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Brooks Debuts in Marcialonga Wearing the FIS Leader Bib

Friday, January 23rd, 2015
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

Inaugural Qaniq Challenge in Valdez Has Low Snow, Low Turnout, But Big Payouts

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
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

Brooks Wins Dolomitenlauf by 2 1/2 Minutes, Seizes FIS Marathon Cup Lead

Sunday, January 18th, 2015
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

Elliott, Naryshkina Top Seeley Hills Classic

Saturday, January 17th, 2015
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

Double Victory for United Bakeries in Dramatic La Diagonela

Saturday, January 17th, 2015
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

Eide Pedersen and Smutna win Jizerska Padesatka

Sunday, January 11th, 2015
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.

Elsewhere in Michigan, Liebsch Tallies Second SISU Marathon Title

Sunday, January 11th, 2015
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.

Aukland, Boner Take La Sgambeda 35 k Classic Titles; Brooks 10th

Sunday, December 14th, 2014
La Sgambeda offers 35K in classic technique, is a part of the Swix Ski Classics and open to professional racers as well as recreational skiers. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

The 35 k classic La Sgambeda is a part of the Swix Ski Classics and open to professional racers as well as recreational skiers. It took place Sunday in Livigno, Italy. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

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.

Seraina Boner (SUI) won the womens race with a comfortable margin. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Switzerland’s Seraina Boner after winning the women’s La Sgambeda 35 k classic on Sunday by 25 seconds over Katerina Smutna. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

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.”

Øystein Pettersen (NOR) of Team LeasePlanGO, is full of respect for the 42-year-old Anders Aukland, who won La Sgambeda. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Norway’s Øystein Pettersen is full of respect for the 42-year-old Anders Aukland, who won La Sgambeda on Sunday. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

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

  1. Anders Aukland (Team Santander) 1:21:20
  2. Johan Kjølstad (Team United Bakeries) 1:21:34
  3. Øystein Pettersen (Team United Bakeries) 1:21:34
  4. Daniel Richardsson (Lager 157 Ski Team) 1:21:35
  5. Alexey Poltoranin (Kazakhstan) 1:21:35
  6. Morten Eide Pedersen (Team Coop) 1:21:35

Complete results

Event 2 – La Sgambeda women

  1. Seraina Boner (Team Coop) 1:35:06
  2. Katerina Smutna(Team Silvini Madshus) 1:35:31
  3. Julia Ivanova (Russia) 1:35:34
  4. Britta Johansson Norgren (Team SkiProAm) 1:36:23
  5. Julia Tikhonova (Russian Marathon Team) 1:36:32
  6. Olga Kuziukova (Russia) 1:37:3

Complete results

 

Swix Ski Classics Champion Men’s Standings

1 Anders Aukland SANT 220
2 Johan Kjølstad UNBA 190
3 Øystein Pettersen UNBA 140
4 Daniel Richardsson L157 120
5 Morten Eide Pedersen COOP 115
6 Petter Eliassen LEAS 110

 

Swix Ski Classics Champion Women’s Standings

1 Seraina Boner COOP 220
2 Kateřina Smutná SILV 190
3 Britta Johansson Norgren SKIP 120
3 Julia Tikhonova RUSM 120
5 Adéla Boudíková PIIN 100
6 Holly Brooks SANT 95

 

Swix Ski Classics Sprint Standings

1 Andreas Nygaard SANT 45
2 Øystein Pettersen UNBA 30
3 Bruno Debertolis TXLS 15
4 Andrey Tyuterev RUSM 10
5 Sami Jauhojärvi COOP 5

 

Swix Ski Classics Team Standings

1 Team Coop 580
2 Team Santander 501
3 Team United Bakeries 495
4 Russian Marathon Team 382
5 Silvini Madshus team 293
6 Lager 157 Ski Team 213

 

 

Birkie Launches 5-Year Fundraising Campaign to Ensure Race’s Future

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Entering its 42nd year, the American Birkebeiner is doing everything it can to ensure Birkie fever continues, recently launching its first capital fundraising campaign to do so.

According to Tom Held of SilentSports.net, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ASBF) is seeking $2.3 million to buy land for a permanent start area — securing some 75 acres of Telemark property — improve its 107 k trail system, and build an outdoor recreation center.

Start of the American Birkebeiner around the 1980s.

Start of the American Birkebeiner around the 1980s.

Annually, the Birkie makes slightly more than $1 million, according to ABSF Executive Director Ben Popp. That goes toward covering event expenses and annual trail maintenance, but is not enough to fund large-scale improvements.

“Over the past 12 months, in collaboration with the board of directors, I completed a 5-year strategic plan for the A.B.S.F., Popp wrote in a press release. “We have acknowledged the greatest risks to the foundation, as well as identified key opportunities that will create stability and increase our reach.”

The Birkie’s five-year campaign, “Honoring the Legacy – Ensuring the Future,” began Nov. 1 at the Rivers Eatery in Cable, Wis., a few miles away from the race’s historic start at Telemark Resort. At the kickoff fundraiser, more than 100 supporters jumpstarted the campaign, bringing its total up to more than $192,000, Held reported.

By the 2015 Birkie on Feb. 21, the ABSF aims to have raised $650,000 to complete phase one: securing a start area “built to last for next 100+ years – with permanent access,” according to Birkie.com, including a “large warm area/building,” additional pre-race facilities for water, bathrooms, etc., more convenient bus drop-offs, and year-round trail access to the Birkie course.

Phase one also includes finish-line improvements, such as “indoor changing facilities and food, easier gear bag layout, increased medical facilities,” and better traffic flow for spectators.

Held reported that, the ABSF planned to spend about $115,000 on buying roughly 75 acres of the Telemark Resort property, which would serve as a new start line for the 50 k Birkebeiner and 26 k Kortelopet.

The races attract more than 10,000 skiers annually, and traditionally starts on the runway at the Cable Municipal Airport, crossing Telemark property for the first few kilometers.

“Working with the current ownership group at Telemark, we have been given the opportunity to purchase a section of land to build out a permanent start line at Telemark,” Popp stated in the release.

According to Held, the ABSF reached a tentative deal with Clifton Lewis, who bought the Telemark property at a foreclosure sale a year ago. The foundation also plans to build a storage building that doubles as a warming hut.

“Additionally, in cooperation with the DOT, County, City and other interest groups, we will be able to re-construct the ‘International Bridge’ made famous by Tony Wise, this time in downtown Hayward, reducing traffic congestion, creating an improved flow for safety vehicles (and spectators), as well as providing access to services and infrastructure that improve safety and experience for all participants,” Popp wrote.

Popp estimated the start-line renovations would be completed by 2016 or 2017, but the finish-line improvements — with a skier bridge over Highway 63 and indoor food and changing areas in Hayward — were should be complete by the 2015 Birkie.

Phase two — which calls for $950,000 to improve the 107 k of Birkie Trail the ABSF maintains — is on the horizon for 2017. In addition to protecting the trail from erosion, the budget would also allow for installing water and potentially electricity at aide stations.

Phase three is the year-round outdoor recreation center for skiers, hikers and mountain bikers, set to cost about $650,000 and be complete by 2019.

The ABSF is holding its next fundraiser Nov. 20 at Borton Volvo in Golden Valley, Minn., with a live auction, prize giveaway, food, beer, and wine. Tickets are $50 each and the event is limited to 125 guests.

A second event will take place Dec. 4 at Stella Blues in Eau Claire, Wis., with $50 tickets limited to the first 90 guests.

Birkie Birchlegger and Board Member, Dave Nelson Passes Away

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
David G. Nelson, marking trails for the Birkie Ridge Trailhead. (Photo: ABSF)

David G. Nelson, marking trails for the
Birkie Ridge Trailhead. (Photo: ABSF)

(ABSF press release)

HAYWARD, Wis. (Oct. 9) — The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is sad to inform you that Dave Nelson, our long-time friend, supporter, Birchlegger and board member, passed away peacefully yesterday morning after a courageous battle with lung cancer. In addition to skiing 31 Birkies, 1 Korte, and 1 Prince Haakon, Dave served on the ABSF Board for 7 years and chaired the Trail Committee for several of those years.

Dave’s legacy will certainly be tied to the Birkie Classic trail. He worked tirelessly to promote the need for a classic trail, personally designing and laying it out, while being an early adopter of GPS technology. He also mapped out additional sections for classic trail extensions south of the Hwy OO trailhead and frequently expressed his desire to see this happen. While with the Forest Service in Hayward, Dave also designed and mapped out the popular Rock Lake and Mukwanago ski trails. Dave had a strong interest in conservation and forestry and approached all aspects of life with a great sense of humor.

Former ABSF Executive Director Ned Zuelsdorff worked very closely with Dave and had this to say, “Dave worked many hours flagging and reflagging the Birkie Classic trail until he got it right. I consider it ‘Dave’s trail’, and in many ways it skis better than the skate trail. The classic trail has led to higher Birkie participation overall and has brought classic skiers back to the Birkie, increasing the ratio of classic to overall skiers from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3.”

Former ABSF Board President Sue Scheer stated that Dave was “a diplomatic person who worked well with the board, yet also had a focus to make the Birkie trail system technically correct and visually appealing for all skiers.”

Dave Nelson making the "Giant Skis". (Photo: ABSF)

Dave Nelson making the “Giant Skis”. (Photo: ABSF)

While only having a brief time to work with and learn from Dave, ABSF Executive Director Ben Popp fully recognizes the impact Dave had on the organization he now leads. “I really enjoyed my year of work with Dave. His passion and knowledge for the ABSF and the Birkie Trail System was truly unmeasurable. He will be greatly missed.”

Current ABSF Board President John Garrett was asked to chair the trail committee back when Dave first had lung-related health issues. “It was hard for Dave to step down, but he knew his health at the time would limit his involvement. As he battled and overcame those early health issues, he was still very active and supportive of all the trail committee activities. We still needed Dave for any trail additions or modifications. Recently, he even finished up several trail maps and got them to us just days before his passing. I will always remember that level of dedication and commitment. ”

Dave Nelson will be greatly missed by the ABSF Board, staff and entire Birkie family. His spirit will continue to shine on the American Birkebeiner Ski Trail and on all of the other silent sports trails Dave helped to create.

Two services will be held:

  • Rhinelander, WI: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at Carlson Funeral Home. Visitation will be from 4pm – 7pm.
  • Hayward, WI: Friday, October 17, 2014 at First Lutheran Church. Visitation will be from 10am – 11:30am, and a worship service at11:30am with lunch to follow.
  • See funeral notice here

The Nelson Family has set up two memorial funds to honor the hopes and dreams of Dave Nelson’s life:

  • The Dave Nelson Birkie Classic Trail Memorial: Donations can be mailed to ABSF PO Box 911 Hayward, WI 54843. Please make checks payable to ABSF. With questions, please contact amy.rowley@birkie.com or call 715-634-5025.
  • The Lutheran World Hunger Memorial: Donations can be mailed to First Lutheran Church 10680 Main Street Hayward, WI 54843. With questions, please contact Pastor Scott Ludford at sludford@msn.com or call 715-634-2141.