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Eli Enman was the fastest man on the 10 k course in Craftsbury, Vt. Thursday for the U.S. Masters’ National Championship. The Huntington, Vt. skier crossed the line with a time of 25.29.2 to take both the Master 2 age group and the best time of the day. Following Enman was Sproule Love of New York, N.Y. who finished with a time of 25:41.6 and was the top finisher in the Master 3 category. The third-fastest time went to Tim Donahue who crossed the line with a time of 26:12.2 to finish first in the Master 4 category.

Elizabeth Youngman of Sun valley, Idaho was the fastest in the women’s 10 k field and Master 6 age group with a time 29:43.7. Sarah Pribram of Shelburne, Vt. notched the second-fastest women’s time with 31:56.0 and finished first in the Masters 4 category. Joann Hanowski third overall with a time of 32:17.3 and finished second in the Masters 6 age group.

Full results

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After completion of a very successful World Cup in Sapporo, Japan, most of the U.S. Nordic Combined team flew to Italy for the next World Cup in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Acting head coach and overall assistant to the assistant coach, Fast Big Dog, had additional responsibilities in Japan however, namely maintaining foreign relations with several different Asia/Pacific nations.

As a worldwide ambassador of awesomeness and goodwill, next stop was the mountain village of Asahi-dake, Japan, for some incredible powder skiing and nordic training in preparation for the Sapporo International Ski Marathon, part of the Worldloppet series.

In the hotel lobby, the global impact of both this vital stewardship and the reach of FasterSkier on not only skiing, but also on life, became immediately apparent, as two loyal FasterSkier readers from New Zealand, Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins explain in this short video.

– FBD

Trouble viewing video above? Click here.

More from Sapporo: Provisional-jump day video | Day 1 recap | Day 2 report

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Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Norway and Katerina Smutna of Austria won the Marcialonga 2015. Photo: Ski Classics

Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Norway and Katerina Smutna of Austria won the Marcialonga 2015. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Norway won the three-way sprint in the men’s race of the 2015 Marcialonga, while Katerina Smutna of Austria won the women’s race by 10 seconds. Former U.S. Ski Team racer Holly Brooks was 17th. The 57-k classic race in Northern Italy was the fifth event in the 2015 Ski Classics series and the third event of the 2015 FIS Marathon Cup.

Due to lack of snow, the course was cut from 70 k to 57 k, making the competition even fiercer than expected with a fight for positions right from the get-go.

The Marcialonga ends with an extremely challenging last climb of 2 k up to the finish in the town of Cavalese. Norway’s Øystein Peterssen of Team United Bakeries made a move just before the last climb and lead the race until the last 500 meters.

However, Gjerdalen and Anders Aukland, both of Team Santander, caught Pettersen during the last half-kilometer, turning the race into a three-way sprint. Gjerdalen was the strongest in the end, snagging the victory from his teammate by 2.5 seconds and earning his first Ski Classics victory.

Øystein Pettersen (left) and Tore Berset keep Team United Bakeries in the lead in the team competition. Photo: Stian Grønås

Øystein Pettersen (left) and Tore Berset keep Team United Bakeries in the lead in the team competition. (Photo: Stian Grønås)

“It was really cool to win here in Italy, and one of the most important races of the season. We had incredible skis, and the whole team did a great job attacking during the race,” Tord Asle Gjerdalen said to Ski Classics reporters after the race, which he finished in 2:05:15.8.

Øystein Pettersen was third (2:05:21.7), and teammate Tore Berseth was fifth, contributing to keep the team on top of the Ski Classics team competition.

Tight race for the women’s podium 
In the women’s race, it also came down to a three-way sprint. Austria’s Katerina Smutna of Team Silvini Madshus, Norway’s Laila Kveli of Team Santander, and Swiss long-distance veteran Seraina Boner of Team Coop entered the last climb close together. Smutna made her final move close to the finish and won with a 10-second margin down to Kveli, crossing the line in 2:20:32.3. Kveli clocked in at 2:20:42.2 and and Boner in 2:20:44.5.

“My skis were much faster the second half of the race, but I used too much energy catching up. Laila and Katerina were just too strong today,” Boner said in a press release from Team Coop.

Brooks remains on top of FIS Marathon Cup

Despite finishing 17 among the women, Holly Brooks maintains the lead in the FIS Marathon Cup and will continue to wear the red leader-bib when she moves on to her next race.

Brooks now has 194 points in the FIS Marathon Cup, and has a 40-point margin over to Aurelie Dabudyk of France in second place with 154 points. Dabudyk was ninth in the Marcialonga. Smutna and Riitta-Liisa Roponen of Finland both have 100 points and are tied for third place after three of the nine events in the FIS Marathon Cup.

With sixth place today, Petr Novak of the Czech Republic increased his lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup, as Toni Livers of Switzerland was racing the World Cup in Rybinsk, Russia, and his other main competitors Benoit Chauvet and Adrien Mougel, both of France only finished 60th and 78th, respectively. After the Marcialonga, Novak has 200 points, while Livers has 150 points and Chauvet has 145 points.

Trading bibs

With second place today, Anders Aukland moves into first place in the overall Ski Classics standings, while Pettersen drops to second place, giving up the yellow leader bib. Morten Eide Pedersen is in third place.

In the women’s overall competition, Smutna keeps the yellow bib and increases her lead to Boner, while Ishida of Team United Bakeries is third. Team United Bakeries remains in the top of the team competition, while Team Santander moves up to second place, only nine points behind.

Team Santander’s Andreas Nygaard of Norway reclaimed the green sprint bib Sunday, pushing Norway’s Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlanGO down to third place, while Pettersen remains in second place.

Bill Impola moved up to snag the overall youth racer bib, while Tone Sundvor of Team Synnfjell is now first place in the overall youth women’s competition.

The Ski Classics moves to Germany for the 45 k König Ludwiglauf next Sunday. After that, the long-distance series takes a month off before the Vasaloppet in Sweden on March 8, Birkebeinerrennet in Norway on March 21 and the Ski Classics Final, Årefjällsloppet on March 29.

Top 3 women Marcialonga 57k classic

1. Katerina Smutna, Team Silvani Madshus/Austria, 2:20:32.3
2. Laila Kveli, Team Santander/Norway, 2:20:42.2
3. Seraina Boner, Team Coop/Switzerland, 20:20:44.5

Top 3 men Marcialonga 57k classic

1: Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander/Norway, 2:05.15.8
2. Anders Aukland, Team Santander/Norway, 2:05:18.4
3. Øystein Pettersen, Team United Bakeries/Norway, 2:05:21.7

Complete results and standings

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Holly Brooks training on the Marcialonga course on Friday. (Photo: Graham Longford)

Holly Brooks training on the Marcialonga course on Friday. (Photo: Graham Longford)

When former U.S. Ski Team racer Holly Brooks steps onto the starting line in the Marcialonga on Sunday, she will be wearing the red FIS Marathon Cup overall leader’s bib after winning the Dolomitenlauf in Austria last weekend.

Brooks will face a stacked women’s field in the Marcialonga, as the classic race in Northern Italy is a part of both the Ski Classics long-distance series and the FIS Marathon Cup, bringing together the entire field of the top long-distance specialists in the world.

The snow situation is again causing trouble for Central European race organizers, forcing the Marcialonga committee to shorten the course from 70 k to 57 k, and move the start further up the valley.

Confidence-builder
While Brooks won the 42-kilometer freestyle race Dolomitenlauf last weekend by 2.5 minutes, she admits being quite nervous going into the event after a month away from the race scene.

“I was actually pretty nervous after taking a long break from racing. While it was nice to be home over the holidays it was hard to sit in Alaska and watch the results roll in from the Tour de Ski and Nationals without having my own chance to race,” Brooks wrote in an email.

With the recent Dolomitenlauf victory and the red leader’s bib, Brooks feels more confident going into this weekend’s race, which features 57 k classic.

Brooks Tirol Wreath - Thomas ISEP“The (Dolomitenlauf) was awesome. I felt good in the race, had good skis, and found a pack of guys to ski with,” Brooks said, adding that the winning experience itself was unique. “I’ve been dreaming about getting one of those wreaths for a while so that was pretty cool. Also, they played the Star Spangled banner at the awards,” she said.

Fierce female battles on tap

The snow conditions and shortened course do not seem to deter skiers from the race. The Marcialonga is also a part of the FIS Marathon Cup schedule, which means that all the top long-distance racers will be on the same racecourse, as opposed to last weekend where the field was split between the Ski Classics La Diagonela in Switzerland and the FIS Marathon Cup race Dolomitenlauf in Austria.

Brooks seems to be enjoying herself in Italy so far... (Photo: Graham Longford)

Brooks seems to be enjoying herself in Italy so far… (Photo: Graham Longford)

Masako Ishida of Japan will challenge experienced Katerina Smutna and Seraina Boner for the overall Ski Classics lead, while Russian Marathon team racers Tatiana Jambaeva and Julia Tikhonova are other tough opponents.

Also, Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren and Annika Löfström of Team SkiProAm, Adela Boudikova of the Czech Republic, local Italian favorite Antonella Confortola and Brook’s Santander teammate Laila Kveli of Norway are some of the contenders expected to give Brooks a good run for her money on Sunday.

Women’s elite start list

Small margins in the men’s race

The elite men’s start list includes last year’s second-place finisher John Kristian Dahl of Norway, and his teammate Øystein Pettersen who is currently wearing the yellow Ski Classics leader bib, as well as a long list of Ski Classics pro team racers eager to snag the leader bib, the sprint points and the victory: Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway and Team Coop is only five points behind Pettersen in the overall standings, while Anders Aukland of Team Santander is five points behind Pedersen, so there is a lot at stake in the men’s race.

“I am excited for the race, especially when I am so close to the yellow jersey. Every point counts and it will be a tight race with a shorter course than normal. We have had a good week of recovery and it has been a good build up for Marcialonga,” Pedersen said in a press release from Team Coop.

Legendary veteran Thomas Alsgaard, who retired from World Cup skiing in 2003 after more than a decade on the circuit, three Olympics and five FIS World Championships, is also on the start list. Other veterans include Giorgio Di Centa of Italy and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic.

Men’s elite start list

Despite snow trouble, Marcialonga is a go, and the battle is on for points and bibs on Sunday. Photo: Newspower.it

Despite snow trouble, Marcialonga is a go, and the battle is on for points and bibs on Sunday. The organisers have produced more than 100,000 cubic meters of snow.  Photo: Newspower.it

Shorter and even flatter: Marcialonga reduced to 57km

Due to a warm winter and lack of snow, the course is shortened from 70 k to 57 k, and the short version, Marcialonga Light, is cut down to 33 k from its normal length at 46 k. The start for both races is moved to Mazzin. The start time for elite men and women in Ski Classics is postponed one hour, and will start at 9am Central European Time. Ski Classics sprints remain the same and will be in Canazei after 5 k and in Predazzo after 32 k.

However, the organizers have seen the problem coming and prepared for the race with a backup plan. More than 100,000 cubic meters of artificial snow have been produced in the past weeks due to a lack of natural snow so far, and on Thursday, it was snowing in Val di Fiemme and Fassa.

The course

The 2015 Marcialonga will start in Mazzin, 13 k up on the original course, hence shortening the track to 57 k. The original course over 70 k starts on the plain of Moena, Val di Fassa, and finishes in Cavalese, Val di Diemme. After the start the course climbs 20 k through the villages of Pozza, and Canazei, where competitors then turn around to head downhill to Moena and on towards Predazzo before starting the last part which goes through the villages of Ziano, Panchia, Lago di Tesero, Masi di Cavalese, Castello–Molina. After 67.5 k the most famous and hardest part begins; the Cascata climb, where the athletes struggle up the serpentines to the finish in the center of Cavalese.

Science at work

This year’s Marcialonga is part of the new Marcialonga Science Project, which aims to evaluate and measure the impact of the double poling technique on muscles, muscle fibers and the heart of some athletes during and after the competition. The results of the study will be presented at the International Congress on Science in Nordic Skiing in Finland next June, and at the Mountain Sport Health Congress in Rovereto, Italy, next November.

The 2015 Marcialonga is a part of a regional science project that aims to study the effects of double-poling Photo: Newspower.it

The 2015 Marcialonga is a part of a regional science project that aims to study the impacts of double-poling technique on muscles, tendons and the heart. Photo: Newspower.it

Proud history

Marcialonga is the most important Italian cross-country ski race. Founded in 1971 from the idea of four friends who, on the way back from the mythic Vasaloppet, decided to organize a similar event in Italy. However, it has been discussed that the idea to Maricalonga started already in 1969 inspired by the Italian skier Franco Nones outstanding performance in the Grenoble Winter Olympics the year before, where he took the gold medal in the men’s 30 k.

The first problem was “where” an event at this size should take place, and almost immediately the two valleys of Fiemme and Fassa came to mind. The first race was held in 1971 and became famous for their promotional action, where they dropped 50.000 leaflets from an airplane over the valley to get the attention from the inhabitants. In the end the name Marcialonga, long march, was chosen.

The podium at the 2014 Marcialonga Story. Photo: Newspower.it

The podium at the 2014 Marcialonga Story. Photo: Newspower.it

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The entire field at the post-race banquet in Valdez.

The entire field at the post-race banquet in Valdez.

VALDEZ, Alaska — The City of Valdez hosted the inaugural Qaniq Challenge last weekend, a two-day race format of 17.5-kilometers each. At least that was the idea, but an unprecedented snow drought plagued the event in a city known for epic snowfalls. As a result, the courses were shortened and reworked to accommodate the snow, resulting in races of approximately 14 and 16 k, respectively.

Valdez is better known for extreme skiing due to its proximity to the Chugach Mountains, and for oil, as it is the terminus for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, where oil from Alaska’s North Slope oil production is loaded into tanker ships for distribution to world markets.

So how does a small town like Valdez, not especially known for cross country skiing, attract big crowds to their race? Put up prize money, and lots of it. A $10,000-dollar total purse was up for grabs, with $3,000 for first, $1,500 for second, and $500 for third in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

Even with all that money on the line, interest in the event was low until the last minutes, when a small flurry of Alaska Pacific University (APU) Elite Team members signed up. Notable entrants included current APU skiers Becca Rorabaugh, Lauren Fritz, Lex Treinen, and Scott Patterson, along with former member Peter Kling and former Elite Team coach Dylan Watts.

The Racing

Saturday’s individual start classic race proved to be the most important, since large time gaps in the field proved impossible to overcome in Sunday’s mass start skate race. Treinen took first place in the men’s race, double poling the 14 k course in 28:03.5, with Patterson in second (+28.1), Watts in third (+1:09.8), Kling in fourth (+1:38.8) and University of Alaska Anchorage volunteer coach Adam Verrier taking fifth (+4:07.4).

In the women’s race Rorabaugh posted the top time, double poling the course in 32:36.9, with Fritz coming in 25.7 seconds later to take second. Unaffiliated dark horse and Fairbanks local Shalane Frost came in third (+5:03.8), followed closely by Tara Masters in fourth (+5:10.2) and Masters’ sister, Erin Hamilton, in fifth (+6:07.8).

Sunday’s race did little to change the overall outcome. Patterson won in 36:20.2, but it was not enough to close the gap with Treinen, who kept Patterson close, finishing 15.5 seconds later. The only upset of the weekend occurred when Kling took third (+56.9) by enough of a margin to bump Watts to fourth overall (+1:39.8 in Sunday’s race). Verrier took fifth (+3:16.1).

Rorabaugh won again on Sunday, blasting the course in 42:19.9, with Frost barely edging Fritz in a sprint for the finish to take second (+33.2) while Fritz took third (+33.5). Former Team Atomic skier Aubrey Smith grabbed fourth (+39.2) with Masters right on her heels in fifth (+41.1).

Overall, Treinen and Rorabaugh walked away with the $3,000 top prize, Patterson and Fritz took home $1,500 each, and Kling and Frost took $500 for their troubles.

The Qaniq Challenge is fully funded and slated to return in 2016.

Results

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American Holly Brooks (c) after winning the 50 k Dolomitenlauf on Sunday in Lienz, Austria. (Photo: Worldloppet.com/Dolomitenlauf)

American Holly Brooks (c) after winning the 42 k Dolomitenlauf on Sunday in Obertilliach, Austria, ahead of France’s Aurelie Dabudyk (l) in second and Italy’s Antonella Confortola (r) in third. (Photo: Worldloppet.com/Dolomitenlauf)

By Inge Scheve

American Holly Brooks crushed her competitors and cruised to the victory in the 42-kilometer freestyle Dolomitenlauf on Sunday in Obertilliach, Austria, part of the FIS Marathon Cup, while Switzerland’s Toni Livers won the men’s race.

“It was my first Dolomitenlauf and wow, it was such a beautiful race with a well prepared course,” Brooks told FIS after winning the race in 1:43:55.6. “The conditions were just great with perfect sunshine and new snow.”

With the victory in the Dolomitenlauf, which was reduced from 60 k to 42 k and moved from Lienz to the nearby village of Obertilliach due to difficult snow conditions, Brooks took the lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup from Finland’s Riitta-Liisa Roponen. Brooks has 180 points, while Aurelie Dabudyk of France moved into second with 125 points, and Roponen has 100 points in third. Roponen didn’t compete in Sunday’s Dolomitenlauf.

“I am so happy to now wear the red bib, meaning that I am the leader in the overall cup,” Brooks said. “This is so exciting! My next start will be at Marcialonga, and I am really looking forward to it.”

No drama

In the men’s race, Livers led a group of about 10 racers, which took off soon after the start. About halfway through the race, Livers had dropped the pack and already had about a minute’s lead on the rest of the field.

In the end, Livers crossed the finish line 1:41.3 minutes ahead of last year’s winner Petr Novak of the Czech Republic in second and Adrien Mougel of France in third. Livers won in 1:32:07.2, and Mougel finished 3 seconds behind Novak.

Brooks, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team who competed at her second Olympics last season, broke away early in the race, creating a gap to the other women and winning by 2:29.5 minutes over Dabudyk. Italy’s Antonella Confortola placed third 1 second later. Dabudyk and Confortola skied together for much of the second half of the race, trying without luck to catch Brooks.

Straight from Alaska

Brooks recently returned to Europe after an extended holiday break and volume training camp at home in Anchorage, Alaska.

She opened her marathon season with three races in one weekend Dec. 12-14 at La Sgambeda in Livigno, Italy, where she placed second to Roponen. From Austria, Brooks plans to travel to Val di Fiemme and Cavalese, Italy, to join her Ski Classics team, Team Santander, for the Marcialonga, which takes place next Sunday, Jan. 25.

Ideal conditions

The higher-elevation, backup venue in Obertilliach, Austria, treated the roughly 1,500 participants from 29 countries to stellar conditions with temperatures around -3 degrees Celsius, fresh snow and sunshine. The Dolomitenlauf offered a full 42 k course and shorter 20 k, both freestyle technique. Saturday featured classic races on the same course, but were not a part of the FIS Marathon Cup.

Novak and Brooks currently lead the overall FIS Marathon Cup after two of nine events. The Marcialonga in Italy on Jan. 25 is the next event on the circuit.

Complete results/FIS Marathon Cup standings

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2015 Seeley Hills Classic 42 k winners Natalia Narshykina (CXC Team) and Tad Elliott (SSCV Elite).(Photo: Kelly Randolph)

2015 Seeley Hills Classic 42 k winners Natalia Narshykina (CXC Team) and Tad Elliott (SSCV Elite) after their respective wins on Saturday in Seeley, Wis.(Photo: Kelly Randolph)

By Vince Rosetta

Dubbed the “unofficial” Midwest classic championship, the 23rd annual Seeley Hills Classic was held Saturday in Seeley, Wis.

The 42-kilometer race started at OO then went north to the Firetower aid station then back south to Gravel Pit before finally finishing at OO.

There wasn’t a shortage of Midwest-star power entered in the race. The elite field consisted of three American Birkie winners, Matt Liebsch, Tad Elliott and Caitlin Gregg, and 2014 Olympian Brian Gregg, along with multiple representatives from the Central Cross Country’s CXC Team.

The men’s 42 k race wasn’t much of a race once the gun sounded and the race started. The foursome of Elliott (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Elite), Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus), Liebsch (XC United/Team StrongHeart) and Chris Pappathopolus (CXC Team) flew out of the gates and easily separated themselves from the entire field. It was now only a four-person race.

According to race director Dennis Kruse, the group stayed together the majority of the race. As they approached the turnaround to head back to OO, the pace picked up and Pappathopolus fell out of the lead group.

Elliott and Liebsch increased the pace and Brian Gregg fell back, but still kept in contact with the two leaders. As they approached the finish, Elliott attacked and it proved to be the winning move.

He was able to get so much separation from Liebsch and Gregg that he was able to cross over two tracks and high five Kruse as he headed for the finish line, winning in 1:53:04. Liebsch took second, 20 seconds behind, and Gregg was another 8 seconds back in third.

The last time this group raced together in Wisconsin was during the 2012 Birkie, which had an identical podium as Saturday’s top-three men.

Brian Gregg commented after that is was “fun to race with Tad and Matt. Same placings today as the 2012 Birkie. We have trained a lot together and it was fun to push each other today.”

In the women’s race, Russian Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) was able to hold off Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus) and CXC teammate Nicolette Reker to win in 2:08:06. Gregg was second, 1:31 back, and Reker placed third, about six minutes behind Naryshkina.

The trio skied together the entire race and a final kick from Naryshkina at the turnaround proved to be the winning move.

Results

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Team United Bakeries Ishida Masako of Japan and fellow Bakery team racer Øystein Pettersen both bag their first Ski Classics victory after sprint finishes in La Diagonela, Switzerland, on Saturday. Photo: Ski Classics

Team United Bakeries’ Masako Ishida of Japan and Øystein Pettersen after notching their first Ski Classics wins after sprint finishes in La Diagonela, Switzerland, on Saturday. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

By Inge Scheve

Team United Bakeries’ newly signed Masako Ishida of Japan pulled off the sprint finish in the La Diagonela women’s race, while teammate Øystein Pettersen of Norway fought his way to first place in the men’s race, both earning their first Ski Classics titles at the 43-kilometer marathon on Saturday in Zuoz, Switzerland.

Pettersen bagged his first-and-unexpected Ski Classics victory after a sprint finish, just ahead of Christoffer Callesen of Team Leaseplan Go and teammate John Kristian Dahl (Team United Bakeries), making the podium 100-percent Norwegian.

However, the podium crew had to work for it. Sweden’s Bill Impola of Team Coop put the race into action when he broke away from the field after 14 k. He put a gap on the chasing group, and had a 1 minute and 30 second lead at the most.

Impola looked like he had it all made, but with only 1.5 k to go, Impola went down the wrong track instead of the track towards the finish. When he realized the mistake, it was too late and the eight-skier chase group came first tot the finish in Zuoz. At the end of the day, Pettersen had the strongest sprint, and beat Callesen by three seconds, while Dahl snagged the third spot on the podium, less than half a second ahead of Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway.

Surprise victory

“I thought I was fighting for second place until there was 600 meters to the finish. Then I heard that Bill had taken a wrong turn,” Pettersen said to Norway’s TV2 after the race. “That was, of course, really sad for Bill. He was really strong. But when he makes a mistake, I feel like a million.”

However, Pettersen admits that the victory comes with a ting of a sour taste.

“Of course. I feel bad for Bill. He was so strong today,” Pettersen added, after letting Impola take care of spilling the champagne on the podium.

Silver lining

“After the first lap I increased the tempo, and suddenly I had a 15-20 second gap,” Impola told reporters after the race. “Then I just continued and the gap increased. Then suddenly, I was stopped by a team staff telling me I was going down the wrong track.”

While it was disappointing to lose by technical failure, Impola saw the silver lining in the situation – aside from the winners letting him spill the champagne.

“Now I know I can win these races in the future, and I would like to thank Team United Bakeries for the way they treated me after the finish. Now I look forward Marcialonga,” Impola said.

Bill Impola of Team Coop lost the victory when he missed the finish lane at the end of the race, but won the podium champagne celebration. Photo: Ski Classics

Bill Impola of Team Coop lost the victory when he missed the finish lane at the end of the race, but won the podium champagne celebration. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

Reversing the order

Ishida also won in a sprint finish. This time, she beat Katerina Smutna of Austria by three seconds, reversing the order from last weekend’s Ski Classics event, the 45 k Jizerska in the Czech Republic.

Seraina Boner of Switzerland was third, a second behind Smutna.

Drama on several levels

Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson organized a jury meeting after Impola lost the victory due to skiing the wrong track. The jury determined they would not overturn the winning order.

“Bill Impola showed impressive strength today, however the race is decided on the finish line, and it is the skiers’ responsibility to know the track,” Nilsson said in a press release. “From Ski Classics, we will of course also discuss with the organizers how to make sure the track is clearly marked, so mistakes will not happen in the future. In addition, we have two disqualifications for skating in the elite men, so this was a dramatic Saturday.”

Earlier this week, the organizers were struggling to cover the race course with enough snow to hold the race. Then, on Friday, heavy snowfall created additional problems for the organizers.

“It began in the morning when due to last night heavy snowfall, the risk for avalanches forced the organizers to change the already remade course, and it is of course sad that a mistake should decide the race,” Nilsson said. “La Diagonela is a fantastic race and the organizers have done a great work last week securing the event.”

On race-day morning, the racers were treated to a 43-kilometer course that also included two sprint preems for both men and women. La Diagonela was the fourth event in the 2015 Swix Ski Classics.

Complete results

STANDINGS AFTER LA DIAGONELA IN SWIX SKI CLASSICS

Swix Ski Classics Champion

Men
1. Øystein Pettersen, United Bakeries, 445 points
2. Morten Eide Pedersen, Team COOP, 435 points
3. Anders Aukland, Team Santander, 430 points
4. Petter Eliassen, Team LeasePlanGO, 380 points
5. Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander, 235 points

Women
1. Kateřina Smutná, Team Madshus Silvana, 560 points
2. Seraina Boner, Team COOP, 500 points
3. Masako Ishida, United Bakeries, 370 points
4. Britta Johansson Norgren, Team SkiProAm, 340 points
5. Laila Kveli, Team Santander, 220 points

Swix Ski Classics Sprint
1. Petter Eliassen, Team LeasePlanGO, 110 points
2. Øystein Pettersen, United Bakeries, 70 points
3. Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, 50 points
4. Anders Aukland, Team Santander, 40 points
4. Bill Impola, Team COOP, 40 points

Swix Ski Classics Youth

Men
1. Anders Høst, LYN, 183 points
2. Bill Impola, Team COOP, 180 points
3. Stian Hoelgaard, Team LeasePlanGo, 125 points
4. Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, 99 points
5. Vetle Thyli, United Bakeries, 80 points

Women
1. Tuva Toftdahl Staver, Team LeasePlanGo, 90 points
2. Hilde Losgaard Landheim, Team COOP, 62 points
2. Tone Sundvor, Team Synnfjell, 62 points

Swix Ski Classics Team Competition
1. Team United Bakeries, 1490 points
2. Team Coop, 1354 points
3. Team Santander, 1246 points
4. Team LeasePlanGo, 920 points
5. Silvini Madshus team, 839 points

Complete standings

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Katerina Smutna of Austria and Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway won the Jizerska 45k classic race in the Swix Ski Classics on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Katerina Smutna of Austria and Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway won the Jizerska 45k classic race in the Swix Ski Classics on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Morten Eide Pedersen of Team Coop won the sprint finish in the 45 k classic marathon in the Czech Republic, with Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlanGO 3 seconds behind, while Katerina Smutna won the women’s race by almost a minute.

“I’ve been strong earlier this season, and I’ve felt strong since Christmas. I had fantastic skis, even though the conditions differed some over the course of the race,” Eide Pedersen said to TV2 after the race.

Half way through the race Eide Pedersen and Eliassen of Team LeasePlanGO skied away from the rest of the group and worked together for the rest of the race.

“I didn’t feel very strong at the start, so I tried to conserve my energy,” Pedersen said. “By the second climb, I felt much better and surged. Then Eliassen and I created a gap to the rest of the field.”

Eide Pedersen was strongest in the finish sprint and won his first Swix Ski Classics race.

“It was amazing to win a Ski Classics race, and also my first podium place (in the Ski Classics),” Eide Pedersen said in a press release. “It was a tough race, but I felt better and better all the time. I know I am pretty good sprinter, so I stayed behind in the end and managed to win the sprint.”

Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway and Team Coop bagged his first ever Ski Classic victory when he won the Jizerska on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway and Team Coop bagged his first ever Ski Classic victory when he won the Jizerska on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

With Tord Asle Gjerdalen in third place, the Norwegians dominated the men’s podium. While Gjerdalen of Team Santander was almost a minute behind Eide Pedersen and Eliassen, he beat defending Jizerska champion and Team Santander teammate Anders Aukland by a tenth of a second in a fierce three-way sprint for the last spot on the podium. Gjerdalen clocked in at 1:47:29.1, Aukland in 1:47:29.2 and Team United Bakeries Tore Bjørseth Berdal of Norway in 1:47:29.4.

Anders Malmen Høst of Lyn Ski was fifth, a second behind Berdal. Stanislav Řezáč of the Czech Republic and Team Silvani Madshus was four seconds behind Høst – and one of only two non-Norwegians among the top ten, followed by Team United Bakeries Øystein Pettersen in eighth place, Sweden’s Bill Impola of Team Coop in ninth, and Team United Bakeries John Kristian Dahl of Norway in tenth place.

Katerina Smutna of Austria cruised into victory in the Jizerska 50 on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Katerina Smutna of Austria cruised into victory in the Jizerska 50 on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Comfortable margin in the women’s race
Austria’s Katerina Smutna, who competes on the World Cup and is not attached to a pro team, beat Ski Classics rookie and fellow World Cup regular Masako Ishida of Japan by 47 seconds. Team Coop’s Seraina Boner of Switzerland finished almost two and a half minutes behind Smutna but snagged the last spot on the podium from Norway’s Laila Kveli of Team Santander. Britta Johansson Norgren of Team SkiProAm was fifth among the women.

Smutna, Ishida and Boner skied away early in the women’s race. As the race progressed, Boner fell back, leaving Smutna and Masako alone to fight for the victory, but Smutna won ahead of Masako.

“I was surprised the three of us got away so early, but it was really great to win, and you will for sure see me in more Ski Classics races this winter,” Smutna said to Ski Classics reporters after the race.

Season over for Kjølstad

Team United Bakeries’ Johan Kjølstad of Norway, who was second overall in the 2015 Ski Classics prior to the Jizerska, broke his ankle right before the start of the Jizerska on his way to the race start. With a broken ankle and a torn ligament on the inside of the ankle, his season is likely over, says team manager Henrik Kvissel to Norwegian TV station TV2.

“I was just walking over to the car to get down to the start to test skis, but it was really icy. Everything happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to react at all. I slipped and twisted my leg from the knee down to my ski boot,” Kjølstad said in an interview with TV2 after his trip to the hospital.

“It was almost like an ugly soccer tackle. The result is a broken ankle and torn ligament, which was perfect timing right now,” he said sarcastically, adding that he was looking forward to four straight weekends with Ski Classics events. “Half of this year’s Ski Classics down the drain. What can I say? I’m just really disappointed.”

Reshuffling some of the overall standings

After the third event in the 2015 Ski Classics, Team Coop remains in the lead of the team competition, more than 100 points ahead of Team United Bakeries. Team Santander is in third place, only four points behind the bakery crew.

In the individual overall competition, Anders Aukland remains in first place, with Eide Pedersen jumping five spots to second place overall after the Jizerska victory. Eliassen moved up to third overall.

Among the women, Boner stays in first place in the overall women’s competition, with Norgren in second place and Norgren’s Swedish teammate Lina Korsgren in third overall.

In the sprint competition, Øystein Pettersen snags first place ahead of Eliassen, while previous leader Andreas Nygaard of Norway drops to third place after three of the nine events. Impola remains in first place in the youth bib competition.

Rough conditions

Jizerska Padesatka was the third event in the 2015 Ski Classics. Last year, the event was cancelled due to massive rain and lack of snow. This year, rain yesterday and freezing temperatures over night made the conditions challenging, and forced organizers to modify the course. The original course was reduced to 45k, and the second Ski Classics Sprint was moved to Smedava.

The track of the Jizerska 50 is located in the beautiful Jizera mountain region, where the start of the race is in the mountain village Bedrichove and after a about 10km uphill it passes through the checkpoints Na Knejpe, Kristianov, Hranicni, before turning back via Smedava and Hrebinek to the finish line in Bedrichov.

Run for the 48th time, the Jizerska 50 has become the biggest cross-country skiing race in Central Europe, treating participants to the challenging and charming landscape of the Jizera Mountains. Jizerska has been a part of the Worldloppet worldwide series of long-distance races since 1999. Among the famous participants in the past are Bjørn Dæhlie, Thomas Alsgaard, Lukáš Bauer and Stanislav Řezáč, the latter two from the Czech Republic.

The Jizerska 50k race began in the late 60’s as a test event for mountain climbers, when preparing for a mountain climbing expedition. The first race took place in January 1968 when 52 competitors participated. In 1970, the participating field included the members of expedition Peru 1970, who four months later were buried by a rockslide under Huascaran.

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2015 SISU marathon winner Matt Liebsch. (Photo: Vince Rosetta)

2015 SISU marathon winner Matt Liebsch. (Photo: Vince Rosetta)

By Vince Rosetta

IRONWOOD, Mich. – Matt Liebsch from XC United won his second SISU Ski Fest title Saturday in Ironwood, Mich. Because of the cold temperatures at the start, race organizers decided to shorten the race from 42 kilometers to 31 k.

Liebsch held a commanding lead early on in the freestyle race and finished the shortened course in 1:32:55, racing solo for almost 15k. Second place, Adam Swank of Duluth was 3:14 minutes behind. Rounding out the podium was Cory Ellertson of the CXC Team in third, eight seconds after Swank.

The women’s race was a little closer. Middlebury alum Claire Luby was able to hold off Jan Guenther, an American Birkebeiner board member, with a late move heading into the final kilometers. Luby finished the course in 1:51:06, Guenther was only 1:42 behind. Ironwood’s own Paulette Niemi rounded out the women’s podium in third (+6:45).
Matt Liebsch (l) with his SISU marathon gold after Saturday's 31 k freestyle race in Ironwood, Mich. (Photo: Vince Rosetta)

Winner Matt Liebsch (l) and third-place finisher Cory Ellertson (CXC Team) after the SISU 31 k freestyle marathon race on Saturday in Ironwood, Mich. (Photo: Vince Rosetta)

Asked about the -6 degree temperature at the start, Liebsch said, “My body felt good. I wore two wind briefs and was totally warm, plus I used an airtime respirator to warm the air going into my lungs.

“It was really cold overnight and I was happy to see the race start delayed,” he added. “It was nice to race in the sunlight. Overall there was really good glide in slow cold snow conditions.”

The area has gotten a hefty amount of snow over the last few weeks and the course was in great shape.

“The snow was awesome and it was a virtual winter wonderland,” Liebsch said. “It is amazing to see the amount of snow in Ironwood.”

The classic race had its share of controversy. The leaders of the men’s and women’s classic elite race were given wrong directions on course from a volunteer, forcing them to do an extra loop instead of going to the finish line. As a result they finished in the middle of the pack.

At press time, no winning or finisher times had been posted yet. For race results, see the event website.

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