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Laukli 'could not be happier' as she finishes Tour de Ski with maiden win

Jan 07, 2024·Cross-Country
USA's Sophia Laukli celebrates her first World Cup victory after finishing first in the 10km mass start free © NordicFocus

Sophia Laukli made the brutal last event of the 2023/24 Tour de Ski look effortless as she won the first Coop FIS Cross-Country World Cup race of her career in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Sunday.

USA's 23-year-old endurance expert, who also competes on world elite level in trail running, had plenty of energy left in the tank in the final climb of the Tour where skiers race up an Alpine skiing slope, claiming the victory in the women's 10m mass start free.

I don't know if I fully believe itSophia Laukli after claiming her first World Cup victory

Her only individual podium position on had come one year ago, in the same race, where she finished third. Back on the same steep climb in Alpe Cermis, she improved her result to a first-place, overtaking veteran Heidi Weng in the last kilometre to win by a margin of more than 17 seconds. Delphine Claudel from France finished third.

"I don't know if I fully believe it," Laukli said.

"I was really excited for today and after being third last year I was like 'there's not a lot of room for improvement but it would be super, super cool to win’, so I didn't want to have too high expectations but I really could not be happier for this."

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It was 32-year-old Weng, a two-time overall winner of the Tour, who took charge of the race, chasing her seventh overall podium position. With three kilometres to go, Weng was still in the front with Sweden’s defending overall champion Frida Karlsson behind her and Jonna Sundling (SWE) in third place.

The Swedes however did not manage to stay in the front group and as Weng set off up the climb, that has a rise of 425m in total, only Laukli had power left to follow her.

As the hardest part was over and the track evened out, the young American took over Weng and skated off towards the finish line. Laukli made her first World Cup races January 2021. Three years later she got to step on the podium for the first time.

"It's definitely a special and unique race but I'm definitely going to savour it, it feels super, super good," Laukli said.

Norway's Heidi Weng (left), USA's Sophia Laukli (centre) and France's Delphine Claudel (right) smile on the last podium of the 2023/24 Tour de Ski © NordicFocus
Norway's Heidi Weng (left), USA's Sophia Laukli (centre) and France's Delphine Claudel (right) smile on the last podium of the 2023/24 Tour de Ski © NordicFocus

Finland’s 35-year-old Kerttu Niskanen showed her experience on the gruesome climb as she and overall winner Jessie Diggins (USA) battled it out up the hill. It was however France’s Delphine Claudel who grabbed the third-place, 37.7 seconds behind the winner, as she beat Niskanen by almost 19 seconds in the last 800 metres.

Watch as it happened: Laukli rediscovers magic form on Cermis

Diggins struggled in the end but pushed through to claim her second Tour de Ski title, finishing in sixth place 48.5 seconds after her winning teammate as Patricia Eiduka from Latvia got the fifth place. Weng’s second place gave her a second place in Tour as Niskanen’s effort gave her the third place.

Click here for full results from the women’s 10km mass start free and here for the overall Tour de Ski standings.

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