By Mike Maltais
Methow Valley Olympian Sadie Bjornsen outdistanced her three U.S. teammates to place 18th in the women’s 10-kilometer classic race last Thursday at the XXII Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Bjornsen’s time of 29 minutes, 57.7 seconds put her almost two minutes ahead of Sophie Caldwell, the next-fastest American. Teammates Ida Sargent and Holly Brooks finished close behind Caldwell in 34th and 35th position.
Bjornsen was selected to ski the second leg of the women’s 4x5K relay on Saturday and helped her teammates Kikkan Randall, Elizabeth Stephen and Jessica Diggins to ninth place in a time of 55:33.4. Less than a second separated first-, second- and third-place winners Sweden, Finland and Germany.
The relays “are certainly the races I am looking forward to the most,” Bjornsen said prior to the 4x5K. “I love relays and their ability to pull out a gear in you that you never knew you had.”
Erik Bjornsen placed 38th in the men’s 15K classic on Friday, seven spots behind teammate Noah Hoffman, the first American finisher, and nine ahead of Winthrop’s Brian Gregg, who placed 47th and admitted “this event is my weakest.”
“To my surprise I was selected for the relay,” Gregg said a day before the men’s 4x10K relay on Sunday. “The coaches admitted I would likely ski a faster time in the day, but opted to put my teammate Simi Hamilton in, who is a super strong sprinter.”
Erik Bjornsen skied the second leg on the four-man U.S. 4x10K team and, with teammates Andy Newell, Hoffman and Hamilton, finished 11th with a time of 1:33:15.1, five minutes behind the winning Swedish team.
In the meantime, Gregg is spending his time training for one his best events, the men’s 50K mass start freestyle on Sunday (Feb. 23).
“Conditions have changed in that it is quite a bit warmer,” Gregg said. “Typically in North America we race in colder conditions and colder snow.”
“I do hope that it will be a bit cooler in the 50K,” Gregg added. “In the past I have had issues with muscle cramping on warm days.”
The team sprint classic semifinals and finals for both men and women were scheduled for Wednesday (Feb. 19), though unfavorable weather conditions have caused delays in some races during the course of the XXII Winter Games.