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

Start of the 55 k La Diagonela in Zuoz, Switzerland, on Saturday. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Start of the 55 k La Diagonela on Jan. 23 in Zuoz, Switzerland. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

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.

Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go celebrates his second-straight victory in the Visma Ski Classics at the 55 k La Diagonela in Zuoz, Switzerland, on Jan. 23. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go celebrates his second-straight victory in the Visma Ski Classics at the 55 k La Diagonela in Zuoz, Switzerland, on Jan. 23. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Although it was initially planned as a 65 k event, minor changes had to be made to the race course due to low snow. Even with snow challenges, the alternate course covered 55 kilometers thanks to the hard work of the volunteers and race organizers. The shorter event, the La Pachifica, was held on the full 35 k course.

The elite men and women started the race under grey skies and snow, but the clouds soon broke and made for a beautiful day of racing.  The women started 15 minutes before the men and the fresh powder in the tracks made for an additional challenge for the women’s field early in the race.

In the men’s race, Eliassen attacked 10 k from the finish and was joined by Norwegian Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander. Morten Eide Pedersen of Team Exspirit chased but could not catch the pair. The title was decided in the final minutes of the race as Eliassen pulled away from his fellow countryman to win by just eight seconds.

Pedersen (+0:48) narrowly held off fellow Norwegians Anders Høst (+0:52) and Anders Auckland (+0:54) for the final podium placing.

“I could do nothing. Eliassen is too strong. He is good,” said Gjerdalen told TV2 according to a translation.

However, Eliassen was not as confident of the outcome as he approached the finish.

“I was very unsure of what was going to happen towards the end. I did not feel safe until it was five meters to the finish,” Eliassen told TV2.

After Saturday’s victory, Eliassen took the overall Ski Classics leader’s bib from Johan Kjølstad who finished 15th. Both Gjerdalen and Pedersen moved up in the overall standings to second and third, respectively, but neither are within 100 points of Eliassen.

In the women’s race, Johansson-Norgren of Sweden proved to be the class of the field yet again, claiming victory by over one minute. However, in contrast to Jizerska, the women’s podium was far from a Swedish sweep. Austrian Kateřina Smutná of Team Santander was second (+1:02) and Switzerland’s Seraina Boner of Team Exspirit took third (+1:51) claiming a podium finish in her home country. Swedes Lina Korsgren and Sara Lindborg who both double poled to the podium in Jizerska claimed a distant fourth (+3:49) and fifth (+3:56), respectively.

With her win Johansson-Norgren retains her yellow bib, extending her overall lead over Smutná and Korsgren.

Ski Classics racing will resume Jan. 31 in Trento, Italy, for the Italian Marcialonga 70 k classic race.

La Diagonela Results

Overall Ski Classics Standings

— Kaitlyn Patterson

CXC Team Dominates Noquemanon Ski Marathon

The Noquemanon Ski Marathon held in Marquette, Michigan is the second of the CXC Marathon Cup, designated as a classic race

The Noquemanon Ski Marathon held in Marquette, Michigan is the second in the CXC Marathon Cup, designated as a classic race.

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 established a two-minute lead over the chase pack of four skiers at the halfway point. The chase group consisted of CXC teammates Nick Power, Chris Pappathopoulos, and Andrew Brown as well as Eli Brown, one of the volunteer ski technicians for the U.S. Ski Team. The podium was decided in the final 10 k, and Power claimed second followed by Pappathopoulos 56 seconds back in third. Eli Brown overtook Andrew Brown for fourth place.

Natalia Naryshkina, also skiing for CXC, dominated the women’s race winning in 2:50:25, over 12 minutes ahead of second place. This is her second win of the CXC Marathon Cup this season after her victory at the Seeley Hills Classic last week. Similiar to her showing at Seeley Hills, Naryshinka established a significant lead early and never relented. Kim Rudd (Rossignol) overcame a two-minute deficit in the final 10 k overtake Alice Flanders (CXC Team) to take second place.

Michael Brothers of Monument, Colo., won the freestyle men’s race and Vicki Asmus of Marquette topped the women’s race. The freestyle race did not count towards CXC Marathon Cup points as it was a designated classic discipline race.

50 k classic results

Complete Noquemanon results

— Kaitlyn Patterson

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

 The women's and men's winners of the Seeley Hills Classic, Natalia Naryshkina (l) and Brian Gregg (r) took the lead in the CXC Marathon Cup after the first race.

The women’s and men’s winners of the Seeley Hills Classic, Natalia Naryshkina (l) and Brian Gregg (r) with race organizer Dennis Kruse. Naryshkina and Gregg lead the CXC Marathon Cup after the first 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.

Brian Gregg leads Matt Liebsch (r) and Nick Power (l) during the Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

Brian Gregg leads Matt Liebsch (r) and Nick Power (l) during the Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

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 each others strengths and weaknesses.”

However, a badly timed fall from Liebsch in the final kilometers gave Gregg the lead coming into the final stretch, which proved crucial for the win.

“With 2 km to go I planted a pole between my legs which cost me the first position,” Liebsch wrote. “That proved key as we were catching short course skiers and without an open lane I could not challenge Brian on the short double pole finish zone.

“That said I don’t know if I could have found the strength to get in front him, he is quick in the finish and I know it from training and racing with him a lot over the years,” Liebsch added.

Gregg edged Liebsch by just one second, winning in 1:52:40. Powers took third, 1:32 back.

Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) racing to a 10-minute win in the 2016 Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) racing to a 10-minute win in the 2016 Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

In the women’s field, Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) dominated the race, winning by more than 10 minutes in 2:10:10 for her second-consecutive Seeley Hills victory.

“I went first and tried to go with a small group of men,” Naryshkina wrote in a Skype message to FasterSkier. “My skis were well prepared by CXC coach Bruce [Manske], maybe it helped me win. … I want to thank the organizer Dennis Kruse and all the volunteers who helped him.”

Naryshkina is coming off a strong showing at U.S. nationals last week in Houghton, Mich., where she reached the classic-sprint final and placed sixth. Ten minutes and 10 seconds behind her, Elaine Nelson (Duluth, Minn.) placed second and Josie Nelson (Minneapolis, Minn.) finished just another second back in third.

“I had a very good day today, but it was very cold. My hands and toes were very cold in the beginning of the race, but somehow warmed up later in the race,” Naryshkina, who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, but spends her winters in Cable, Wis., said in a CXC press release. “The classic track was in excellent shape and I raced most of the course at a consistent pace and went a little bit faster towards the end. My skis worked very well during the whole race, glide and kick was perfect.”

Upsides to the cold conditions included straightforward waxing and great kick.

“Conditions on the Birkie Trail are fantastic,” Gregg wrote. “With 6 tracks wide the entire course. Cold temperatures made for fantastic classic conditions with great grip.”

Although Gregg leads the CXC Marathon Cup after the first race, the leader’s bib will change hands over the next month as the only other CXC series race Gregg plans to do is the Birkie.

Depending on her 2016 race schedule, Naryshkina may be a force in the CXC Marathon overall standings. Naryshkina won five of the Marathon Cup events in 2015 in addition to winning the classic race at the Birkie.

The post-race party at the Sawmill Saloon in Seeley is a favorite for skiers to enjoy fellowship and share race stories. Just over one month from now, the Seeley Saloon will host many more skier gatherings as racers reconvene in the Seeley/Hayward area to enjoy the biggest ski event in North America, the American Birkiebeiner.

Results

CXC Marathon Cup information

— Alex Kochon contributed reporting

Inaugural CXC Marathon Cup Opens Saturday at Seeley Hills Classic

CXC Marathon CupBy 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 we can bring excitement to the teams and clubs around the region,” explains Yuri Gusev, the CXC Director and one of the drivers of the new initiative.

The Marathon Cup will be scored in four competition categories: individual overall, individual age-indexed overall, individual age class, and team. To contribute points for a team, skiers must be registered for a CXC Club. Anyone who completes one of the Marathon Cup races will be scored as an individual and does not need a CXC/USSA Master membership. However, racers are encouraged to support the CXC Marathon Cup and grassroots nordic programs around the Midwest through purchasing a membership.

For each race, age-adjusted times will be calculated as (initial time)/(age index), using the age-index table listed in the CXC scoring rules. This allows racers’ times to be adjusted to put racers of different ages on an equal basis.

The age-adjusted scoring is an interesting new twist that Gusev thinks might have potential beyond the Marathon Cup.

“Hopefully some small events, local races will pick up on that age index and they can use it also in local events,” he explains.

The top three in the age adjusted standings as well as each age class will be eligible for prizes.  The overall top male and female will win cash prizes and the overall points leaders will wear a special bib throughout the season.

“Hopefully we can create more excitement in the region for master distance skiers and at the same time benefit all six events. We also hope to get more skiers traveling around to participate in all six events because in many cases, those events play a big role in sport development at the local and regional level,” says Gusev.

“For instance the Birkie has a big grant program for clubs all over the United States. Many events stay involved in sport development and assisting youth and junior programs around the region, so the more participation they get, the more funding they get. The goal is that they will be able to give back to the sport as well,” Gusev explains.

2016 Race Calendar:

Seeley Hills Classic (42K classic) January 16th- Seeley, WI

Noquemanon Ski Marathon (50K classic) January 23rd- Marquette, MI

City of the Lakes Loppet (2 or 3 day tour) February 5-7th- Minneapolis, MN

Vasaloppet (58K skate) February 13th- Mora, MN

American Birkebeiner (51K skate) February 20th- Hayward, WI

Great Bear Chase (50K skiathlon) March 5th- Calumet, MI

Each race was already well-established but race organizers were excited about the concept of the Marathon Cup.

“Everybody [race organizers] bought into the concept right away. They saw potential benefits and they saw how it will help the sport in general and local clubs and teams,” Gusev said.

As for the Gusev’s expectations for the Cup this year, he understands it will likely be a process.

“We are going to take one step at a time,” he said. “This year we put the concept together, and we will test the waters, and we will learn what we should do better and we’ll keep growing.”

More information on the CXC Marathon Cup can be found here.

Follow updates from the Marathon Cup on FasterSkier’s Marathon blog throughout the season!

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 third.

“That was the target today,” Kjølstad told TV2. “I have to be very happy.”

With the many-lap format, racers were pulled as they were caught by the leading group. That meant that just 26 of the 120 men who started in the elite field actually finished.

In the women’s race, it was Britta Johansson Norgren of Team Lager 157 who put on the double-poling show. In fact, all three of the podium finishers – all of them Swedes – double-poled the whole course.

Norgren bested Lina Korsgren Team Pioneer Investments by a minute and one second.

“It shows that Swedish girls are far ahead when it comes to double-poling,” Norgren told Sweden’s TV12 (as reported by Längd.se). “It was really tough [for the first 10 k]. But I had great skis and later when I got a small gap it was just to go and try to keep the momentum… my form is good and I really wanted to win here.”

Sara Lindborg of Team Skistart.com, finished third, another minute and 14 seconds back.

All three were previously teammates at Team Ski Pro Am, the first and only all-women team on the Ski Classics circuit. That team continues without them, with Emilia Lindstedt currently wearing the youth women’s leader bib.

With the win Norgren, who finished second in La Sgambeda, moved into the overall Ski Classics lead, 50 points ahead of Katerina Smutna of Team Santander. Korsgren is in third, another 30 points back.

The next Ski Classics race is La Diagonela in Zuoz, Switzerland, a 66 k race which may be the first of this year’s series to have enough snow to be held on its full race course.

Results

Ski Classics standings

Kowalczyk Wins Marchablanca Outright

Overall champion Justyna Kowalczyk and men's winner Carlos Lannes.  (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet Race Organization)

Overall 2015 Marchablanca champion Justyna Kowalczyk and men’s winner Carlos Lannes. (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet Race Organization)

Poland’s multi-time Olympic and World Championship medalist, Justyna Kowalczyk, beat all comers, male or female, in the 29th edition of Argentina’s Marchablanca on Sunday, Aug. 16.  Second place overall and first place for men went to Argentina’s Carlos Lannes at 5 seconds back.
The traditional competition took place this year in classic technique and consisted of one 21-kilometer clockwise loop of the Marchablanca/Provincial Cross Country Ski course in the Valley of Tierra Mayor outside of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Kowalczyk commented, “today required 21 KM of fighting wind and rain to get to the finish of this beautiful race.”  Such conditions are not unheard of in the Southern Patagonian region and they often turn ski racing into something resembling a springtime bike race in echelons and packs having to negotiate swirling winds.
Race CEO Pablo Valcheff concurred, “conditions were tough and starting 48 hours before the race we went to work in order to maintain the best course and stadium quality possible.”
Over 450 skiers from 10 countries participated in this year’s Marchablanca.  The race is organized by the Club Andino Ushuaia.  It is also the accompanying race to Argentina’s Worldloppet member, the Ushuaia Loppet, which took place eight days earlier.
Podium 21 KM, Classic
Men
1. Carlos Lannes   1h:17m.15s
2. Martín Banchi         1h:17m 36s
3. Federico Cichero     1h:17m.44s
Women
1. Justyna Kowalczyk   1h:17m.10s
2. María Giro                 1h:55m.36s
3. Clarisa Panosetti      2h:04m.29s

FIS Races Precede Ushuaia Loppet and Marchablanca

A Brazilian skier waits for his start during the FIS classic technique sprint qualification round on July 25 at the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area near Ushuaia, Argentina. (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet)

A Brazilian skier waits for his start during the FIS classic technique sprint qualification round on July 25 at the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area near Ushuaia, Argentina. (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet)

(Press release)
The Brazilian Winter Sports Federation in collaboration with the Club Andino Ushuaia recently held a set of FIS races at the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area near Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.  Results are available at http://data.fis-ski.com/cross-country/results.html.  The FIS races are part of a body of events in the region’s “International Month of Cross Country Skiing” which also consists of the 21-kilometer Marchablanca in classic technique and the 42 k Ushuaia Loppet in free technique.
The Marchablanca is a traditional and family friendly event for hundreds of skiers.  An elite category does exist and elite skiers are called to the line early in order to start first.
For the first time ever, the Ushuaia Loppet will be a full Worldloppet member and mark the beginning of the 2015-16 Worldloppet calendar.  Registration for the Ushuaia Loppet has reached 110 skiers from 18 countries, including Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland.
Conditions have been the best they have been in 15 years.  There are over 30 kilometers total of groomed trails at the Jerman and the Provincial Cross Country Ski Trail (PIPEF), both within 30 minutes of Ushuaia.  More information is available at http://www.ushuaialoppet.com/.

Four Weeks Until Ushuaia Loppet and Marchablanca

 

 
Ushuaia Loppet and Marchablanca

(Press release)

Only four weeks remain until the start of Argentina’s 42-kilometer Ushuaia Loppet, the first-ever Worldloppet competition on the continent of South America.  Local snow conditions are good if not excellent.  FIS skiers in the Ushuaia Loppet, set for Aug. 8, can now have their finishing points count towards their international ranking as well.

Worldloppet membership for the Ushuaia Loppet is a big step forward for cross-country skiing in South America.  Membership raises the profile of the event.  It also drives more Fuegian skiers to the sport and, thus, strengthens the structure of nordic skiing in the Southern Patagonian region.

Ushuaia Loppet CEO Pablo Valcheff says “the existence of these events represents the accumulation of decades of hard work in this region.  We’re thrilled to be hosting the event.  Equally important is the standard that Worldloppet membership holds us to, the chance it gives us to develop, and the ability to show the potential that exists for skiing here, around the Earth’s southernmost city.”

The Ushuaia Loppet is capped at 120 skiers in 2015, partly to control its growth and partly due to the relatively remote location of the event.  Registration is currently 75% full.  Skiers from 18 countries have registered for the event.

The Ushuaia Loppet’s accompanying event, the traditional Marchablanca, will be held in classic technique this year and measure the typical 21 KM.  The Marchablanca will take place on Sunday, Aug. 16.

The Race Organization is overseen by the local nonprofit Club Andino Ushuaia.  Over 50 years old, the CAU is proud to be taking the next step in developing cross-country skiing in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and South America.

There’s still room to join, registration is available at www.ushuaialoppet.com.

Early Snow in Argentina in Ushuaia’s First Worldloppet Year

Ushuaia Loppet

(Press release)

The first significant snowfall of the austral autumn left 40 cm of snow in Ushuaia and 70 cm on the cross-country trails of the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area and in the Valley of Tierra Mayor. The Club Andino Ushuaia (CAU) began grooming operations at the Francisco Jerman after intense snowfalls Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24. The CAU hopes to have at least some trails open and groomed as soon as possible for skiers.

The Valley of Tierra Mayor is groomed as part of a wider partnership between the CAU, Argentine governmental authorities, and two private entities, Cerro Castor downhill ski area and Centro Invernal Tierra Mayor.

The Ushuaia Loppet’s Pablo Valcheff commented that it’s great to see a relatively early snow in 2015 given that this winter marks the first winter that the event is an official Worldloppet member. Additionally, the Province of Tierra del Fuego as a whole has worked to develop programs to get young people on skis, on the snow, and active in the austral winter. The goal is to continue to improve nordic skiing in what is South America’s best location for the activity.

A regional calendar of events including FIS races is crowned by the Marchablanca and the Ushuaia Loppet which will start off the 2015-16 Worldloppet International Ski Marathon Series.

It All Comes Down to Khanty

 

Holly Brooks is excited to get the last race of the season under her belt. Photo: Submitted

Holly Brooks (USA) is excited to get the last race of the season under her belt. (Courtesy photo)

By Inge Scheve

When Holly Brooks steps onto the start line of the Ugra Ski Marathon in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, for the last race in the 2014/2015 FIS Marathon Cup on Saturday, she’ll have four points separating her from second place in the race for the overall title.

“In order to claim the overall victory, I need to beat [Estonia’s] Tatjana [Mannima] and stay 51 points ahead of Aurelie [Dabudyk of France],” Brooks explained in an email. “There are lots and lots of Russian girls on the start list so anything could happen.”

A rookie to the FIS Marathon Cup this season, Brooks is in full battle mode as the final event, the 50 k freestyle Ugra, gets underway in Siberia on Saturday. With one race to go, Brooks has 455 points, while Mannima has 451 points and Dabudyk in third has 404 points. All three are on the start list, and each has a shot at the overall trophy.

Women’s overall standings prior to the final event

Deep field

Brooks traveled to Siberia earlier this week and was one of the first international racers to arrive at the venue. That gave her plenty of time to check out the course and research her competitors.

“I looked up a couple of the Russian girls on the FIS website the other day, and many don’t have profiles. However, today, I met a bunch of Russian female biathletes out on course so the competition is sure to be tough! The depth of Russian skiers is amazing,” Brooks noted.

“There are always racers that you’ve never heard of, and who are capable of winning. Therefore, I could be fighting for the podium, or I could be fighting for a top ten, I just don’t know.”

Elite women’s start list

Waited a month 

While the Engadin in Switzerland on March 9 was the last FIS Marathon Cup race before the Ugra, Brooks has tried to stay race fresh both mentally and physically in the month between the two races.

After the Engadin, where Brooks placed fifth, she travelled to Norway and competed in the Birkebeiner on March 21, a part of the Ski Classics series, before spending some time in Chamonix, France, prior to her trip to Russia.

“I’m just crossing my fingers for fast skis, no broken poles, and a body that will cooperate with a race effort on April 11th, long after I’m usually ‘done’ racing for the season,” Brooks wrote.

“No matter what the result ends up, I’m proud of my effort this season. It’s not been easy chasing the FIS Marathon cup as a ‘solo show,’ but I’ve met a lot of great people and made a lot of friends along the way,” she added. “Salomon and BP Alaska have been integral parts in making this journey a reality, and I can’t wait to get home to Alaska and share stories with people just one week from now.”

Still open in the men’s overall

The Ugra is not only the deciding event on the women’s side. Petr Novak of the Czech Republic has lead the FIS Marathon Cup with a comfortable margin for months and enters the Ugra with 406 points, but the overall title is not in his pocket.

With 347 points, Benoit Chauvet of France could snag the overall if he wins on Saturday and Novak finishes outside the top five.

Sergio Bonaldi of Italy is in third place overall, but with 229 points, he cannot threaten the top two, even if he were to win the Ugra.

Men’s overall standingsElite men’s start list

Expecting more than 1200 skiers

Khanty-Mansiysk, a well-established venue on the biathlon World Cup, is new to the FIS Marathon Cup. Aside from the 50 k freestyle FIS Marathon Cup race, the Ugra also offers 25 k freestyle and 5 k freestyle events on Saturday, and organizers are expecting about 1,200 participants total.

Two Russians won last year’s Ugra 50 k: Ekaterina Rudakov and Alexey Ivanov. In 2013, Alexander Legkov and Natalya Makoveeva won the race. The Ugra Ski Marathon is also the final event of the 2014/2015 Euroloppet series.

The weather forecast is calling for temperatures around freezing on race day, but the forecast for Friday is rain and 6 degrees Celsius (43 Fahrenheit), potentially serving up some interesting spring conditions for racers on Saturday.

Eliassen Takes It All in Årefjällsloppet, Ski Classics Final

 

Seraina Boner of Switzerland and Team Coop and Petter Eliassen of Norway and Team LeaseplanGO won Årefjällsloppet on Saturday, the final of the the nine events in the 2015 Swix Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Seraina Boner (l) of Switzerland and Team Coop and Petter Eliassen of Norway and Team LeasePlan Go won the Årefjällsloppet on March 28, the last of nine events in the 2015 Swix Ski Classics marathon series. (Photo: Ski Classics)

By Inge Scheve

Petter Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go) continued his winning streak in the Swix Ski Classics final 47-kilometer marathon, Årefjällsloppet, on Saturday in Sweden, which also earned him the overall title as Ski Classics champion. Seraina Boner (Team Coop) won the women’s race.

Once again, it was an all-Norwegian men’s podium in the Ski Classics. And once again Eliassen was the strongest in the end, skiing away from Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander about 2 kilometers from the finish. The third Norwegian, John Kristian Dahl of Team United Bakeries snagged the last spot on the podium after edging Anders Aukland of Team Santander at the finish.

In the women’s race, Boner of Switzerland skied away from the rest of the pack in the tough uphill halfway through the race. Swedish World Cup star Sofia Bleckur was second, and Japan’s Masako Ishida of Team United Bakeries took third.

Start of the women in Årefjällsloppet 2015. Photo: Ski Classics

Start of the women in the 2015 Årefjällsloppet. (Photo: Ski Classics)

In from left field

With his victory at Årefjällsloppet, Eliassen made Ski Classics history by winning four consecutive Ski Classics events. The former Norwegian national-team racer, who joined Thomas Alsgaard’s long-distance project Team LeasePlan Go prior to the 2014/2015 season, was considered an outsider for the overall in the beginning of the season. But the rookie marathon racer inched in on the overall race by race.

“It’s actually a bit unreal right now. It will be hard to land after this,” Eliassen told the Norwegian broadcaster TV2 after the race. “But I think the marathon series will be my arena in the future … It’s really nice that the entire team does so well. We should be quite happy with this season.”

His first Ski Classics victory came in the König Luwdiglauf in Germany on Feb. 1, but Eliassen caught the most attention when he won the Vasaloppet two weeks before the Norwegian Birkebeiner. When he won Birkebeinerrennet in Norway last weekend, he cruised into the over yellow leader bib for the final event in Sweden this weekend. And by winning the Årefjallsloppet, he proceeded to take the overall 2015 Ski Classics Champion title by more than 230 points.

Overall Ski Classics results and standings

Årefjällsloppet results

Petter Eliassen won the 2015 Birkebeinerrennet last weekend, and headed into the Swix Ski Classics final this weekend wearing the yellow overall leader bib. Photo: Kent Murdoch

Petter Eliassen won the 2015 Birkebeinerrennet last weekend, and headed into the Swix Ski Classics final this weekend wearing the yellow overall leader bib. (Photo: Kent Murdoch)

Payday

Årefjällsloppet was the last of the nine Ski Classics events of the season, which means that the banquet also included overall awards and a solid payday for many of the pro racers.

In addition to the prize money for Årefjallsloppet itself, 200,000 Euros was awarded at the season-end banquet on Saturday night. The top overall male/female received 8 percent of that (16,000 Euros) plus the prize money for the event (21,000 Euros for each individual win) for a total of roughly $40,000 U.S. dollars. Money was also awarded to the top-six men overall, and the top-three women overall.

Placing fifth in the Årefjällsloppet, Austria’s Kateřina Smutná (Team Silvini Madshus) narrowly beat Boner for the overall women’s title by 75 points. Boner won two of the 2014/2015 Ski Classics events – the first, La Sgambeda, and the last – and reached the podium in every race except the König Ludwiglauf. In placing fifth in the Ski Classics final, Smutna earned 100 points. Had she been 11th or worse, Boner would have been the overall Ski Classics champion. Britta Johansson Norgren of Sweden was 219 points out of second in third overall.

Holly Brooks won the Dolomitenlauf in Austria earlier this season. She has focused on the long-distance events in the FIS Marathon Cup, but raced some of the Ski Classics events as well. (Photo: Thomas ISEP)

Holly Brooks won the Dolomitenlauf in Austria earlier this season. She has focused on the long-distance events in the FIS Marathon Cup, but raced some of the Ski Classics events as well. (Photo: Thomas ISEP)

Holly Brooks, the only American racer in the elite Ski Classics series, placed 16th overall for the season. Brooks only raced the Ski Classics events that were also a part of the FIS Marathon Cup, and those that did not interfere with her other race plans. With one event to go in the 2014/2015 FIS Marathon Cup, Brooks is now narrowly in the lead for the overall title in that circuit.

Increasing interest

The Ski Classics was extended from six events last season to nine events this season, which was the fourth edition of the long-distance series. More teams and more racers participated in the series, and 2014/2015 had a record amount with almost 30 professional teams registered.

The season opened Dec. 13 in Livigno, Italy, with the 15 k La Sgambeda team prologue, a brand-new event and format to the series, followed by the 35 k La Sgambeda classic the next day. Then the race series took a month break and continued with the 50 k Jizerska Padesatka in the Czech Republic on Jan. 11, La Diagonela in Switzerland on Jan. 17, Marcialonga in Italy on Jan. 25, and König Ludwiglauf in Germany on Feb. 1. Four weeks later, the series resumed with the Vasaloppet in Sweden on March 8, followed by the Birkebeinerrennet in Norway on March 21 and the Årefjällsloppet in Sweden on March 28.

Ski Classics Overall: men

  • First place: Petter Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go) 1270 points, 20 percent of total prize money
  • Second: Anders Aukland (Team Santander) 1032 points, 8 percent of total prize money
  • Third: Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) 930 points, 5 percent of total prize money
  • Fourth: Øystein Pettersen (Team United Bakeries) 915 points, 3 percent of total prize money
  • Fifth: Morten Eide Pedersen (Team Coop) 646 points, 2 percent of total prize money
  • Sixth: John Kristian Dahl (Team United Bakeries) 633 points, 1 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Overall: women

  • First place: Kateřina Smutná (Team Silvini Madshus) 1290 points, 20 percent of total prize money
  • Second: Seraina Boner (Team Coop) 1215 points, 8 percent of total prize money
  • Third: Britta Johansson Norgren (Team SkiProAm) 996 points, 5 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Team Champion

Team Satander, 3556 points, 20 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Sprint Champion

Øystein Pettersen, Team United Bakeries, 6 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Youth Champion Men

Anders Høst, LYN Ski, 441 points, 1 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Youth Champion Women

Tone Sundvor, Team Synnfjell, 327 points, 1 percent of total prize money

Everything Rides on Årefjällsloppet, Last Ski Classics Marathon

 

Årefjällsloppet is the final event of the 2015 Ski Classics series. Photo: Magnus Östh/SKi Classics

The Årefjällsloppet is the final event of the 2015 Ski Classics series. (Photo: Magnus Östh/Ski Classics)

By Inge Scheve 

Ski Classics leader Petter Eliassen of Norway can expect a solid run for his money on Saturday – literally speaking.

After winning the Norwegian Birkebeiner last weekend, Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go goes into Årefjällsloppet in Åre, Sweden, with a 168-point lead for the overall Ski Classics title, ahead of fellow Norwegian Anders Aukland of Team Santander.

The Årefjällsloppet is the ninth and final event of the 2014/2015 Ski Classics series. Due to low snow and challenging conditions, the 75-kilometer course has been reduced to 47 k. But despite cutting down on the length, race organizers promised a challenging event that will separate the good from the best.

In his effort to defend the yellow bib in the final event and claim the overall 2015 Ski Classics Champion title, Eliassen will face one of the toughest start fields in the long-distance series this season.

And while Aukland is Eliassen’s the closest challenger for the overall, there is prize money awarded to the top-six racers in the overall competition. Norway’s Øystein Pettersen of Team United Bakeries is currently ranked third overall, 158 points out of second, and leads the sprint competition by 40 points. Pettersen has 240 sprint points, while Aukland’s teammate Andreas Nygård of Norway is second with 200 points, and Eliassen has 160 points.

In the women’s field, overall leader Katerina Smutna of Austria will have to fend off Switzerland’s Seraina Boner, Norway’s Laila Kveli, Japanese star Masako Ishida, and Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren to take the overall victory. Smutna leads Boner by 175 points, and Norgren is another 139 points back in third.

The team competition is also coming down to the wire in the last event. Team Santander goes into Årefjällsloppet with a 61-point lead on Team United Bakeries, and Team Coop is in third, 547 points out of second.

In the youth men’s competition, Norway’s Anders Høst of Lyn Ski has an almost 100-point lead to Team Coop’s Bill Impola of Sweden in second. In the women’s race, Norway’s Tone Sundvor of Team Synnfjell is in first place, 196 points ahead of Norway’s Tuva Toftdahl Staver of Team LeasePlan Go is in second.

Complete standings

Strongest field to date

The final event of the 2014/2015 Ski Classics features the strongest start fields in the four-year history of the Swedish race.

Among the top elite racers on the start list is Norway’s John Kristian Dahl, who was third at the Birkebeinerrennet last weekend, and Sweden’s Jörgen Brink, in addition to the top overall contenders.

And in addition to the usual long-distance specialists, a whole slew of World Cup racers such as Norway’s Petter Northug, Sweden’s top racers, including Johan Olsson, Marcus Hellner and Daniel Richardsson, as well as Russian Olympians Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin, and Czech superstar Lukas Bauer are on the start list, along with some of Sweden’s top women: Stina Nilsson, Emma Wikén and Sofia Bleckur.

Start lists

Men’s Elite
Women’s Elite

Payday

At the end of the day, the Ski Classics will award the prize money for the overall Ski Classics winner for both the men’s and the women’s categories, as well as the overall sprint competition, team competition, youth men and youth women winners.

Total Prize Money for entire season: 200,000 Euros ($216,315 U.S. dollars)

Total Prize Money per event: 21,000 Euros ($22,713 USD)

Ski Classics Champion Men

First place: 20 percent of total prize money
Second: 8 percent
Third: 5 percent
Fourth: 3 percent
Fifth: 2 percent
Sixth: 1 percent

Ski Classics Champion women

First place: 20 percent of total prize money
Second: 8 percent
Third: 5 percent

Ski Classics Team Champion

First place: 20 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Sprint Champion

First place: 6 percent

Ski Classics Youth Champion Men

First place: 1 percent

Ski Classics Youth Champion Women

First place: 1 percent

McKeever Joins Team Coop for Vasaloppet

Brian McKeever (Photo: Team Coop)

Brian McKeever (Photo: Team Coop)

(Press release)

The long distance ski team Team Coop is preparing for Ski Classics Event 7 , the Vasaloppet. In the 2015 Vasaloppet on Sunday, Canada’s nine-time Paralympic gold medalist Brian McKeever will start with the team.

Brian took 3 gold medals in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics. He began skiing at the age of 3 and started competing at 13. At 19 he began losing his vision due to Stargardt’s disease.

In 2010, Brian became the first Canadian athlete to be named to both Paralympic and Olympic teams. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, he was going to compete in the men’s 50-kilometer cross-country race, however, Canada’s coach decided to replace him with a skier who did well at an earlier event at the 2010 games and thus he did not become the first athlete in the world to compete in the Winter Paralympics and Winter Olympics in the same year.

“When Brian asked me about the possibilities to start for us in Vasaloppet, it was an easy decision. Brian is a friendly person and we will do our best to help him to a good result in Vasaloppet. And we are also happy to promote the paralympic athletes, they are real heroes! ” says Team Director Oskar Svärd.

“I’m so excited to be a part of Team Coop for the Vasaloppet this year! Having the support of one of the most experienced teams in the Swix Ski Classics is a dream opportunity. I first saw the Vasaloppet in a video when I was 14 years old and ever since, it has been one of my favourite races to compete and watch. Now to race with Team Coop is like another level! I hope to represent the team as well as I can and hopefully increase the profile of Paralympic skiing in the process. Thank you to Team Coop and all the partners for the amazing support!” says Brian McKeever.

Novak, Mannima Win Bieg Piastów; Brooks Fourth

Tatjana Mannima of Estonia and Petr Novak of the Czech Republic are leading the overall FIS Marathon Cup with two events to go. Photo: Worldloppet

Tatjana Mannima of Estonia and Petr Novak of the Czech Republic are leading the overall FIS Marathon Cup with two events to go. (Photo: Worldloppet)

Petr Novak of the Czech Republik and Estonian marathon specialist Tatjana Mannima won Saturday’s 51-kilometer Bieg Piastów classic race in Poland.

With the victory, Mannima move into the FIS Marathon Cup leader’s bib, passing American Holly Brooks by 17 points. Mannima led the FIS Marathon Cup after her victory in the Tartu Marathon earlier this month, but had to turn over the red bib to Brooks after last weekend’s American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis.

Novak increases his gap in the overall FIS Marathon Cup by 89 points over France’s Benoit Chauvet.

The Bieg Piastów served up a race day with challenging-and-changing conditons. The day started with -1-degree Celsius temperatures and some foggy weather, but during the race, the sun burned through the fog, lightening spirits while complicating waxing.

Setting up for a thriller

In the women’s race, the skiers stayed in a pack for around 25 k. Lapping through the stadium, Brooks was caught behind a racer grabbing a drink and had to let the other women go, she explained to the organizers after the race. Brooks never managed to bridge the gap.

That left Mannima, Klara Moravcova of the Czech Republic and France’s Aurelie Dabudyk to battle out the podium places. Mannima won the sprint finish and secured her third classic win on the FIS Marathon Cup this season. Moravcova was second (+3.7) and Dabudyk took third (+5.5). Brooks placed fourth, 3:46.3 off the podium and 3:51.8 behind Mannima in first.

“It was a hard race, but I had very good skis, especially in the downhills,” Mannima said. “I had a big advantage of good glide, which helped me a lot. … I am very happy win here today, and to get the red bib back again. I hope I can now keep it until the end of the season.”

With today’s victory Mannima leads with 427 points, while Brooks in second place has 410 points. Dabudyk is in third place with 354 points. With two races left, it will be a tough fight for the overall victory until the end.

Novak set out with a plan

On the men’s side, the race took a clear direction early on, and by 26 k, only seven men, including the podium contenders, were left in the lead pack. With 10 k to go, Novak and Stanislav Rezac, also of the Czech Republic, made their moves and dropped Chauvet.

The Frenchman was the only one of the former seven racers who was still with them at that point. It looked as if the finish of this year’s La Transjurassiene would be repeated, but Novak made his move on a short uphill before the finish and kept on pushing for first in 2:19:19.7. Rezac finished second (+2.1) and Chauvet battled alone to claim third (+1:58.5).

“After the waxing disaster in the U.S., I came home very disappointed and did not feel well,” Novak told organizers after the race. “On the other hand, it gave me some extra motivation to have a good race today.”

“I wanted to be at the head of the race to control the situation and not to spend too much energy,” he added. “I knew that with Rezac, I would need to save enough energy for the finish sprint. I thought that he would start pushing hard on the last uphill, and I needed to keep up with him there. One k before the finish there was a little bump, and I took my chance and accelerated there. Luckily, I was able to keep the gap until the finish line.”

FIS Marathon Cup overall 

With the victory today, Novak increased his lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Novak now has 404 points. Chauvet is in second place with 315 points, and Sergio Bonaldi of Italy is third with 223 points.

More than 1,500 skiers representing 27 countries participated in Saturday’s 51 k classic marathon.

Complete results & overall FIS Marathon Cup standings

— Inge Scheve

Birkie Madshus/Fits Sock Elite Sprints Canceled

(Press release)

HAYWARD, Wis. (Feb.  17, 2015) – The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation has canceled the Madshus/Fits Sock Elite Sprints originally scheduled for noon on Thursday, Feb. 19.

The National Weather Service is predicting a morning low of minus 17 and a high around zero on Thursday.  According to Ben Popp, ABSF executive director, concern for skier safety motivated the decision to cancel the sprints.

Madshus and Fits Sock will now sponsor the sprint bonus at Highway OO, awarding prizes of $750, $350 and $200 to the first three men and women to the top of the hill.

The Barkie Birkie and the Giant Ski are still on for Thursday.

For the races Saturday, the NWS predicts a low of 4 and a high of 16.

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

40th Boulder Mountain Tour Canceled Due to Avalanche, Hypothermia Threats

The 40th Boulder Mountain Tour in Sun Valley, Idaho, was canceled on Saturday, hours before it started, “because of a combination of overnight weather-caused factors,” including avalanche dangers, according to the Idaho Mountain Express.

Boulder Mountain Ski Tour co-race director Kelly Allison told the Express the decision was made after consulting the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), Idaho Transportation Department and local emergency medical personnel. It was announced at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, less than two hours before the 34.3-kilometer Full Boulder and 15 k Half Boulder races were set to begin near Galena Lodge north of Ketchum, with some 900 skiers registered.

The night before, rain pelleted the Wood River Valley and more than a foot of snow covered the course, from the SNRA headquarters north to Galena Lodge.

According to Allison, the SNRA notified organizers of avalanche potential, and the Idaho Transportation Department said it could not run shuttle buses safely up and down State Highway 75 because of snow accumulation and slick roads. She added that participants would have also been at risk for hypothermia.

Organizers have requested that timing chips be returned, either in person or by mail, and said there would be no refunds for entry fees.

“Unfortunately most of our expenses to put on this race have already been incurred,” the race website stated. “In the next few weeks we will look at our financials and see if there is any surplus to use towards offering a credit on next year’s race, but we cannot promise anything at this time. Thank you for your understanding.”

According to the Express, the Boulder Mountain Tour had been canceled three times before: in 1983, 1981 and 1977.

 

 

Another Marathon Podium for Brooks in La Transjurassienne

Holly Brooks (left) was second in the 56k classic Transjurassienne in France on Saturday, and increases her lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Tatiana Mannima (center) of Estonia won the race, and Aurelie Dabudyk of France was third. Photo: Salomon Nordic

Holly Brooks (left) placed second in the La Transjurassienne 56 k classic in France on Saturday, increasing her lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Tatjana Mannima (center) of Estonia won the women’s race, and Aurelie Dabudyk of France was third. (Photo: Holly Brooks/Salomon Nordic)

By Inge Scheve

Estonia’s Tatjana Mannima won La Transjurassienne women’s 56 k classic, part of the FIS Marathon Cup series, in 3:09.29.9 hours on Saturday, edging American Holly Brooks by 4.1 seconds and France’s Aurélie Dabudyk by 24 seconds in third.

Stanislav Rezac of the Czech Republic won the men’s race for the sixth time, clocking in at 2:47:08.0, with almost 10 seconds to spare to Petr Novak, also of the Czech Republic. The last spot on the podium became a photo finish sprint between World Cup veteran Jean-Marc Gaillard and Benoit Chauvet, both of France, with Gaillard coming out on top. They finished 1:25.3 and 1:25.4 behind Rezac, respectively.

A fight from the start

The racers literally had to fight their way to the finish.

“It was was grueling! Strong wind and many times the tracks were drifted in,” Brooks wrote in an email about of the windy and exposed terrain, noting that underestimating her food intake made the race extra challenging.

“I was very undernourished for the race, which was entirely my fault. We were out there going HARD for over 3 hours. I should have brought more with me, but I didn’t in the craziness of the morning. The two girls that I was racing with had feeds practically every two kilometers. I was bonking and extremely jealous,” she added.

“I couldn’t see straight, let alone hardly at all approaching the finish line. I didn’t know where I was, and where exactly the other girls were in the end – I just pushed on. Lesson learned.”

Overall, the two-time U.S. Olympian was content with her effort considering she was totally new to the race and the course.

“It’s my first time here, I didn’t know the track, I had never seen the finish so I didn’t really know where to go and what to expect,” she said.

Holly Brooks along the windblown course in the 56k classic Transjurassienne in France. Photo: Salomon Nordic

Holly Brooks along the windblown course in the 56k classic Transjurassienne in France. (Photo: Holly Brooks/Salomon Nordic)

Shooting pain for 55 k

In placing second in the tough French marathon, Brooks also increased her overall lead in the FIS Marathon Cup, but it came at a cost.

“One last hardship today is that my chronic elbow problem is back and extremely inflamed,” she wrote. “The Marcialonga (with 57 k of double-poling two weeks ago) was a bad idea for me given my health history. I went 55 k today with shooting pain in my elbows, so first priority in the Midwest will be to find a good PT.”

Brook plans to race the American Birkebeiner in northern Wisconsin in two weekends on Feb. 21.

“Readers, please let me know if anyone can help me out,” she wrote.

Mannima as the race winner was more than excited to log a FIS Marathon Cup victory. This was her first marathon podium in almost two years.

“I am so happy! It’s so amazing to be back on the podium,” she told race organizers after the race.

“It was a hard race but we three girls worked well together the whole way through. In the end, I felt very good, so I thought I would just give it a go. I pushed hard, and somehow the others couldn’t follow,” she added.

Back on top

Rezac had also been waiting for a podium in the FIS Marathon Cup for the last two years.

“I am very happy that I could win this race again,” said the 42-year-old marathon veteran, adding that he lost count of how many times he had won the Transjurassienne.

“I didn’t know that I had already won it that many times, but it’s a really nice race and I like to ski here,” he said when FIS announcers told him it was his sixth victory.

Rezac, too, was excited to be back on the FIS Marathon Cup podium.

“It’s a long time since I won a FIS Marathon Cup! My next races will normally be the Vasaloppet and the Bieg Piastów [in Poland].”

Stanislav Rezac of the Czech Republic (center) won the Transjurassienne 2015, with Petr Novak, also of the Czech Republic, in 2nd place and Jean Marc Gaillard of France (right) in 3rd. Photo: Salomon Nordic

Stanislav Rezac of the Czech Republic (center) won the Transjurassienne 56 k classic on Saturday, with Petr Novak, also of the Czech Republic, in second and Jean-Marc Gaillard of France (right) in third. (Photo: Holly Brooks/Salomon Nordic)

Increased the lead in overall FIS Marathon Cup

Brooks and Novak continue to lead the overall FIS Marathon Cup, which means they get to keep racing in the red leader bibs. Brooks has 260 points after four of the nine events in the 2015 Marathon Cup, while Dabyduk has 214 points and Mannima has 167 points.

“It was really a great girls race today with us three working together and battling throughout the whole race and until the end,” Brooks wrote. “I am really happy that I could extend my lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup, and am now looking forward to going home and enjoying some time off before the American Birkebeiner.”

She is skipping the next FIS Marathon Cup race, the Tartu Skimarathon in Estonia.

“I’m assuming that Mannima will win [the Tartu], and if that’s the case she’ll be 7 points ahead of me and wear the red bib in the Birkie. My goal will be to get it back,” Brooks wrote.

In the men’s overall, Novak has 280 points, while Chauvet has 195 points and Toni Livers of Switzerland has 150 points. Livers was on the start list for the Transjurassienne, but was sick and unable to race this weekend. Both Brooks and Novak are next headed to the American Birkie.

Wait – there’s more!

Many of the elite skiers racing in the 56k classic FIS Marathon Cup on Saturday will also take on Sunday’s 68 k freestyle event.

Results: Women | Men

Eliassen of Norway and Norgren of Sweden Win König Ludwig Lauf

Petter Eliassen of Norway and Britta Johansson Norgren of Sweden won the König Ludwig Lauf in Germany. The event was the sixth of nine races in the 2015 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Petter Eliassen of Norway and Britta Johansson Norgren of Sweden won the König Ludwig Lauf in Germany. The event was the sixth of nine races in the 2015 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go won the 46 k König Ludwig Lauf, a Swix Ski Classics marathon, with a tenth of a second’s margin, while Britta Johansson Norgren of Team SkiProAm could cruise into victory with almost a minute to spare in the women’s race.

At the starting line, the athletes could clearly see their route through the Ammergau Alps. The 46 k course starts in Ettal and passes the village of Graswang and the Linderhof castle on the way to the finish line in Oberammergau. There were Ski Classics sprints to be contested in Graswang after 9 k and Steinbrücke after 33 k.

But shortly after the gun went off it started to snow, which made it tough to ski in the front of the pack. Despite the conditions, several racers made attempts to break away from the main group, but it all came down to a sprint finish.

Eliassen has been strong the whole season, and he finally won his first Ski Classics race in a photo finish with fellow Norwegian Tore Bjørseth Berdal of Team United Bakeries. In that perspective, the 1.6-second margin down to third place was huge. Eliassen finished in 1:59:42.9 and Berdal in 1:59:43.00.

After 46k, a tenth of a second separated Petter Eliassen (left) from Tore Berdal (yellow) in second place. Photo: Ski Classics

After 46k, a tenth of a second separated Petter Eliassen (left) of Norway from Tore Berdal (yellow), also of Norway, in second place. Photo: Ski Classics

“It was awesome to win today. I tried to make my moves on the hills, but I didn’t quite succeed. We worked as a team the whole way, which allowed me to save some energy,” Eliassen said to Norwegian broadcaster TV2 after the finish, explaining that conserving power was an important strategy.

“I am not the best sprinter in the end, so I tried to push hard all the way from the last 5k, making the other guys tired. It was amazing to win my first Swix Ski Classics race, and I am in a good position to reach the podium in the champion competition,” Eliassen said in a Ski Classics press release.

Norway’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander followed up last weekend’s Marcialonga victory with a new Ski Classics podium and placed third, clocking in at 1:59:44.6.

Yesterday, he raced the 30 k skiathlon at the Norwegian national championships, hoping to land a spot on the national team squad that will be representing Norway at the 2015 FIS World Championships in Falun, Sweden, later this month. After finishing fifth in the skiathlon, he narrowly missed the National team selection. As soon as the team selection was announced Saturday afternoon, Gjerdalen flew from the race venue in Røros, Norway, to the Ski Classics in southern Germany.

Norway’s Øystein Pettersen of Team United Bakeries moved back into the green points bib after winning the first sprint of the day, at 9 k, pushing Team Santander’s Andreas Nygaard, also of Norway, down to second place. Pettersen, who ended up 16th in the Koenig Ludwiglauf, has 180 sprint points and now leads the sprint competition by 20 points after six of the season’s nine events. Eliassen of Norway is third with 120 points, 40 points behind Nygaard, who has 160 points.

Alone Into The Finish
In the women’s race, which started 15 minutes before the men’s, Britta Johansson Norgren and Lina Korsgren, both Swedish and both of Team SkiProAm, managed to break away from the chasing group half way through the race.

Korsgren had to let go at the big climb by the Linderhof Castle, and Norgren continued to ski alone won her first Swix Ski Classics victory by nearly a minute, with a time of 2:16:28.6.

“Our first gap came a little bit too early, but I had really fast skis and my shape is good, so I just had to go for it. It was amazing to win for the first time, and also to have two more team members among the top five,” Norgren said to Ski Classics reporters after the race.

After getting dropped by Norgren, Korsgren was caught by the chase group. She lost the sprint finish by a tenth of a second to Austria’s Katerina Smutna of Team Madshus Silvini, and ended up third. Smutna and Korsgren clocked in at 2:17:10.10 and 2:17:10.20, respectively.

Complete results

No changes in the overall standings
Smutna, and Norway’s Anders Aukland of Team Santander, who was fourth in the König Ludwiglauf, are still leading the Ski Classics Champion competition. Also, Aukland’s Team Santander took over the lead in the team competition.

Sweden’s Bill Impola of Team Coop and Norway’s Tone Sundvor of Team Synnfjell are still leading the youth competition.

All Ski Classics standings
Long and proud history
König Ludwig Lauf was run for the first time on March 17, 1968. The distances were 45 k and 90 k. After three years, in 1971, there were already 1,383 racers. Thanks to the foundation of the Alpetris the number of participants number increased to over 2,000 in 1974.

Only two years later, in 1976, the race was integrated in the Euroloppet and later became a part of the Worldloppet race schedule. König Ludwig Lauf has been a part of the Ski Classics since 2011. It also serves as the World 20th annual Medical Cross Country Championships, where physicians, pharmacists, dentists and veterinarians from all over the world participate.

–Inge Scheve

O’Brien, Bigelow Win Men’s Races in Craftsbury; Youngman, Whybrow Lead Women

 

On a frigid day at the 34th annual Craftsbury Marathon on Saturday, Stratton Mountain School T2 Team Head Coach Patrick O’Brien cruised to victory in the 50-kilomenter classic while Magnus Bigelow won the 25 k classic at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, Vt.

On the women’s side, Elizabeth Youngman topped the 50 k and Helen Whybrow was victorious in the 25 k.

O’Brien, a Dartmouth grad and former Craftsbury Green Racing Project racer, won on familiar trails in 2:36:03 hours. Chris Ziegler was second (+3:51.2) overall, while Dylan McGuffin – O’Brien’s former CGRP teammate and a multiple-sprint winner during the 2012/2013 SuperTour season – rounded out the podium in third (+5:27.8), edging out Thomas Rabon (+5:42.1) in fourth.

O’Brien took an early lead and was first after 12.5 k, but fell to 79th overall by the 37.4 k mark. The other top skiers were in the same group, as Ziegler was 80th and McGuffin 82nd. However, O’Brien separated himself from the field in the final 12.6 k, which he competed in a blistering 39:32.4.

Scott Tucker was first at the 37.4 k point and finished the race in 30th.

O’Brien explained in an email that he has hardly trained since bowing out of ski racing last year, and as a result did not have many expectations going into Saturday’s race.

“I was pretty apprehensive about my ability to even make it 50 k skiing kind of hard at this point,” he wrote.

However, O’Brien explained that he felt strong going into the third lap (of four) and decided to ski aggressively to see what would happen.

“I blew myself up and just suffered into the finish for the whole fourth lap,” he wrote, though still was able to maintain a commanding lead over Ziegler.

“I’m content not racing again for quite a while,” O’Brien wrote.

Youngman won the women’s race in 3:13:19.1, and was 34th overall and 7:19.4 minutes ahead of Jane McClelland. Lindley Van Der Linde was the third woman overall (+8:54.3).

Meanwhile, Bigelow won the men’s 25 k in 1:22:18.8, holding off Chris Nice by 3:57.8 minutes. Jake Hollenbach took the final podium spot (+4:38.7).

In the women’s 25 k, Whybrow topped the podium in 1:32:44.8, which was also good enough for 11th overall. Emily Hannah took second (+3:47.4) while Madeline Leopold finished seven minutes later in third (+10:44.6).

The 2015 Craftsbury Marathon came a year after Darthmouth skier Torin Tucker collapsed and died while skiing in the lead pack of the 50 k. The tragedy occurred at the 42 k mark during a long climb, and was attributed to a previously undetected structural anomaly in his heart that caused Tucker to go into cardiac arrest.

Late last month, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) in Sun Valley, Idaho, dedicated a trail in Tucker’s memory, named  Torin’s Tuck’er. Tucker grew up skiing with the SVSEF.

Complete results

— Colin Gaiser