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Rønning, Mannima Win Tartu Marathon; Mannima Takes Overall FIS Marathon Cup Lead

Eldar Rønning - Tartu 2015 - Photo Tartu Ski Marathon

Eldar Rønning celebrates his 2015 Tartu Ski Marathon win on Sunday in Elva, Estonia. (Photo: Tartu Ski Marathon)

 

By Inge Scheve

Eldar Rønning missed the Norwegian national team selection for the World Championships in Falun, but he won Sunday’s 63-kilometer classic Tartu Ski Marathon by about 15 seconds while Tatiana Mannima of Estonia won the women’s race from Otepää to Elva, Estonia.

Røning was impressed with the event, both in terms of the course and the race organization, comparing the race to nothing less than the legendary Vasaloppet.

“Wonderful race, a very good course and race organization. I even could say it may be better than Vasaloppet,” Rønning told the FIS Marathon Cup media after the race.

“Probably, I even have not raced on such good track for 63 km. I definitely recommend to everyone in Norway to come to Tartu Marathon,” he added.

Rønning finished in 2:43:41, while Audun Laugaland, also of Norway, finished 16 seconds later in second place. Rønning’s time for the 63 k classic event was one of the fastest in the history of the race, although still short of the course record.

Tough battles for the podium

For almost half of the race, a six-man group was leading, with Norway’s Rønning, Martin Hammer and Laugaland, Estonia’s Algo Kärp and Martti Himma, and Belarusian Aleksei Ivanov. Before the Palu Service Point, which is at 15 k before the finish, Rønning and Laugaland surged, and dropped the rest of the lead group. Rønning and Laugaland determined the final result in the last kilometer of the race.

“I tried to tire out Eldar with a long sprint, but I had no luck. In the last kilometer, he outraced me,” Laugaland said after the race. “I am very happy with this second place. Together with Eldar we made good speed after we opened up a gap after the sprint price. We decided to work together and to give it a try to just push on. It worked out great. In the end, he was just a bit stronger then me today.”

The two Estonians fought over the last spot on the podium, which Himma took for third.

Due to unsuccessful ski choice, one of the predicted favorites, Kärp, had to admit the defeat.

“Honestly, I’m very disappointed in my today’s performance,” Kärp said. “The most deciding moment was before the start. I chose the classic style of cross-country skis, and compared with other men, I had too much traction.”

Mannima snags overall lead

Hometown favorite Mannima, who also won La Transjurassienne marathon in France last week, won the women’s race by almost five minutes to spare to Antonella Confortola of Italy. Fellow Estonian Triin Ojaste was third, seven minutes behind Mannima.

Mannima cited picking the right skis as a major key to her success.

“It was critical to choose the correct skis today,” Mannima said. “I am very thankful for the waxers who helped me to make the right choice.”

With the Tartu victory, Mannima passes American Holly Brooks for the overall FIS Marathon Cup lead. Brooks chose to sit out the Tartu in order to prepare for the American Birkebeiner next weekend.

“Winning the FIS Marathon Cup is my main goal this year,” Mannima said.

Back on track

In all, nearly 6,370 skiers from almost 30 countries participated in the 43rd Tartu Maraton: 4,994 of them completed the 63 k event, while 1,374 did the shorter 31 k distance.

Race organizers were pleased to be able to run the race on the original 63 k course this year. Although most parts of Estonia suffer from lack of snow this year, but the area around Tartu and Otepää have good snow conditions. Last year, the Tartu ski marathon was canceled due to lack of snow.

Race organizers were curious about the turnout for the Tartu this year. As Vasaloppet is happening one week later then usual due to the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, a lot of athletes who normally participate in the Tartu Marathon as a final preparation for the legendary 90 k race have dropped the Tartu this year. The same goes for several of the FIS Marathon Cup athletes, who skipped the Tartu in order to prepare the next FIS Marathon Cup race, the American Birkebeiner, in Hayward, Wis.

However, Rønning is certainly a merited racer with a strong long-distance record. The same goes for Mannima and the top women on the result list.

Results

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