By Inge Scheve
Anders Aukland of Norway and Seraina Boner of Switzerland won the first long-distance race of the 2014/15 Swix Ski Classics series, both by a comfortable margin.
U.S. two-time Olympian Holly Brooks finished 10th among the women, almost five minutes behind Boner.
After a short 15-kilometer Pro Team Prologue on Saturday, the Swix Ski Classics continued with the 35 k classic La Sgambeda in Livigno, Italy. The course was one big loop with a challenging climb in the middle.
Both Aukland (Team Santander) and Seraina Boner (Team Coop) won with similar tactics: they skied away from their competitors and stayed up front.
Norway’s Petter Eliassen (Team LeaseplanGO) was considered one of the top contenders for the 35 k classic, and led for the first 15 k. Aukland caught him there and stayed ahead for the remaining 20 k, winning in 1:21:20.
“It was a hard race with high speed in the big climb,” the 42-year-old Aukland told the Ski Classics media after the race. “I had really good skis, but it was tough to stay in front, and I didn’t feel safe until the last kilometer.”
Aukland’s competitors did their best to challenge the veteran, but didn’t stand a chance.
“We have to be respectful of the elderly, isn’t that what they teach us?” Øystein Pettersen said to TV2. “Actually, Anders was incredibly strong. He is incredibly strong. At 42, he was sixth at Beitostølen [Norway's FIS season opener in November], and today he was simply better than everyone. Johan [Kjølstad] and I did our best, but this guy was faster. He was a little faster than us, and that’s totally OK.”
Pettersen (Team United Bakeries) placed third, just 0.79 seconds behind teammate Kjølstad in second place.
With the cross-country World Cup racers racing in Davos, Switzerland, just down the road from Livigno, several of the World Cup racers opted out of the Davos sprint on Sunday and chose to start the 35 k classic instead. Eldar Rønning of Norway and Russians Alexey Poltoranin and Maxim Vylegzhanin were among them, but didn’t manage to fight for the podium.
“This was a race with stiff competition. Several of the best skiers in the world were on the start line and it’s really fun to compete with them,” Aukland told TV2. “Maybe it’s a bit unexpected for them, but the level on the long-distance circuit is really high.”
Boner skied away from the women’s field, winning by 25 seconds in 1:35:06. Katerina Smutna (Team Silvini Madshus), snagged second place, 2.5 seconds in front of Julia Ivanova of Russia.
“This was a great start to the season, and I am happy to start with the yellow champion bib also next race,” Boner said.
Team Coop is still leading the team competition after Sunday’s 35 k, ahead of Team Santander in second and Team United Bakeries in third overall.
The next competition in the Swix Ski Classics is Jizerska Padesatka in the Czech Republic on January 11, 2015.
Event 2 – La Sgambeda men
- Anders Aukland (Team Santander) 1:21:20
- Johan Kjølstad (Team United Bakeries) 1:21:34
- Øystein Pettersen (Team United Bakeries) 1:21:34
- Daniel Richardsson (Lager 157 Ski Team) 1:21:35
- Alexey Poltoranin (Kazakhstan) 1:21:35
- Morten Eide Pedersen (Team Coop) 1:21:35
Event 2 – La Sgambeda women
- Seraina Boner (Team Coop) 1:35:06
- Katerina Smutna(Team Silvini Madshus) 1:35:31
- Julia Ivanova (Russia) 1:35:34
- Britta Johansson Norgren (Team SkiProAm) 1:36:23
- Julia Tikhonova (Russian Marathon Team) 1:36:32
- Olga Kuziukova (Russia) 1:37:3
Swix Ski Classics Champion Men’s Standings
|5||Morten Eide Pedersen||COOP||115|
Swix Ski Classics Champion Women’s Standings
|3||Britta Johansson Norgren||SKIP||120|
Swix Ski Classics Sprint Standings
Swix Ski Classics Team Standings
|3||Team United Bakeries||495|
|4||Russian Marathon Team||382|
|5||Silvini Madshus team||293|
|6||Lager 157 Ski Team||213|