A pair of Anchorage skiers have plenty of motivation to help them push through the torturous final stage of the 15th annual Tour de Ski on Sunday.
With their results Saturday in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Rosie Brennan held onto her overall lead in the World Cup standings and Gus Schumacher kept himself in position to pull off the best Tour de Ski overall finish by an American man.
Brennan placed 12th in the women’s classic sprint race to maintain possession of the World Cup’s yellow bib, which is worn by the skier who leads the overall world rankings. Brennan, the second American to wear the bib, has been the World Cup leader since mid-December.
Brennan, a 2018 Winter Olympian from Alaska Pacific University, had hope for more out of the day, but the results was nonetheless a career-best — she had never before made it to the semifinals of a classic sprint.
“I’m happy to have crossed that barrier,” she said by email. “I would have loved to have a dream day today to set me up well for tomorrow. That didn’t quite happen, but it was not a disaster either. I am still in the fight for a strong overall and am looking forward to duking it out the hill tomorrow.”
Through seven races in the eight-race Tour de Ski race series, Brennan sits in seventh place overall. Minnesota’s Jessie Diggins leads the standings — though she placed 10th Saturday, she made the podium in each of the first six races.
Schumacher, an Alaska Winter Stars skier, is 18th in the men’s standings after placing 24th in Saturday’s sprint.
No American man has ever finished the Tour de Ski with a top-20 ranking — Noah Hoffman came close in 2016 when he finished 22nd — so Schumacher could make some history with a strong finish Sunday.
A strong finish, of course, is never easy in the Tour de Ski. The challenging series of eight races in the 10 days wraps up with a 10-kilometer race that ends with a punishing 3.5-kilometer climb up a steep alpine ski slope.
Schumacher, a 20-year-old in his first season on the World Cup circuit, has so far been up to the challenge in his first appearance in the Tour de Ski. He turned in three straight top-15 finishes prior to the sprint, including a career-best eighth-place showing in Friday’s 15-kilometer classic race.
Brennan, Schumacher and Diggins were among six Americans who advanced to Saturday’s sprint heats. APU’s Hailey Swirbul made it as far as the quarterfinals en route to a 17th-place finish in the women’s race.
Sweden’s Oskar Svensson and Linn Svahn claimed the gold medals.