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Norway’s Oestberg wins first Tour de Ski; U.S.’ Diggins finishes off podium

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Watching the cross-country athletes compete in the seventh and final stage of the 2018-19 Tour de Ski, dubbed the Final Climb, is a bit like watching the film “Titanic.” Everyone knows the misery which awaits each skier before they cross the finish line.

The grueling race which culminates in a 3.5km uphill climb, punishes skiers by putting their fitness to the ultimate test.

Entering the final race, Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg held a commanding lead over the rest of the field, but could she perform on Alpe Cermis, a hill which has beaten her up in the past?

“It’s maybe the toughest race of the year,” Oestberg said before the start of the race.  “It’s tough to prepare [for this race] because it’s about preparing for pain and how to deal with the pain.”

However, Oestberg was prepared for the pain, and she cemented her victory with a time of 35 minutes, 15 seconds in the Final Climb to win her first Tour de Ski of her career.

Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva finished second overall for the fourth-consecutive season, while Finland’s Krista Parmakoski rounded out the podium in third. Parmakoski was able to make the final podium despite never having finished better than fourth in any of the first six stages of the Tour de Ski. Parmakoski finished third in the Final Climb. Full results are here.

Last season, Jessie Diggins became the first U.S. skier to make a final Tour de Ski podium when she finished third overall. Her attempt to make a return appearance on this year’s podium fell short, despite three third place finishes over the course of the seven-race event.

Diggins finished sixth in the Final Climb and sixth overall in the final Tour de Ski standings.

On the men’s side, three-time 2018 Olympic champion, 22-year-old Norwegian Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, became the youngest athlete to win the Tour de Ski. Klaebo finished the men’s Final Climb in first with a time of 32 minutes, 51.3 seconds. Klaebo’s time was good enough to hold off two Russians for the top prize. Alexander Bolshunov and Sergey Ustiugov finished second and third in the final Tour de Ski standings.

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Diggins drops out of top three as Tour de Ski heads to last test

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Racing in the penultimate Tour de Ski event, U.S. skier Jessie Diggins finished 7th, complicating her attempt to finish on the podium after tomorrow’s final 9km slog, dubbed the Final Climb in Val di Fiemme.

For much of the first part of the women’s 10km Mass Start, Diggins positioned herself just behind the top ten skiers. Diggins worked her way into seventh place at the halfway mark, but was unable to do better as she neared the finish line. 

This 10km Mass Start was raced using the classical cross-country racing technique. It is a style of skiing Diggins has shown rapid improvement, but today she struggled to match the times of the best in the world, including Tour de Ski overall leader, Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg. Full results are here.

Oestberg takes a 53-second lead into the Final Climb event tomorrow, one in which she has struggled with in the past. The last 3km stretch of the Final Climb is a punishing 30% grade uphill fight to the finish. Every second will count for the Norwegian as she attempts to win her first Tour de Ski title. She finished second in the seven-stage event in 2016 and 2018.

Watch the conclusion of the Tour de Ski with the men’s and women’s Final Climb tomorrow beginning at 7 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel or stream on NBC Sports Gold.

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Jessie Diggins reaches third podium in five races at Tour de Ski

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When the multi-stage Tour de Ski cross-country skiing competition got underway last week, Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins had yet to stand on a World Cup podium during the 2018-19 season. Six days and five races later, the Minnesota native has now notched three podium finishes and is third in the women’s Tour de Ski standings.

Diggins finished third in the opening race of the Tour de Ski (a freestyle sprint in Toblach, Italy) and then secured another podium finish at the third stop, placing third behind American teammate Sophie Caldwell in a freestyle sprint in Val Muestair, Switzerland. The U.S. team dealt with wax problems and icing skis during yesterday’s 10km classic in Oberstdorf, Germany, with Diggins finishing 11th. She rebounded in today’s 10km freestyle pursuit in Oberstdorf, edging out Russia’s Yulia Belorukova by one-tenth of a second for the third and final spot on the podium.

Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg won today’s race for her second victory in as many days. The three-time Olympic medalist now leads both the Tour de Ski standings and the overall World Cup rankings. Full results from today’s race are here.

Competitors have a rest day tomorrow before the Tour de Ski concludes with two final races in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to earning World Cup points at each stop, the overall winner of the Tour de Ski will also gain an additional 400 World Cup points.

A number of top international athletes are not participating in the grueling multi-stage competition this year, including Norway’s Therese Johaug, who was leading the women’s overall World Cup standings until yesterday. Several other competitors, including Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, only competed in the first few stages of the Tour de Ski in order to focus on the remainder of the World Cup season, as well as the World Championships, which begin on February 20 in Austria.

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