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Warm Weather Shakes Up International Schedule; Birkie Becomes 5th Worldloppet

Eliassen, Boner Win Relocated Ski Classic at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf

Poor snow conditions in Oberammergau, Germany, leading up to the König Ludwig Lauf, forced the cancellation of the sixth Visma Ski Classics race. However, thanks to some quick organizing from Seefeld resort, the professional race was decided to be relocated to the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Tirol, Austria, just four days before the event.

Seefeld has hosted cross-country ski events twice for the Winter Olympics and features 200 kilometers of groomed ski trails. Initially a 50 k event, the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf extended the course for the Ski Classics event making a challenging three-lap, 65 k event while also offering a 22 k citizens race.

Petter Eliassen took his third Ski Classics win of the season just beating Johan Kjølstad in a sprint finish. Seraina Boner of Team Exspirit took her first win of the season on the women’s race.

Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go) and Kjølstad (Team United Bakeries) were part of a group of four that broke away from the field on the final lap of the race.  However, Tore Bjørserth Berdal and Tord Asle Gjerdalen were unable to keep pace with the pair on the final steep climb. The title was determined on the homestretch where Eliassen edged Kjølstad by less than one second. Gjerdalen frm (Team Santander) claimed third after winning the Marcialonga last weekend.

According to a Ski Classics press release, Kjølstad was happy with his race as Marcialonga and La Diagonela were disappointments for him after finishing 18th and 23rd.

On the women’s side, Boner broke Britta Johansson-Norgren’s winning streak. Johansson-Norgren (Team Lager 157) has won the past three Ski Classics races but she struggled to double-pole the challenging course with 1300 meters of climbing and finished fourth, nearly eight minutes behind the leader.

Although Boner has won the Ski Classics three times, this was her first win of the season. She dominated the race ahead of Katerina Smutna (Team Santander) winning by over three minutes.

Smutna was the second across the line but was given a three-minute penalty for allowing a coach to help her clean her skis. This moved Astrid Øyre Slind into second place for her first Ski Classics podium.

According to a Ski Classics press release, Boner said she felt great right from the beginning and three laps went by in a “zone” for her. She was really pleased to be the number one today as it has been a challenging season for her so far.

Johansson-Norgren remains at the top of the overall standings and Eliassen extended his lead over Gjerdalen.

The racers were pleased with the course and efforts by the race organizers to host a high-profile race in short notice and are excited to see more races at the venue, including cross-country skiing world championships in 2019.

“Hopefully this is the start of a long cooperation between us and Seefeld, I believe it could have a natural place in the Visma Ski Classics calendar for years to come,” said David Nilsson, Ski Classics CEO said according to a press release.

Results  | Overall Standings

 

Toblach-Cortina to be Held on Alternate Course

Event 7 of the Ski Classics series is the Toblach-Cortina to be held in northern Italy. Due to warm weather, the race will not be held on the full course but instead on an alternate 32 k course that starts in Prags/Braies and finishes in Toblach.

Although it is a disappointment, racers and organizers were pleased a full course could be pulled together at Seefeld.

“We are delighted that the local organizers in Toblach has secured the race next weekend, even if the snow conditions make it impossible to do the full course. For our Pro Team Athletes we are happy that we had the tough race in Seefeld last weekend, which makes a 32km course more easy to live with,” Nilsson said in a press release.

 

Fifth FIS Worldloppet to be Relocated to American Birkebeiner

After unseasonably warm weather devastated the course and artificial snow deposits of the Tartu Marathon in Estonia, the decision was made to designate the American Birkebeiner as the fifth stage of the FIS Worldloppet Cup.

The American Birkebeiner has been designated as a FIS Wordloppet Cup race for the past three years. The Birkie previously alternated with Finlandia Hiihto but they turned down the offer, allowing the Birkie to keep the designation in consecutive years.

Tartu asked if they could host it this year as it interferes with the World Cup schedule next year. To American Birkebeiner Executive Director Ben Popp, it only seemed fair to share the opportunity.

“There’s now 20 Worldloppet races and nine race weekends on the calendar, so there’s always that give and take to try to give everybody that opportunity to host the Marathon Cup,” he said in a 2015 interview with FasterSkier.

However, when the cancellation of the Tartu Marathon became inevitable, the Birkie was a natural replacement.

“The American Birkebeiner is a great race and loved by athletes. It is definitely the best substitute for Tartu Marathon, as it has a similar course, just in different technique,” said Epp Paal, the race coordinator of FIS Worldloppet Cup, according to a FIS press release.

The American Birkebeiner is excited to host yet another FIS Wordloppet Cup event and the course is currently in great shape with a favorable forecast.

The race will take place Feb. 20 on the traditional course from Cable to Hayward, Wis.

— Kaitlyn Patterson

Gjerdalen Bests Eliassen, Johansson-Norgren Wins Again at Manmade Marcialonga

Two kilometers of manmade snow is one thing, but covering 70 k with artificial snow is another story. Yet, despite no natural snow, the organizers of Italy’s Marcialonga, the fifth event in the Visma Ski Classics, managed to pull-off the classical-style Worldloppet race event on Sunday with complete snow coverage over the 70 k course. Testing the tracks first were the women marathoners, who started 10 minutes prior to the men. At the 18 k mark, Sweden’s Britta Johansson-Norgren and Austrian Katerina Smutna broke away from the other 937 female competitors and skied together until the infamously most difficult part of the course, the Cascata climb. With 2.5 k of uphill to the finish in Cavalese, the real battle for first between Norgren and Smutna began. In the end, Norgren bested Smutna by 1.4 seconds, claiming her first Marcialonga win in a time of 3:13:50.7. It was her third-consecutive Ski Classics…

Eliassen, Johansson-Norgren Top La Diagonela for 2nd Ski Classics Win

Sunshine and a full race course made for happy racers at La Diagonela, the fourth Visma Ski Classics event on Saturday and the first to be held on a single-lap course this season. Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go and Britta Johansson-Norgren of the Lager 157 Ski Team both won the second-consecutive Ski Classics this season after taking titles at the Jizerská 50 two weeks ago. Instead of 15 laps of a 3.3 k course at Jizerska, skiers traversed a 55-kilometer course along the beautiful Engadine Valley in the classic-only race. Contained within the valley, the course is relatively flat but features a significant climb just after 20 k to bring racers to the highest point of the course at 1800 meters above sea level. Although the second half features a net descent, skiers are challenged by undulating hills and a final climb into Zouz, Switzerland. Although it was initially planned as a 65 k event, minor changes had to…

CXC Team Dominates Noquemanon Ski Marathon

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Bluebird skies greeted skiers in for the start of the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, the second race of the new CXC Marathon Cup, on Saturday. Although the race offers both skate and freestyle options, the 50-kilometer classic race is the premier race and it is designated as a classic event in the CXC Marathon Cup. The race is held on a unique point-to-point course beginning in Ishpeming, Mich., and ending in Marquette. The course has a net descent of 800 feet, all occurring in the second half of the race. However, the course poses unique challenges with steep climbs, technical descents, frozen lake crossings capable of shearing off kick wax, and the potential for significant temperature changes across the course. The CXC Team was well represented on the women’s and men’s podiums of the 50 k classic race. Kyle Bratrud won the men’s race by over five minutes in 2:25:28. Bratrud…

Treinen Defends Qaniq Challenge Title; Frankowski Tops Brooks in Two-Day Event

  By Gavin Kentch VALDEZ, Alaska — Lex Treinen defended his title in the second-annual Qaniq Challenge while Rosie Frankowski set the pace for the women, completing an Alaska Pacific University (APU) sweep of the two-day series last Saturday and Sunday. The Qaniq Challenge sent skiers around a classic course on the first day of racing, then over a different skate course on Day 2.  Each course was roughly 15 kilometers.  Lowest combined time from both days wins.  In this year’s race, as in 2015, time gaps created on Day 1 proved difficult to overcome on Day 2, and the overall finish order remained largely unchanged after the first day of racing. Saturday sent the field of 36 racers over a classic individual-start course.  Race organizers called the classic course as 19 k, but by general acclaim it seems to have been somewhat shorter than that. Two-thirds of the course was pancake-flat, running along a river…

Gregg Edges Liebsch in Seeley Hills Classic; Naryshkina Dominates Women’s Race

By Kaitlyn Patterson It was a cold morning in Seeley, Wis., so cold that the traditional 42-kilometer Seeley Hills Classic, the first race of the CXC Marathon Cup, was slightly shortened to 38 k with temps at -5 degrees Fahrenheit at the start and not predicted to rise above zero degrees. Seeley Hills traditionally draws strong fields to race exclusively classic technique on the American Birkebeiner’s famous ski trails. The race starts and ends at the “OO” trailhead, the Birkie’s halfway point. In the men’s field, Brian Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus), Matt Liebsch (Gear West/Salomon), and Nick Power (CXC Team) established themselves as the lead group halfway through Saturday’s race. Liebsch and Gregg later dropped Powers around 33 k, but neither could get away. “We made a number of moves on each other but were unable to break the other,” Gregg wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “We train together a lot and we know…

Inaugural CXC Marathon Cup Opens Saturday at Seeley Hills Classic

By Kaitlyn Patterson The Midwest might not have mountains, elevation, or the first skiable snow, but it could very well be a hot spot for high-quality ski marathons. In addition to hosting the king of North American ski marathons: the American Birkebeiner, there are numerous events across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan that boast annual turnouts of hundreds of skiers and prize purses to draw strong fields. This year, six of these races including the Birkie, will be a part of the inaugural Central Cross Country (CXC) Marathon Cup.  The CXC Marathon Cup connects some of the biggest ski events across the region including two races in Minnesota, two in Wisconsin and two in Michigan.  The races are split between classic and skate disciplines with two skate races, two classic races, one skiathlon, and one weekend with both a classic and skate race. “The idea grew out of a discussion of how…

Eliassen Dominates Jizerska 50; Norgren Leads Swedish Double-Poling Sweep

After 15 loops around the 3.3 k course, Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go demolished the Visma Ski Classics field at the Jizerska 50 in the Czech Republic. Double-poling the whole way, Eliassen finished with a gap of three minutes and 14 seconds to Johan Kjølstad of Team United Bakeries. “It was unexpected that there would be so much distance,” Eliassen told TV2, according to a translation. “They probably slowed a bit and watched each other [for the finish].” Indeed, true fight of the race was for second place, with Kjølstad edging Anders Aukland of Team Santander and Daniel Richardsson of Team Exspirit by just over a second. After finishing third in La Sgambeda, the first race of the Ski Classics series, Kjølstad now leads the overall standings by 35 points over Eliassen, with John Kristian Dahl – who won La Sgambeda but finished 17th in the Jizerska – in…

Jizerska 50 Preview: A 15-Lap Race with a Story

A continuing lack of snow in central Europe makes it tough to run a point-to-point race, much less a marathon. And so the organizers of the Jizerska 50, which is to be held on Sunday in the Czech Republic and this year is both a WorldLoppet and Ski Classics competition, have been forced to get creative. What that looks like for elite competitors is a 50 kilometer marathon which will be run as 15 laps of a 3.3 kilometer course. For the rest of the field, the race will be just four laps of the course. To deal with the huge number of people competing on the tiny loop, the field was asked to sign up for starting waves, with each one capped at 400 people. Most waves are given two hours to complete the course, and then the next wave goes off. Waves have additionally been distributed over all…

Dahl Wins La Sgambeda; Smutna and Team Santander Lead Ski Classics Standings

LIVIGNO, Italy— The two leading teams from last year’s Ski Classics series are once again on top. After one weekend of racing, defending champion Team Santander has 670 points, leading Team United Bakeries by just five points. Team Exspirit is in third with 461 points. Team United Bakeries started the 2016 season off with a win in the team prologue on Saturday. The score combined the time of the team’s best woman from a 15 k mass start, with three times the time of the third-best man from a 15 k team time trial. Each team started separated by two minutes, and it was up to the team to decide how long to keep all the teammates skiing together, or when to drop down to just a core group to get the third man to the finish fastest. The winner of the women’s mass start was, in a surprise, Lina…