Diggins, Amundsen win Tour de Ski

United States and Norway take top places on the podium

Photos: Terje Pedersen / NTB
Norway’s Heidi Weng (left) sprays Tour de Ski champion American Jessie Diggins (right) with champagne, while Diggins struggled to open her bottle.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

For the first part of the cross-country skiing schedule, the United States’ Jessie Diggins has raced like she’s on a mission, heading toward Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis in her home state. Like a pied piper, “Follow me to my home,” the 32-year old “leveraged my (2018 Olympic) gold medal” to get the first World Cup event in her state and first in the United States in 19 years in 2020. The week before, COVID shut down the sports world and subsequently the world.

Diggins and Minnesotans have waited four years and on Feb. 17-18, the cross-country world will descend. On Jan, 7, Diggins finished sixth in the finale 10km Mass Start Freestyle but had built up enough of a cushion to win the overall Tour de Ski title by 31.6 over Norway’s Heidi Weng, 32, with a total time of 4:13.19.0.

The Tour de Ski  is a grueling combination of seven sprint and distance races over nine days in three locations: Toblach, Italy, Dec. 30-Jan. 1, Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 3-4, and Val di Fiemme, Italy, Jan. 6-7. The times from each race are added up plus bonus points for reaching certain benchmarks. Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen, 35, received the bronze, so the podium had three 30+ers.

On the podium, Diggins struggled opening the champagne bottle and got sprayed by Weng and Niskanen, who didn’t have a problem with their bottles.

With three weekends of competition before Minneapolis, Diggins leads the overall World Cup standings with 1,402 points, 308 better than Linn Svahn (Sweden), 331 better than teammate third-place Rosie Brennan.

Two Americans in the top three is impressive. Diggins ranks first in distance and fourth in sprint. At the Tour de Ski, she won the 20km Pursuit Classic, Jan. 1  (58:18.7) by a whopping 46.5 over Victoria Carl (Germany) and captured bronze in the 10km Individual Start Classic, Dec. 31 (25:58.7), 10.7 behind gold medalist Niskanen; Pursuit Classic (1:12:09.4), 8.7 shy of Niskanen, and Sprint Classic Jan. 3 ( 2:34.08), 2.03 short of Niskanen, 1.0 away from Norway’s Kristine Stavås Skistad; sixth in the finale 10k Mass Start Freestyle; eighth in the 15km Mass Start Classic, Jan. 6, 5.7 behind gold medalist Svahn, 1.0 in front of Weng.

The always smiling Jessie Diggins shows her Tour de Ski championship trophy.

Diggins won the Tour de Ski and World Cup in 2021, was second in WC in 2022 and 2023. She has eight podiums this year (3-2-3). Svahn won for overall bonus points.

Sophia Laukli’s surprise win in the finale now gives Americans another strong competitor.

For the Norwegian women, in addition to Skistad’s silver, she collected bronze in the Sprint Freestyle, Dec. 30 (3:01.51), 0.29 behind Svahn, 0.22 from Swede Johanna Sundling (Sweden placed four in the top six). Weng was sixth in the 10km Interval Start Classic, Dec. 31; 20km Pursuit Freestyle, Jan. 1, and Pursuit Classic, Jan. 4; ninth in 15km Mass Start Classic, Jan. 6. Mathilde Myhrvold was sixth in Sprint Freestyle Jan. 3. Weng, Kristin Austgulen Fosnæs, Margrethe Bergane, Lotta Udnes Weng, Astrid Øyre Slind, and Skistad are 8-14-16-18-20-24 in World Cup standings.

Swedes Frida Karlsson, Sundling and Svahn finished 4-5-6 in the Tour table and Svahn (#1 Sprint), Emma Ribom, Karlsson, Moa Ilar, Sundling, Ebba Andersson are 2-4-6-9-10-11 in World Cup standings so they will give Swedish-Americans in Minneapolis compatriots to root for.

Norway won seven straight tours between 2013 and 2020, and in 18 Tours, has 9 silver, 8 bronze, and  6 bonus point winners.

The men

Harald Østberg Amundsen displays his Tour de Ski trophy—on his head!

Three-time Tour winner Johannes Høsflot Klæbo was sidelined by the flu, but a Norwegian won anyway.

Harald Østberg Amundsen, 25, won his first Tour de Ski with a total score of 3:41:21.9, finishing 1:19.2 ahead of Friedrich Moch (Germany) and 1:32.8 over Hugo Lapalus (France). Norway’s Martin Løwstrøm Nyenget was fourth (+1:57.3), Erik Valnes sixth (+2:17.7), and Henrik Dønnestad seventh (+2:41.7).

In the 10km Mass Start Freestyle, at 6.8km, the leaders were Amundsen, Nyenget and Moch. At the 7.5km juncture, France’s Jules Lapierre and Hugo Lapalus were 5-6. The skiers then navigate upward an alpine course, going from 12.32% grade, 24% and 28%, a height of 425m up the mountain Alpe Cermis. Valnes faded and Nyenget started to drop back as Amundsen maintained a lead over Lapierre, Moch, and Lapalus. At the 25-minute mark, Amundsen started to fall back and Lapierre and Lapalus made their push. As they hit the 425m slope, it was Moch, Lapierre, Lapalus, Amundsen, Mika Vermeulen (Austria), and Jens Burman (Sweden). Then, it was Moch and Lapierre as they entered the final stretch of the climb. With about 100 meters to go, Lapierre passed Moch and crossed in 33:00.7, with Moch 2.4 back, Lapalus +16.0. Amundsen (+30.2) and Nyenget (+45.5) were 5-6. It was Lapierre’s, 28,  first World Cup victory after finishing third in the event last year. Lucas Chanavat topped the bonus points table.

Amundsen led a Norwegian sweep in the Jan. 4 Pursuit Classic (57:57.7), followed by Dønnestad (+0.5) and Nyenget (+34.6), and Jan. 1 20km Pursuit Freestyle (52:38.0) with Valnes second (+32.9) and Jan Thomas Jensen third (+1:04.6). Amundsen was third in Dec. 31 10km Interval Start Classic (23:25.8, +17.2), and sixth in Dec. 30 Sprint Freestyle. In the 15km Mass Start Classic, Jan. 6, Valnes won (50:50.6) and Pål Golberg placed fourth. Valnes was second in the Dec. 31 10km Interval Start Classic (23:24.8, +16.2) and fourth in Dec. 30 Sprint Freestyle (2:36.54, 0.79).

Americans Ben Ogden was third in Dec. 30 Sprint Freestyle and Gus Schumacher fourth (2:17.13, +2.06) in Jan. 3 Sprint Freestyle.

Norway has won the Tour de Ski seven times; collected 8 silvers, 6 bronzes and had 12 bonus point winners.

This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.