DAVOS, Switzerland (Dec. 20, 2014) - Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) skied a strong 10k effort to finish a minute back from dominant Norwegian Marit Bjoergen in Saturday’s freestyle event in Davos – a big confidence booster.
“In 2013 she was 15th and the same time back (~1 min) in this same event in Davos, and finished just eight seconds off the podium two weeks later at World Champs,” U.S. Coach Matt Whitcomb explained of Stephen’s performance. “This will give her confidence as she heads into her training preparations for the Tour de Ski. That is a big focus for her this season. She's on track.”
Stephen led through the first 22 finishers watching from the U.S. Team leader’s chair. She improved some of the long, slow V2 efforts needed to ski well in the higher elevation Swiss venue. Conditions were particularly tricky due to warm weather and mixture of rain and snow on the course throughout the week.
Liz Stephen skis to a strong 12th place finish in a 10k freestyle in Davos. (Getty Images/AFP-Pierre Teyssot)
“It was super tricky depending on where you were on the course. It snowed at the top of the course, but at the bottom it was boiler plate,” Stephen explained. “It was actually hard to stand up in spots.”
Three U.S. women earned World Cup points with Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) and Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) finishing 27th and 29th respectively.
“There were a lot of good things happening out there for me today,” Diggins explained. “Great skis, better confidence on the downhills and I felt like I attacked the turns the way I wanted to. It was tricky in the icy sections so that’s something I’m focusing on for the next few weeks!”
Erik Bjornsen, the lone men’s starter for the U.S., finished 56th. Norway continued their red hot season, sweeping the podium. Anders Gloeersen won with a five second margin over Petter Northug.
Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) finished 12th, 1:01 back from the win.
Erik Bjornsen was the lone U.S. man to ski the 10K effort. He finished 56th.
Conditions were fast and variable due to a lack of snow.
Norway’s Marit Bjorgen won the women’s event. Bjorgen has been impressively dominant at Davos, winning every 10k skate event held at that venue since 2009.
I set the goal of a top ten, so missing that by just two seconds is frustrating, but I am happy with 12th. It was a good day.
Conditions were tricky. Depending on where you were on the course, it was snow at the top and ice at the bottom—boilerplate in some places with just raked out marks on it.
Thanks to our coaches who totally kill it every day. Our guys have been amazing with the skis. We have an A+ staff. They work so hard.
There were a lot of good things out there for me today: great skis, better confidence in the downhills after some nasty falls in training earlier this week. I felt like I attacked the turns the way I wanted to today.
It was a bit tricky for me in the icy sections of the course because it takes a lot of balance to ski well when there’s no real way to grab the snow, so that’s something I’ll be looking to work on for sure.
The highlight for me was having my family out there cheering. They are all here for Christmas and they brought tons of flags and banners and hung them all over the course. It was a great confidence boost hearing them cheering for me!
Matt Whitcomb, Coach
This is a great close to period 1 for Liz. These last two weekends have been her career-best skate and classic distance results on this course. With her late-fall shoulder injury there was a point when I wasn't sure she'd be starting any races this period, so I'm really happy for her.
To ski fast on this course means she had to face a couple big challenges – long gradual descents and long gradual V2 sections. She made these sections work for her today and that is the big success. In 2013 she was 15th and the same time back (~1 min) in this same event in Davos, and finished just eight seconds off the podium two weeks later at World Champs. This will give her confidence as she heads into her training preparations for the Tour de Ski. That is a big focus for her this season. She's on track.
I'm happy to sneak three women in the top-30 today, but we need to be stronger in this event to be competitive in the Tour de Ski that starts two weeks from today. This is traditionally a strong event and we were a bit off the mark today.
It's unfortunate Caitlin Gregg picked up a cold this week for her marquee event. I was really looking forward to her showing the world what she can do on this course. The winter is long and I know she'll knock a few out of the park.