACH, Italy (Jan. 3) – Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) posted the fifth-fastest time of the day Friday, starting from 22nd to finish 12th in the 15k pursuit stage of the grueling seven-stage Tour de Ski. Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) also skied an impressive race, sealing the second-fastest time of the day and moving up from 69th to finish 27th in the men’s 35k pursuit. The men and women move to Val di Fiemme, Italy Saturday to ski a 10k and 5k classic race. Tune into Universal Sports for nightly coverage of Tour de Ski at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Liz Stephen posted the fifth-fastest time of the day Friday when she started from 22nd to finish 12th in the 15k pursuit stage of the Tour de Ski. (Getty Images/Agence Zoom/Vianney Thibaut)
The race was really hard and really fun. Jessie and I had a great pack to ski with. Kristin, being the strongest on the climbs, would pull away from the group with me a bit off her heels, and Jessie was really good on the downhills so would pull us back in again. It was a really fun game of cat and mouse and we went fast from the start, which made it exciting and also helped us catch so many people. Big thanks to Kristin for doing such incredible work out there and a shoutout to Sara Lindborg for winning the day and certainly having what I would guess is her best skate race of her career. Really strong skiing by her.
I am very excited with how my race went today. I started hard. The course is essentially a 16k gradual uphill, 16k gradual down then a 3k loop in the stadium. I knew from my experience racing this course last year that I needed to be with a group going down the pass. The draft effect becomes so great that you can’t ski as fast alone as you can with a group. So, I put in a big effort near the top of the climb to reach a big group. The group was also moving well, and we caught another pack ahead of us. Making contact with the original group before the top was key to my success today.
I was excited for the 15k skate because I really like the course here, and I love pursuit starts where I get to chase people down. I started in the same second as two other girls, with Liz two seconds behind me. I couldn't keep up on the climbs, but on the second half of the course and especially the gradual downhill I would catch up. Kristin Stormer Steira (of Norway), Liz and I all took turns pulling. I would lead the flats and downhills, doing the work where my strengths were on the course to help pull the group along, and then I'd try my best to stay in contact on the climbs. This was for sure the most fun I've had racing so far this year, working with the other girls to have a great race. I was also so thrilled with my skis. My Salomons were running so fast, thanks to such hard work from our wax crew!
Starting only two seconds apart, Jessie and Liz had a chance to work together to employ each other's strengths. Today, Liz was a little stronger on the long gradual climbing and Jessie a little stronger on the flats. They predicted this would be the case and were ready to execute their plan. I was happy to see them engage in tactics the way they did. The energy was quite strong for both Jessie and Liz, which is a lot to ask for with only two stages left to race.
Noah picked up where Jessie and Liz left off, not to mention where he left off in the Kuusamo mini tour. We've always known Noah can chase people down that are ahead of him, but his speed has often suffered in the final 1-2 kilometers of racing. In kuusamo and again today he caught the pack and finished high within it. His ability to ski efficiently with the group has improved dramatically.
We are really proud of our athletes today, but again the service team produced some very fast skis. It takes a team effort and we were rewarded for it.