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Ski Classics Recaps: Reistadløpet & Ylläs-Levi

The winners of the 2018 Reistadløpet 50 k marathon in Norway: Masako Ishida (l) of Team Koteng and Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander. (Photo: Ski Classics)

The Ski Classics marathon series continued this month, with the 50-kilometer Reistadløpet on April 7 in northern Norway. This year’s edition of the race featured challenging waxing conditions, leaving skiers to decide whether to use kick wax or double pole the entire race with heavy snowfall the morning of the race. It stopped snowing before the race, and all of the podium places went to diagonal striders.

In the women’s race, three athletes broke away on the first long climb to Orta: Masako Ishida (Team Koteng), Justyna Kowalczyk (Team Trentino Robinson Trainer) and Astrid Øyre Slind (Koteng). While Ishida and Kowalczyk went neck and neck for the rest of the race, Ishida ultimately took the win in 2:31:55.7 hours. Kowalczyk finished 11.5 seconds back in second place while Øyre Slind crossed the line 2:13.1 minutes after Ishida for third place.

“I had better skis than Justyna in the end, and I tried to break away but couldn’t,” Ishida said, according to a Ski Classics press release. “It was a tough race, and I’m so glad to have my second Visma Ski Classics victory in my career. This was also my best race of the whole season.”

Ski Classics overall leader Britta Johannson Norgren of the Lager 157 Ski Team double poled and finished the race in eighth (+13:26.2) yet kept the yellow bib, while Katerina Smutna (Team Santander) remained in second overall after finishing fourth on the day (+8:58.2).

In the men’s race, Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Santander) and Chris Jespersen (Koteng) distanced themselves from the pack on the first long uphill, while Anders Aukland (Santander), Daniel Richardsson (Lager 157) and Øyvind Moen Fjeld (Santander) followed. Gjerdalen attacked on the second ascent to the top of the mountain to drop Jespersen, who was struggling with his kick wax, and took the win by over a minute and a half in 2:10:58.8. Jespersen finished second (+1:33.7) and followed by Aukland in third (+2:06.1). Gjerdalen kept himself ahead of Andreas Nygaard in the overall standings, after Nygaard placed seventh on the day (+4:58.4). Richardsson placed fourth (+2:59.3) ahead of Fjeld in fifth (+3:36.9).

“I had wonderful skis and I had a perfect day,” Gjerdalen said, according to the press release. “When I left the hotel, I was still going to go double poling, but only a few minutes before the start, I changed my mind and chose diagonal striding. It was the right decision. I don’t even remember my last race with kick wax.”

Reistadløpet results

Norwegians Astrid Øyre Slind (Team Koteng) and Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) after winning the 2018 Ylläs-Levi in Finland. (Photo: Ski Classics)

One week later, Ski Classics season ended with the Ylläs-Levi 70 k marathon on April 14 from Ylläs to Levi, Finland.

Five women broke away on the first climb and stayed together until the last uphill of the long race. Slind raced with her Team Koteng teammate Ishida, followed by Johansson Norgren, Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes (Team Santander), and Kowalczyk. The group remained in tact until the last climb to Pyhätunturi, where Ishida strided away on her own up front. Slind closed the gap about seven kilometers before the finish, and three others passed a fading Ishida as well. Slind stayed ahead to secure the win in 3:31:23.1 hours, while Johansson Norgren followed 33.3 seconds later for second place. Gjeitnes was just behind in third (+35.9), Kowalczyk placed fourth (+1:00.1) and Ishida fifth (+1:30.1).

“I’m so happy to finally win,” Slind said, according to a Ski Classics press release. “We went quite slow after the second sprint as none of us wanted to take the lead. But when Ishida broke away on the last climb, I just tried to slow the pace down to make sure she could win today. But my skis were so good in the end and I was able to catch her, and then I just kept going. This victory feels so good!”

Johansson Norgren was proclaimed champion in three overall categories: champion, sprint and climb, while Slind claimed the Nordic Trophy title.

In the men’s race, the lead group included 20 skiers through the first two sprints. Morten Eide Pedersen (Team BN Bank) and Gjerdalen battled for the climbing points up Kukastunturi, which Pedersen ultimately won in that mini-competition within the race.

About 30 kilometers before the finish, four Santander skiers broke away with Tore Björseth Berdal (Koteng). The Santander teammates went on to drop Berdal, and Aukland, Nygaard, Gjerdalen, and Feld entered the finishing straight together. There, Nygaard narrowly fended off Gjerdalen by 1.4 seconds for the win in 2:59.25. Aukland outlunged Fjeld by 0.1 seconds for the last spot on the podium, 3 seconds out of first, while Fjeld settled for fourth on the day. Finnish Olympic champion Iivo Niskanen (Team Mäenpää) placed fifth, 2:25.6 minutes out of first.

“The last 20 kilometers were tough,” Nygaard said, according to the press release. “I was tired in the end, but so was Tord Asle. He pushed really hard in the last kilometers, but I was able to speed up in the final meters and win the race. It feels so good to end the season on a high note.”

With the runner-up finish, Gjerdalen claimed the overall Ski Classics Championship title. Anton Karlsson (Lager 157) won the overall sprint title, Pedersen was the season-long climbing champion, and Nygaard won the Nordic Trophy.

Team Santander took the win for top pro team of the season.

Ylläs-Levi results

— Ian Tovell

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