Brennan Fifth in World Champs 30k Classic
In the last women’s race of the 2023 World Championships in Planica, Slovenia the 30km classic track was set for one of the most grueling races of the event. With the sun and heat making an appearance after days of rain, sleet, snow and generally unfavorable weather, the 46 women athletes lined up for the mass start race. American Rosie Brennan led the day for the team - in one of her gutsiest races yet. To put this course into perspective, 30km is 18.3 miles total and the athletes would climb over 3,000ft as they crossed the finish line.
It all started at the noon hour. Along with Brennan on the U.S. roster was Julia Kern, Hailey Swirbul and Sydney Palmer-Leger. All having a few races under their belt in the days leading up, the women were feeling confident going into the last race of an already successful championships. With the length of the course, the athletes and their technicians had to make a solid game plan - would you change skis in the middle of the race to click into a fresh pair with more kick wax? Or would you stick with the planks you had on the start line and ski the entire 18+ miles on the same pair? That was the question for the entire field, with the rapid warming of temperatures throughout the 1.5 hours of racing.
With the sound of the gun launching the athletes onto the course, the women had 30km in front of them, on a hilly and very technical course. Featuring sharp corners that led to broken skis, bindings and poles in the earlier races, to long uphills and fast downhills, this course was simply just challenging. That did not stop the athletes from charging, though. Brennan started the race in the lead pack and never let up until she toed the finish line. With Ebba Andersson of Sweden leading the race, a group of five chased her, one of them Brennan.
As the racers spread out as more kilometers were skied, Brennan was still in the lead pack and Kern and Swirbul were only 60 seconds back, navigating the course and the conditions with several other countries. On the second lap through the stadium, Palmer Leger pulled out of the race.
Coming through the stadium after 12-13km, the women changed skis, snapping on a fresh pair of planks to take them to the end. By doing this, the majority of the field had new wax and better odds at cleanly climbing the hills without slipping on the skied out classic tracks. By changing skis, Andersson of Sweden gained a stronger lead but Brennan continued to be right on her heels along with four other racers.
“This one of the best classic races I have ever seen Rosie ski,” said Head Coach Matt Whitcomb. “And by far one of the most entertaining classic races I’ve ever watched.”
Going into the last lap, Swirbul was gaining on the athletes ahead of her and was charging up the uphills. As she crested the highest point of the course, she was in perfect position to land herself in the top-20, and that she did. As she crossed the finish line, she was 18th overall, her best-ever individual result at World Championships.
For Brennan, she was having one of the best races of her year. In the sprint to the finish, she crossed the line in fifth, a major result for her but also keeping her hungry for more, knowing that the podium was a second away.
“I skied with my heart today and gave it my all,” said Brennan. “That was a fight. You have to take a chance and put yourself in it, and I fought until the end and gave it all I had.”
At the end of the day, Brennan was fifth, only 16.39 seconds out of first, Swirbul was 18th and Kern was 27th. For the podium, Andersson won the day, Anne Kjersti Kalvaa of Norway was second and Sweden's Frida Karlsson was third.
Now, the team will be out on course cheering the men as they ski the 50km tomorrow, March 5, then will pack up and head to Norway for period four of World Cup ski racing.