Sadie Bjornsen, Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell and Liz Stephen celebrate their second place in a World Cup 4x5k relay on Sunday in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. (photo: Getty/AFP-Michal Cizek via USST)

Best-Ever Relay for U.S. Women

Nove Mesto, Czech Republic – The U.S. women’s cross country team skied to a second place finish in the FIS World Cup 4x5k relay on Sunday. It was the best-ever U.S. women’s relay finish, as strong opening classic legs set the team up for success.

“There has been an amazing vibe on our team this year, so we are showing up at the start line ready to fight!” said Sadie Bjornsen, of Winthrop, Wash., who skied the second classic leg. “It’s fun to feel like the top is in reach and we are continuing to chase that top step! I’m really proud of everyone.”

Sadie Bjornsen, Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell and Liz Stephen celebrate their second place in a World Cup 4x5k relay on Sunday in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. (photo: Getty/AFP-Michal Cizek via USST)
Sadie Bjornsen, Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell and Liz Stephen celebrate their second place in a World Cup 4x5k relay on Sunday in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. (photo: Getty/AFP-Michal Cizek via USST)

In the women’s relay, Norway grabbed its tenth consecutive World Cup relay victory by 42.1 seconds over the U.S., who finished second. Finland was third. In the men’s 4×7.5k relay, Norway claimed first place, just six seconds ahead of Russia. Italy sprinted to third to steal the spot from Germany.

Right from the start, the U.S. women were tactical and settled into good positions to allow them to fight and move into better spots throughout the race. Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) and Bjornsen led the first two legs of the relay, each skiing to third – some of the best classic legs ever in a women’s relay.

“The scramble leg (opening leg) was a good fit for me,” said Caldwell. “My goal was to fight as hard as I could to stay with the group and not to blow up in order to tag Sadie off in a good place. Norway’s Ingvild Oestberg took off the second lap, but I was able to stay with our little chase pack and come into the tag right in the mix.”

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Caldwell and Bjornsen’s efforts set up Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, Vt.) and Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) to continue the battle with Finland, which had been challenging the U.S. women for second. As Stephen tagged to relay anchor Diggins, she swiftly caught up to Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen and was able to gain a 13.8-second lead by the finish, to claim a convincing second place.

“My tactic for the final leg was to take it out as fast as possible to put time between myself and Finland,” said Diggins said. “Going into the second lap I skied a little more carefully once I knew it was locked in because I didn’t want to bobble or make any mistakes.”

The U.S. men’s relay team had an impressive comeback. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) was able to move the team up from 12th to sixth in the second leg, but anchor Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colo.) was unable to hold on and was bumped back to finish eighth overall.

OFFICIAL RESULTS
FIS Cross-Country Ski World Cup

Nove Mesto, Czech Republic – Jan. 24, 2016

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Women’s 4x5k Relay

1. NORWAY 50:17.2
OESTBERG Ingvild Flugstad 1990 13:12.2
WENG Heidi 1991 13:31.2
JOHAUG Therese 1988 11:55.2
JACOBSEN Astrid Uhrenholdt 1987 11:38.6

2. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA +42.1
CALDWELL Sophie 1990 13:40.1
BJORNSEN Sadie 1989 13:29.0
STEPHEN Elizabeth 1987 12:02.0
DIGGINS Jessica 1991 11:48.2

3. FINLAND +55.9
KYLLOENEN Anne 1987 13:40.8
PARMAKOSKI Krista 1990 13:27.1
ROPONEN Riitta-Liisa 1978 12:08.6
NISKANEN Kerttu 1988 11:56.6

4. GERMANY I +1:56.1
HERRMANN Denise 1988 13:39.7
BELGER Julia 1994 13:54.8
BOEHLER Stefanie 1981 12:04.6
FESSEL Nicole 1983 12:34.2

5. SWEDEN +2:14.9
SETTLIN Evelina 1992 13:58.7
KALLA Charlotte 1987 13:31.7
RYDQVIST Maria 1983 12:08.2
SUNDIN Marika 1991 12:53.5

Men’s 4×7.5k Relay

1. NORWAY I 1:08:29.
ROETHE Sjur 1988 18:15.8
SUNDBY Martin Johnsrud 1984 17:44.7
RUNDGREEN Mathias 1991 16:15.8
KROGH Finn Haagen 1990 16:12.7

2. RUSSIA I +6.0
BELOV Evgeniy 1990 18:14.5
LEGKOV Alexander 1983 18:14.1
CHERVOTKIN Alexey 1995 16:17.8
USTIUGOV Sergey 1992 15:48.6

3. ITALY +54.3
NOECKLER Dietmar 1988 18:15.2
DE FABIANI Francesco 1993 18:38.4
CLARA Roland 1982 16:20.3
PELLEGRINO Federico 1990 16:09.4

4. GERMANY +54.6
KATZ Andreas 1988 18:32.5
DOBLER Jonas 1991 18:21.2
NOTZ Florian 1992 16:19.8
BING Thomas 1990 16:10.1

5. NORWAY II +54.6
NYGAARD Per Kristian 1987 18:40.6
NYENGET Martin Loewstroem 1992 18:35.9
KRUEGER Simen Hegstad 1993 16:01.1
GLOEERSEN Anders 1986 16:06.0

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