VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Jan. 10, 2015)- Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) skied to a fifth place finish in the penultimate stage of the Tour de Ski, a 10km classic mass start. It boosted her to sixth in the Tour with one stage remaining – the terrifying climb up Alpe Cermis on Sunday, where Stephen will be among the favorites.
“I had great skis today. It’s so warm and it was perfect klister skiing out there,” Stephen explained, “These courses really suit the way I ski, steep hills and long hills. I really liked being in Val di Fiemme with the memories of World Championships.”
Liz Stephen put in a gutsy performance in warm temperatures finishing fifth in the 10k classic mass start in the first of two Val di Fiemme Tour de Ski legs. (Getty Images/AFP-Vincenzo Pinto)
Stephen started conservatively before moving through the field in the final kilometers of the race, skiing closely with Finnish racer Ano-Kaisa Saarinen. “I didn’t have a really fast start. I always had my eye on the person in front of me. I chased her down skiers in the final kilometers with Ano-Kaisa. We never looked back. There were points when I thought was blowing up and done. But then I said, this is the day and why not me?”
Stephen’s effort puts her into sixth place overall heading into the seventh and final stage of this year’s Tour de Ski, a nine kilometer hill climb event. “It’s my favorite event of the whole year,” Stephen said following her finish, “It’s just you and the mountain, the gates and the people. I won’t sleep much tonight because I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Stephen has enjoyed the benefit of extra support as the only remaining U.S. athlete competing in the Tour de Ski. “I had seven techs working on my skis,” she laughed. “It’s a really nice change of pace to be overstaffed. I had amazing skis.”
I had seven techs working on my skis. It’s really fun to be a team that’s over staffed. I had great skis today. It’s so warm here, it’s crazy. It was perfect klister skiing out there. These courses really suit the way I ski, steep hills and long hills. I really liked being in Val di Fiemme with the memories of WC.
The Tour de Ski is my favorite event of the year.
I was really nervous before the race. It’s hard to race so late with the whole day ahead of you and the guys going first. I was spending a lot of time calming my nerves. Once the race started I was focusing in and comfortable.
I didn’t have a really fast start. I always had my eye on the person in front of me. I chased her down with Ano Kaisa (Saarinen, of Finland).
I never looked back. There were points when I was blowing up and done. Then I thought: ‘This is the day and why not me?’ I’m working on confidence and knowing I can ski with the best girls in both classic and skate.
I’ll just focus on the climb. It’s my favorite event of the whole year. It’s just you and the mountain and gates and people.
Four of our alpine athletes, girls that are training twenty minutes up the valley came to watch today. It really meant a lot to have them come and watch and cheer me on at this event.