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Schumacher Wins Loppet Cup 10km, Diggins Claims Third in Women’s Race

Gus Schumacher en route to victory in the men’s 10km. [Photo] John Lazenby/Alamy Live News

The sun continued to shine at the Stifel Loppet Cup in Minneapolis on Sunday as American Gus Schumacher made history, skiing to victory in the 10km freestyle individual start at Theodore Wirth Park. He is the first American man to win a World Cup distance race in more than 40 years.

Schumacher outlasted several highly ranked contenders to win in a time of 20:52.7. “I’ve only spent about 15 seconds in the leader’s chair during my racing career,” he laughed afterward. “To see my time keep holding up, I realized that I really did ski a crazy race.” He added, “Part of all of that was the fans. They were so loud that I couldn’t hear my breathing and didn’t really know how hard I was going.”  

Starting 35th out of more than 60 competitors, Schumacher ran among the top three for the first few kilometers on the hilly course, claiming the top split time about halfway through the race, with Norwegian Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo trailing by only one second.  

Schumacher’s subsequent time splits provoked outrageous roars from the crowds lining the course and overflowing the stadium area. With each succeeding split, Schumacher progressively found himself in rarified company, as names like Klaebo, Amundsen and Golberg began to log times that were one, four and even seven seconds slower.

Little by little the big guns began to finish, and Schumacher’s time held up. It finally came down to Paal Golberg of Norway, the last remaining threat, who in the last kilometer could not match Schumacher’s time. The crowd erupted in a deafening cacophony of cheering, screaming, whistling, cowbells and tears. 

Gus Schumacher celebrates atop the podium. [Photo] Hansi Johnson

Schumacher was beside himself. “I came here planning to ski a good sprint heat, but to have this happen today, I couldn’t have imagined. It means so much to me, and I think everyone here.” He continued, “I feel elated, and I can’t believe that I skied the best race in the World Cup today. I’m so grateful to everyone who made this the best World Cup I’ve ever skied. It means a lot to have had the best race of my life with so many true skiing fans here.”

The Minneapolis fans showed up just as enthusiastically on the second day of racing as on the first. [Photo] Hansi Johnson

Schumacher finished ahead of three strong Norwegians. World Cup leader Harald Oestberg Amundsen came in second at 20:57.1 and Golberg finished third with a time of 20:58.5. Klaebo dropped to fourth at 20:59.2.

Diggins’s Dream Comes True

For Jessie Diggins, it was not about the podium. It was all about the event, the team, the spectators and, perhaps, the most significant accomplishment in her career—helping to bring World Cup cross country ski racing to the United States. Diggins’s third-place finish in the women’s 10km was icing on the cake.  

But she still came to race. “I just wanted to go out there and leave it all on the course, and I definitely did—there was nothing left in the tank,” she elaborated. She was emotionally drained as well. “I was sobbing an hour before the start and getting to hug Gus and seeing this come true for him, it was so incredible. He’s like a younger brother and to celebrate this as a team was the most special feeling ever.” 

Jonna Sundling of Sweden had a weekend to remember, with two first-place finishes, which she accomplished with panache. As the distance race progressed, earlier starters were putting in good times, until Sundling came along and blew them out of the water, leap frogging to the front with a margin of 42 seconds and eventually finishing at 22:38.9. “My plan was to start ‘cool’ and then push later,” she said. “The fans were really good, and cheery!” 

Diggins and the other chasers had their work cut out for them. Sundling’s teammate Frida Karlsson was up to the task and conjured up a strong second place at 23:10.7.  

An exuberant Jessie Diggins celebrates at the end of an incredible weekend. [Photo] Hansi Johnson

Linn Svahn, also from Sweden, looked to be the early contender for the third spot on the podium, carrying a meager three seconds lead over Diggins. “The last two kilometers were hard,” said Diggins. “It was hot, the snow was getting slushy, and I couldn’t feel my legs. I was just counting on the crowd to help bring me home.” And it worked.  Diggins threw down an extra effort, neutralizing the differential with Svahn to secure third at 23:10.7. 

Reflecting on the day, Diggins said, “I couldn’t believe how loud it was when I was doing my warm-up. These fans are so engaged, and they cheer for everyone, which is very classy.”

Race fans are accustomed to seeing Diggins collapse at the finish, writhing on the snow until she regains her composure, and this race was no different. “I am thoroughly exhausted,” she admitted. “I just wanted to leave it all out there.” It was apparent that she had. Shortly after doing a brief interview with NBC, Diggins began to walk away and suddenly slumped to the ground against the finish area fencing. Her team leader brought her water, and in a few minutes she was back on her feet, albeit gingerly. In typical Diggins style, she bounced back and up onto the podium for the awards ceremony, thoroughly reveling in the cheers of the crowd and also visibly sobbing with joy.

Jessie Diggins took third in the women’s 10km on a day that she’ll cherish forever. [Photo] Hansi Johnson

As she repeated many times throughout the weekend, for Diggins, it wasn’t about the win, or even getting on the podium.  The real reward was finally seeing World Cup racing happen in the United States. “I had to fight to help make this a reality, and I’ve never been prouder of anything. I know that when I retire I’m going to be happy with everything I’ve done in the sport. I hope that everyone leaves here inspired. I know I will.”