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Nygaard, Rocheva Take Vasaloppet China; Fritz Top American

Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) (green bib) crosses the finish line ahead of Jens Eriksson (Team Santander) (bib 11) to win the Vasaloppet China in Changchun, China, on Wednesday. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) (green bib) crosses the finish line ahead of Jens Eriksson (Team Santander) (11) to win the Vasaloppet China in Changchun, China, on Wednesday. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) and Olga Rocheva (Russian Marathon Team) took the overall victories in the Vasaloppet China, a 50-kilometer classic mass start race that covered two 25 k laps through Jingyuetan Park in Changchun, China, earlier Wednesday. The race also doubled as Stage 3 of the six-stage China Tour de Ski. Lauren Fritz (APU) placed 18th to lead the four American skiers competing in the Tour.

At the front of the pack the women’s race was all Rocheva, who won in 2:29:01, nearly two minutes over Swedish skier Britta Johansson Norgren (Team Lager 157). The two were together through a halfway sprint at 25 k, according to a Visma Ski Classics press release, at which point Rocheva sped up to take the sprint, then continued her acceleration to open a gap that she kept all the way to the finish. Norgren ultimately crossed the line 1:43 back of Rocheva. There was another sizeable gap to Japanese skier Masako Ishida (Team United Bakeries) in third (+4:14).

Competition was much tighter in the men’s field, with the top eight skiers all finishing within six seconds of each other. Nygaard, from Norway, won the group sprint, crossing the line in 2:11:36. Jens Eriksson (Team Santander), from Sweden, and Norwegian Stian Hoelgaard (Team LeasePlan) were credited with the same time in second and third.

“The first lap was really easy and everyone was just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” Nygaard said in a Visma Ski Classics press release. “After the sprint” at 25 k, “we increased the pace and the second lap was quite fast skiing until the last five kilometers when we started to prepare ourselves for the sprint. I was so tired in the end and expected others to pass me but they didn’t. I’m so happy to win this race. Now I will go back home and get some sleep.”

The Visma Ski Classics marathon skiers at the top of the standings largely flew in from Europe relatively recently, and were all dealing with some degree of jetlag.

But Fritz and the American men have been in China for close to a week now. Fritz, as noted, was 18th in the women’s race, finishing in just over three hours, 33:33 back from Rocheva.

In the men’s race, Jack Novak (APU) was the top American for the first time in this year’s China Tour de Ski, finishing 25th in 2:34:00 (+22:24). Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) was right behind him in 26th (+26:19). And Skyler Kenna (APU) was 29th (+29:44).

None of the four victors from the opening two sprint stages earned any points today. Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) finished 40th in a leisurely 4:42, outside the points. China’s Zhu Mingliang, Man Dandan, and Li Xin did not complete the race. It is not necessary to finish all stages to be eligible for the overall victory in the China Tour de Ski.

Results (both genders)

— Gavin Kentch

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