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Marathon Roundup: Årefjällsloppet, Reistadløpet, Ylläs-Levi, & Ugra

Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov winning the Ugra Ski Marathon, the final race of the FIS Worldloppet Cup, on his 25th birthday in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. (Photo: Worldloppet)

Below is a recap of the last several races of the Ski Classics and Worldloppet Marathon Cup seasons.

SKI CLASSICS

Årefjällsloppet, March 25

The men’s podium at the 2017 Årefjällsloppet in Sweden, part of the Ski Classics series. Anders Aukland (c) won, Tord Asle Gjerdalen (l) placed second, and Oskar Kardin (r) finished thrid. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

In late March, the 11th race of the Ski Classics series, the 50-kilometer Årefjällsloppet, took place in Sweden’s Åre Mountains. In the men’s race, Morten Eide Pedersen (Team BN Bank) broke away from the pack soon after the start and led the race until the climb after Ottsjö, where the chase group caught him with 20 k to go. Then, with 3 k remaining, Petter Eliassen (Team Leaseplan) attacked and led a breakaway with Oskar Kardin (Team Serene), Anders Aukland (Team Leaseplan), Anders Malmen Høst (Team Leaseplan), and Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander). Gjerdalen and Aukland raced to a photo finish, which the 45-year-old Auckland won by less than one-tenth of a second in 2:14:16.3 hours. This was Aukland’s first win since the 2015 La Sgambeda, and Gjerdalen was given the same finishing time. Kardin finished 5.3 seconds back in third (+5.3), Eliassen placed fourth (+8.1) while Høst took fifth (+13.7). After leading more than half the race, Pedersen finished 13th (+1:05.3).

“It feels really good to win again,” Aukland said, according to a Ski Classics press release. “I’ve been in great shape throughout the season and this race suits me well. I knew that I could be strong here and the slow sprint in the end worked for me. Still, I wasn’t sure if I could beat Gjerdalen in that final climb, but I did but only by a hair.”

Gjerdalen held onto his lead in the men’s overall standings, with his Santander teammate Andreas Nygaard more than 450 points behind him. Pedersen ranked third, 52 points out of second. For the Visma Nordic Trophy, both Aukland and Gjerdalen were tied for first with 390 points with Nygard third with 350 points. Eliassen ranked fourth with 340 points.

The women’s overall podium at the 2017 Årefjällsloppet, the 11th race of the Ski Classics series. Britta Johansson Norgren (c) won, Katerina Smutná (l) finished second, with Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes (r) placed third. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The women’s race was a battle between the double polers and the striders. Masako Ishida (Team United Bakeries) and Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes (Team Telemark) decided to use kick wax, while Britta Johansson Norgren (Team Santander) and Katerina Smutná (Team Santander) chose to double pole the entire course on glide wax. While Ishida and Gjeitnes were able to put a gap on Norgren and Smutná on the uphill sections, they lost their lead on the flats and downhills. Norgren went on to win in 2:40:20.7, two seconds ahead of Smutná in second. Gjeitnes finished third (+4.9) and Ishida ended up seventh (+1:59).

“It was a bit up and down for me today,” Norgren said after the race. “Masako was really strong when we climbed up, and the weather kept changing, making the race extremely difficult. When we reached the final hill towards the finish, I pushed as hard as I could to keep Katerina and Kari behind me. That worked and what a finish this is! This is really a hard course because there are so many steep hills here. I guess I need to work on my herring boning for next year.”

With the win, Norgren extended her lead in the women’s overall standings by 330 points over Smutná, while Astrid Øyre Slind (Team Telemark) was another 287 points back in third. For the Visma Nordic Tropy, Norgren was a whopping 570 points ahead of Slind and Justyna Kowalczyk (Team Santander) sat in third.

Two more events remained in the Ski Classics season and both took place in the Arctic Circle. The 50 k Reistadløpet was held in Norway on April 1 and the 67 k Ylläs-Levi took place in Finland on Saturday, April 8.

Årefjällsloppet results: Men | Women

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Reistadløpet, April 1

The overall top three men in the Reistadløpet on April 1 in northern Norway. (From left to right) Anders Auckland placed second, Petter Eliassen took first, and Simen Østensen finished third. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The 12th and northernmost Ski Classics event took place on April 1 with the 50 k Reistadløpet from Setermoen to Bardufoss, Norway.

The Reistadløpet started in 1958 and has one of the richest ski traditions in Norway. It was established in memory of Colonel Ole Reistad, who was known for leading the Norwegian Ski Patrol to victory at the 1928 Winter Olympics.

Eliassen led this year’s race from the first long hill near Orta. The chase group consisted of Aukland, Simen Østensen (Team BN Bank), and Lukáš Bauer (Team Pioneer Investments). Eliassen held onto his lead and won the race in 2:31:41.5. Aukland put some time into Østensen and Bauer to finish second (+3:17) while Østensen and Bauer followed in third (+3:30.8) and fourth (+3:33.2), respectively.

“It felt good to win a race this season,” Eliassen said afterward, according to a Ski Classics press release. “It was a tough race and diagonal striding was the best option today. It has been a while since anyone of us has done a race using kick wax, which made this race quite challenging, but it worked out perfectly in the end. I haven’t really thought about the Visma Nordic Trophy tour that much, but I know that I have a good chance in that now so I will try to win again in the last race in Finland.”

The overall yellow bib holder Gjerdalen finished fifth (+4:48.8) to retain his lead in the overall standings by 312 point over Eliassen. Nygaard ranked third in the overall standings, 412 points behind Gjerdalen. Nygaard led the sprint competition with 231 points, followed by Pedersen 89 points back in second.

The women’s race came down to Kowalcyzk and Ishida, who were neck and neck until the top of the mountain the second time around. Kowalcyzk ultimately dropped Ishida and won the race in 2:53:23.9. Ishida held onto second (+54.8) while Slind followed in third (+3:27) after skiing alone for most of the race.

The women’s podium at the 2017 Reistadløpet on April 1 in northern Norway. (From left to right) Masako Ishida placed second, Justyna Kowalczyk first, and Astrid Øyre Slind third. (Photo: Ski Classics)

“I had amazing skis and great glide,” Kowalczyk said after. “Masako was strong in the uphill sections and we worked together a bit, but I knew that I had an advantage over her in the last part because of my fast skis. This was the hardest long distance ski race I’ve ever done in my career and before the race, I accepted the fact that this will be a really tough experience. The climbs are so long and steep, and I’ve never raced on a course like this. It was extremely tough but it feels wonderful to win again!”

The women’s overall leader, Norgren placed sixth, 13 minutes and 13 seconds behind Kowalczyk, after double poling the race. Norgren was still 325 points ahead of Smutná for the overall title. Øyre Slind ranked third in the standings. Norgren also led the overall sprint competition by 255 points over Slind.

Reistadløpet results: Men | Women

***

Ylläs-Levi, April 8

Petter Eliassen, greeted by Santa, after winning his second-straight Ski Classics marathon on April 8 at the Ylläs-Levi in Finland. He finished the series in second overall. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

– This past weekend, the Ylläs-Levi, an unofficial marathon event for years, stood the season-ending event for the Ski Classics series, with a 67 k race from Ylläsjärvi to Levi, Finland.

In the men’s race, about 15 skiers formed the main group, which included Eliassen, Nygaard, Pedersen, and Anders Aukland. With about 12.5 k, Eliassen attacked on a final climb and opened up a 20-second gap. He went on to win for the second-straight weekend, finishing in 2:48:38.8. Nygaard was nearly a minute back in second (+57.9), just ahead of Stian Hoelgaard (Team Leaseplan) in third (+58.3). Hoelgaard edged Øystein Pettersen (Team BN Bank) by 0.1 seconds for the final spot on the podium as Pettersen finished fourth (+58.4).

“It was tough to break away in the long flats and downhills but I felt very good in the uphills and in the last one I was able to do it,” Eliassen said, according to a Ski Classics press release. “Still, I was not sure of winning until the final few kilometers.”

Gjerdalen crossed the line in seventh (+58.9) and ended the seventh-annual Ski Classics season as the Overall Champion. Eliassen claimed second overall, 302 points back, and Nygaard took third, 432 points behind the Gjerdalen. Nygaard won the overall sprint title by 100 points over Pedersen, and Eliassen ranked third in the sprint standings, 142 points out of first.

Katerina Smutná after winning the Ylläs-Levi 67 k Ski Classics marathon on April 8 in Finland. She finished the series second overall. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

In the women’s race, Smutná, Norgren and Kowalczyk skied together for more than half the race after dropping the rest of the field. With 31 k to go, the men’s lead group caught the three women, which caused some problems for Kowalczyk. She got stuck in traffic while Smutná and Norgren began to distance themselves from her. Smutná and Norgren battled to the finish, where but Smutná nipped Norgen by 0.2 seconds to win in 3:13:53.5. Kowalczyk finished more than 6 1/2 minutes later in third (+6:38.6) for her second podium in two weekends.

Norgren had already wrapped up the overall Ski Classics title before the final race, and ended up besting Smutná in second by 295 points. Slind rounded out the overall podium in third, 647 points behind Norgren. Norgren also won the sprint title, 280 points ahead of both Smutná and Kowalczyk.

“I was a little tired today. It was good to get away and I hoped to beat Smutná at the end but she was too strong,” Norgren said. “I am really satisfied with the season, winning the yellow jersey and Vasaloppet. But maybe next season, not so many second places!”

In the overall team standings, Team Santander took the title, ahead of Lager 157 Ski Team and Team United Bakeries.

The Visma Nordic Trophy, a new honor this year awarded the top three men and women in the last five events of the Ski Classic season, went to Eliassen and Norgren.

Ylläs-Levi results

***

FIS WORLDLOPPET CUP

Ugra Ski Marathon, April 8

– The FIS Worldloppet Cup also concluded this past weekend with the Ugra Ski Marathon in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Just 12 points separated the red bib leader Candide Pralong (Team Rossignol Gel Interim) and Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux (Team Haute Savoie). On the men’s side, Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. and Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov decided to compete and extend their season for one more race. On the women’s side, Aurelie Dabudyk (Team Haute Savoie) only needed three points to ensure she would win her second overall Worldloppet title in a row.

In the men’s race, Ustiugov attacked with a few kilometers to go and won in his home country and on his 25th birthday in 2:06:15.3. He beat fellow World Cup racer Northug, who finished second, by 40 seconds. The red bib holder, Pralong, took third (+40.1) right behind Northug, while Perrillat-Boiteux placed seventh (+44.3).

“Of course, the gold medals at Lahti are weighing a lot, but to win here today is also a great feeling, also since it is my birthday,” Ustiugov said, according to a Worldloppet press release. “But during the race I was not so sure if I can be in front in the end. It was so hard, windy, slow. But approximately 8 km before the finish I felt, that I can attack and I increased the speed and it worked out!”

The women’s podium at the Ugra Ski Marathon on April 8 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, with Russia’s Olga Rocheva (c) in first, Sweden’s Maria Gräfnings (l) in second, and Russia’s Mariya Guschina (r) in third. (Photo: Worldloppet)

In the women’s race, Russia’s Olga Rocheva won at home in 2:11:22, 53 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Maria Gräfnings in second. Russia had two on the podium with Mariya Guschina in third (+2:10). Dabudyk struggled in the final stage in Russia, but with a 98-point lead in the overall ranking, she only needed to focus on finishing and placed 17th (+12:23.3).

“I don’t think the race or Russia is the problem, it’s because of the end of the season,” Dabudyk said, according to the press release. “It is hard for me to keep the performance on top level so long.”

Pralong was the most constant skier all year even without winning a race. The Worldloppet Cup returns to his team, after his teammate Toni Livers won it last year. Perrillat-Boiteux ended the season in second overall, while Livers followed in third.

On the women’s side, Dabudyk won the overall title for the second year in a row, Gräfnings finished second and Switzerland’s Rahel Imoberdorf placed third overall.

Ugra results: Men | Women

— Ian Tovell

Watts, Bathe Collect Oosik Wins in Talkeetna

Denali and the Alaska Range in the upper Susitna Valley, near the site of this year’s Oosik Classic. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

The population of Germany is roughly 82 million. The population of Talkeetna, Alaska, was 876 in the 2010 census. At least three skiers from Germany have won the Oosik Classic, the annual late-season classic marathon that takes skiers on the rivers and hills around beautiful downtown Talkeetna for 50 kilometers, give or take, each spring. No native son or daughter has yet to win Talkeetna’s hometown race … but one Talkeetna native is getting closer.

Anchorage skier and former Alaska Pacific University (APU) Masters Coach Dylan Watts collected his third-career Oosik title Saturday afternoon, covering probably slightly less than 50 k in 2:22:40 to pace a field of 65 skiers in the longer race on a perfect spring day. He was followed 1:21 later by current APU Masters Coach Galen Johnston, who moved up from his previous career-best 50 k Oosik finish of fifth to take second overall. Third was Anchorage skier and current University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) athlete Seiji Takagi, an additional six minutes back.

Watts was not immediately available for comment.

Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna in summer (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Johnston had nothing but praise for his former APU colleague, coupled with a certain degree of hometown pride. “It has been a couple years since I’ve been able to race the Oosik,” Johnston wrote to FasterSkier after the race. “Coming back to it and being able to pull off second, relatively close to the win, made me hungry to want to come back and take a first-ever hometown 50k win.”

Johnston continued, “For a while it was a Norwegian’s race. Now we have an American Oosik master in Dylan [Watts]. I’d love to crack into that winners’ circle for the home crowd.”

Reflecting the international diversity of Alaska’s NCAA ski programs, former Oosik champions have indeed hailed from Norway (Trond Flagstad, Kjetil Dammen, Thomas Oyberg), as well as Sweden (Erik Söderstrom) and Germany (Jonas Löffler, Michael Fehrenbach, NCAA champion Marius Korthauer). (Plus Holly Brooks once won the race wearing Aino-Kaisa Saarinen’s Finnish Olympic suit.) Numerous winners have hailed from Anchorage or Fairbanks. Just no one from Talkeetna yet.

This year’s women’s winner, Nichole Bathe, originally called Madison, Wisc., home, but has spent the past four seasons in Fairbanks. The end may be in sight for the UAF senior, but is not here yet, as Bathe still plans to compete in all four races at Spring Series (USSA Distance Nationals) starting in Fairbanks later this month.

Bathe found Saturday’s outing “pretty fun,” she wrote to FasterSkier. “I skied alone for most of it. I went out of the start pretty hard because it was a flat course for the most part so I just wanted to see how fast I could double pole really. The 50K course hooked back up to the 25K course with around 15K left and so that was pretty interesting with the course being single tracked through the woods and really narrow, it was kinda fun to dodge the 25K skiers as well as getting to walk up some of the hills behind them!”

First place for each gender was good for several hundred dollars. In deference to her current student-athlete collegiate status, Bathe clarified that she was still waiting to figure out if she would be allowed to receive her winnings, and “as of now haven’t accepted anything.”

The combined Oosik Classic podium, including Sadie Fox (far left), Seiji Takagi (third from left), Dylan Watts (next from left), and Galen Johnston (next from left). (Photo: Dan Beutel)

Bathe crossed the finish line in 2:53:19, good for 11th overall. She was relatively unchallenged within the women’s race, as second-place Shalane Frost and third-place Nicole De Yong were each over ten minutes behind her. Frost and De Yong reprised their podium finishes from the Tour of Anchorage 50 k skate race two weeks earlier.

The 25 k men’s race was also a rematch of sorts, as three Alaska Winter Stars U18 athletes who had raced against each other all season long, in the Besh Cup Junior Nationals qualifying series as well as high school races, toed the line once more. Gus Schumacher was once again victorious, adding the Oosik title to his three golds and one silver at JNs as he crossed the finish line first in 1:24:24. In the day’s closest race, he was shortly followed by Andrew Hull (+:05) and Zach Bassett (+:11).

The 25 k women’s race, by contrast, saw a mix of age and experience. First was Soldotna’s Sadie Fox, currently a sophomore at the University of Alaska Anchorage, whose 1:32:33 was only slightly off her winning time in this year’s 25 k classic Tour of Anchorage. Second, over ten minutes later, was Karina Packer, a 20-something Anchorageite who skied in college (Dartmouth ’15). One second behind her was another former college skier, the ageless Nancy Pease (Dartmouth ’82), a legend in Alaska skiing and mountain running circles.

Pease won the Tour of Anchorage 50 k in 1989, several years before either of the athletes ahead of her on Saturday was born. She set the women’s course record in the Bird Ridge Hill Climb in 1993, lodging a time in the two-mile, 3,400′ vertical feet ascent that no one has come close to in the two decades since. (Subsequent skiers with slower times include Holly Brooks, Jessica Yeaton, Mara Rabinowitz, Becca Rorabaugh, Kikkan Randall, etc.) In July 1989 the Anchorage Daily News hailed Pease as the “Toughest Woman in Alaska.” Perhaps little has changed.

A total of 65 skiers finished the 50 k on Saturday, plus nearly 600 more in the 25 k. The total field of 662 finishers, nearly the size of Talkeetna itself, made the Oosik the country’s largest classic-only ski race this winter, well ahead of the Craftsbury Marathon. In a year without the Birkie, southcentral Alaska can claim the largest classic ski race, largest ski race overall, and richest ski race in the country this winter.

Results

— Gavin Kentch

Cologna, Eide Win Engadin; Gregg Third

The men’s podium at the 2017 Engadin Skimarathon on March 12 in S-chanf, Switzerland: (from left to right) Anders Gløersen, Dario Cologna and Illya Chernosov. (Photo: Wordloppet/Swiss-image.ch)

The 49th edition of Engadin Skimarathon took place on Sunday, March 12, with the 42-kilometer freestyle race spanning from Maloja to S-chanf, Switzerland. This was the seventh stage of the FIS Worldloppet Cup with sub-zero temperatures.

While a large pack skied together for most of the race, Switzerland’s 21-year-old Dajan Danuser (SC Vaettis) tested his luck and broke away early, distancing himself from the chase pack by 15-20 seconds and skiing alone for most of the race. A few kilometers before the finish, Switzerland’s Dario Cologna  and Norway’s Anders Gløersen and Eirik Brandsdal reeled Danuser in and passed him. A group of 20 skiers reached the final stretch together and sprinted to the finish. Cologna outlasted all of them in 1:27:46 for his third Engadin victory, edging Gløersen by six-hundredths of a second and Russia’s Ilia Chernousov by 0.07 seconds. Less than 11 seconds separated the top 20, with the likes of French World Cup skiers Maurice Manificat, Renaud Jay, and Jean-Marc Gaillard finishing fourth through sixth, respectively. Danuser ended up finishing 20th (+10.6), and Brandsdal 12th (+5.2).

“I tried to be in front in the most important phase of the race, this was not easy because Anders Gløersen did a great job today,” Cologna said in a press conference, according to a Worldloppet press release. “But I was able to overtake him right in the perfect moment, so I could enter the finish stretch as first, this is very important.”.

Switzerland’s Candide Pralong (Team Gel Rossignol) finished ninth (+3.2) and now leads the overall standings by 12 points over France’s Ivan Perrillat Boiteux (Haute-Savoie), who finished 16th (+7.3). Switzerland’s Toni Livers (Team Gel Rossignol) is currently third in the overall standings after finishing 10th (+3.9).

The women’s podium at the Engadin Skimarathon on March 12 in S-chanf, Switzerland: (from left to right) Rachel Imoberdorf (l), Mari Eide and Caitlin Gregg. (Photo: Worldloppet/Swiss-image.ch)

In the women’s race, Norway’s Mari Eide skied alone and was able to follow the leading men until St. Mortiz. She won in a time of 1:34:18.1, ahead of France’s Rahel Imoberdorf  (SAS & TG Hütten Team) in second (+17.6) while American Caitlin Gregg placed third (+23.2).

Sweden’s Maria Gräfnings (SAS & TG Hütten) finished 50 seconds behind Eide to end up fifth. She was not happy with her result as she had wanted to close the gap between her and France’s Aurelie Dabudyk (Haute-Savoie) in the overall standings. Dabudyk finished ninth on the day (+1:45.6) and was still able to hold on to her overall lead by 98 points over Gräfnings. Imoberdorf is currently third in the overall standings, another 66 points back.

“The race was not easy for me, I had to do lots of work in front of the group I was skiing with,” Eide said, according to a press release. “And then I didn’t really know if I was in a lead, I just thought it, because of the scooter with the camera in front of me. But in the finish I had to ask someone if I won, just to make sure. So I had to keep my speed high the whole race over. I tried to follow the boys but from St. Moritz on it was not possible anymore.”

One more race on the FIS Marathon Cup circuit remains: the Ugra Ski Marathon on April 8 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

Results: Men | Women

— Ian Tovell

Buttin, Dabudyk Win Otepää Tartu Maraton; Lake Placid Loppet Postponed

Bastien Buttin celebrates his victory in the Tartu Maraton on Sunday, Feb. 26, in Otepää, Estonia. (Photo: FIS Worldloppet Cup)

– The sixth event of the Worldloppet series, the Tartu Maraton, was originally scheduled to take place this past Sunday, Feb. 26, in Tartu, Estonia. However, due to lack of snow, the marathon was moved 45 kilometers south to Otepää, Estonia. Organizers decided to hold the race on the 5 k World Cup loop at the Otepää stadium and reduced the distance from 55 k to 34 k.

In the men’s race, a group of 12 skiers formed the lead pack, including all of Team Gel Rossignol and the Haute-Savoie Nordic Team. Bastien Buttin (Haute-Savoie) won the sprint at the 4 k mark, and from there, with multiple lead changes, the race came down to 10 men fighting for the victory. Buttin took the win by one second over Benoît Chauvet (Team Gel Rossignol), finishing in 1:29:28 hours. Bastien Poirrier (+2.0) of Team Gel Rossignol finished third. The top 10 finished all within six seconds of first.

Most of the men double poled the entire race, but Toni Livers (Team Gel Rossignol), who finished fourth, was one of the few skiers who decided to use kick wax. Afterward, planned to travel to Lahti to race the 50 k this coming weekend at World Championships. Ivan Perrillat Boiteux (Haute-Savoie) finished fifth and was able to claim the red bib and overall lead by 2 points over Candide Pralong (Team Gel Rossignol) who finished sixth. Buttin is currently third overall in the standings, trailing by 33 points.

“It was very hard today on that lap course,” Buttin said, according to a Worldloppet press release. “I tried to break away several times throughout the race, but I couldn’t. So I had to focus on the final sprint and it worked out. Now I focus on the Engadin Skimarathon, there I will try to win again!”

Aurelie Dabudyk winning the 2017 Tartu Maraton on Sunday, Feb. 26, in Otepää, Estonia. (Photo: FIS Worldloppet Cup/Kaimo Puniste)

On the women’s side, Aurelie Dabudyk (Haute-Savoie) redeemed her loss in her home country at La Transjurassienne to take the win in 1:41:21.6. Tatjana Mannima (SAS & TG Hütten Team) was able to keep the pace very high and slowly drop the lead pack until Dabudyk caught her. In the last lap, Dabudyk double poled to victory, beating Mannima by 1:02.3 minutes. Maria Gräfnings (SAS & TG Hütten Team) finished third (+1:39.8). Dabudyk extended her overall lead to 114 points over Gräfnings and Mannima.

“The lap course was very hard for us because we had to overtake many skiers,” Dabudyk said, according to the press release. “But Tatjana (Mannima) made the overtaking and I followed her, so we managed to keep a high pace. Particularly the last lap was quite hard, but I am lucky that I was stronger than Tatjana today.”

There are only two races left in the FIS Worldloppet Cup, the next race being the Engadin Skimaraton 42 k on March 12 in the Engadine valley between Maloja and S-chanf, Switzerland.

Results: Men | Women

– The Lake Placid Loppet, originally scheduled for Feb. 25 in Lake Placid, N.Y., has been postponed until March 18 due to low snow.  According to the Lake Placid News, registration has reopened for the 25 and 50 k distances, in both skate and classic.  The Loppet was canceled last year due to lack of snow.

— Ian Tovell

Pedersen, Smutná Victorious at Jizerská Padesatka

Morton Eide Pedersen (l) outstretches Petter Eliassen for the win in the 2017 Jizerská Padesatka on Feb. 19 in Liberec, Czech Republic.(Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The eighth stage of the Ski Classics took place on Sunday, Feb. 19, with the 50-kilometer Jizerská Padesatka in Liberec, Czech Republic. There, Morton Eide Pedersen (Team BN Bank) and Petter Eliassen (Team Leaseplan) prevented Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) from claiming his fourth victory of the series after the two broke away on the long uphill about 19 k before the finish and dropped Gjerdalen. Pedersen was able to claim the victory after winning this race back in 2015, finishing Sunday in 1:55:53.1 hours, by just 0.5 seconds ahead of Eliassen (+0.5). Gjerdalen took third, 1:13.6 minutes back, with the help of his teammate Anders Aukland, who helped Gjerdalen after the breakaway. Aukland finished fifth (+1:17.1), behind Ermil Vokuev (Russian Marathon Team) in fourth (+1:13.8). Gjerdalen said that he felt that he had some lactic acid built up in his muscles.

“I had a good day today,” Pedersen said, according to a Ski Classics press release. ”I saved some energy in the beginning and wanted to make sure that I have enough power in the long climb where Eliassen did his breakaway. I just tried to keep up with him and once we got the gap, we worked well together ensuring that the chasing group couldn’t catch us. It was about time that we pushed Gjerdalen away from the top podium place!”

The women’s podium at the Jizerska Padesatka in Liberec, Czech Republic, the eighth event of the 2016/2017 Ski Classics series, with Katerina Smutná (c) in first, Britta Johansson Norgren (l) in second, and Astrid Øyre Slind (r) in third. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

In the women’s race, Katerina Smutná (Team Santander), Britta Johansson Norgren (Lager 157 Ski Team), and Astrid Øyre Slind (Team United Bakeries) separated themselves from the pack early and remained together for most of the race. With a few kilometers to go, Norgren and Smutná dropped Slind on the final downhill section. Smutná was able to increase her speed on the last climb and gap Norgren. Smutná ultimately finished first in 2:17:34.7 for her fifth victory in a row, making her the first skier to ever have five consecutive Ski Classics victories. Norgren placed second, 9.5 seconds later, and Slind was third (+40.5) for the last spot on the podium.

“I felt really strong in my double poling,” Smutná said, according to the press release. ”I hope that I can keep this up come Vasaloppet in two weeks. This was a tough race as we expected, but I did what I had planned beforehand and it worked out perfectly. Now, I have some time before Vasaloppet where Britta will be tough to beat. It’s her home soil and she really wants to win that race.”

Even with Gjerdalen finishing third, he still is wearing the yellow Ski Classics leader bib with a significant lead over Pedersen and Stian Hoelgaard (Team LeasePlan), who finished ninth (+3:17.7) on Sunday. On the women’s side, Norgren still holds the overall lead by 15 points over Smutná, who has closed the gap over the last five races. Slind is currently third in the standings.

The next race is the 90 k Vasaloppet on March 5 from Sälen to Mora, Sweden. Jizerská Padesatka was the last race in central Europe, as the next five races will take place in northern Europe, with the last of them being the Ylläs-Levi in Finland on April 8.

Results: Men | Women

— Ian Tovell

Gjerdalen, Smutná Win Dobbiaco-Cortina; Duvillard, Gräfnings Top La Transjurassienne

The start of the 2017 Gran Fondo Dobbiaco-Cortina, the seventh event of the 2016/2017 Ski Classics series, in Dobbiaco, Italy. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

— The seventh event of the Ski Classics tour took place last Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Gran Fondo Dobbiaco-Cortina in Italy. In the men’s 50-kilometer classic race, Petter Eliassen (Team Leaseplan) returned to racing and set a fast pace from the start. Joining Eliassen in the lead pack were Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) and Morten Eide Pedersen (Team BN Bank). After the longest climb on the course, Eliassen and Gjerdalen were able to break away to battle for the victory. The last 10 k of the course were downhill, which led straight into the stadium at Fiames. At the finish line, Gjerdalen was able to outstretch Eliassen by 0.4 seconds to claim his third victory of the 2016/2017 Ski Classics season with a time of 2:04:59.3 hours.

Pedersen (+1:43.1) was able to beat out his surging teammate Øystein Pettersen (+1:44.3) for third place on the podium. Gjerdalen continues to hold the yellow bib as the Ski Classics overall leader, 79 points ahead of Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) who finished fifth (+2:36.3) on Saturday. Nygaard leads the overall sprint competition by more than 100 points.

Tord Asle Gjerdalen (l) edging Petter Eliassen for the win in the 50 k Gran Fondo Dobbiaco-Cortina in Italy last Saturday, Feb. 11. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

“I’m glad that Eliassen is back and he helped me a lot,” Gjerdalen said after the race, according to a Ski Classics press release. “He made sure that we had a real breakaway and the really good sprinters were far behind us. He got very close in the end and I think he’ll be strong for the rest of the season. I try to focus on the remaining races and keep up my good shape, but it will be different from now on.”

In the women’s 50 k race, the race for first was between eight skiers halfway through. By the time they reached the top of the last climb, the pack had dwindled down to six. Astrid Øyre Slind (Team United Bakeries) started to break away but was quickly followed by Katerina Smutná (Team Santander) and Britta Johansson Norgren (Lager 157 Ski Team). All three entered the stadium together, where Smutná was able claim the victory in 2:30:32 for her fourth consecutive win. Norgren (+3.7) came in second while Slind (+7.3) finished third. Despite Smutná’s victory, Norgren was able to hold on to the yellow bib, with a 45-point lead over Smutná. Norgren is leading the sprint competition as well.

“I felt strong today and I’m overly happy to have the fourth victory in a row,” Smutná said at the finish. “I don’t know why I’m so strong and why I’ve been able to win so many races back-to-back. I hope my luck and good shape will continue as we are now halfway through the season. There are still many tough races left.”

The next race is Jizerská Padesatka in the Czech Rebuplic on Saturday, Feb. 18, followed by the Vasaloppet on March 5 in Sweden. The Vassaloppet is start of another competition within the tour called the Nordic Trophy.

Results: Men | Women

***

France’s Robin Duvillard celebrates after beating four others by less than a second for the win in the 2017 La Transjurassienne in France last Sunday, Feb. 12. (Photo: Worldloppet.com)

— The fifth stage of the FIS Worldloppet Cup took place last Sunday, Feb. 12, with the La Transjurassienne 48 k freestyle race in Morez, France. In the men’s race, a pack of 15 skiers stuck together for most of the race. At the front,  Robin Duvillard (Armées/EMHM-Villard de Lans), Toni Livers (Team Gel Rossignol), Jean-Marc Gaillard (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team) and Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team) led the charge. Duvillard was able to claim the victory in 1:53:38.68 hours, beating out four others by less than a second, including fellow Frenchmen Gaillard and Perrillat-Boiteux, who finished second (+0.22) and third (+0.32), respectively, and Livers in fourth (+0.43) and Candide Pralong (Team Gel Rossignol) in fifth (+0.97). Not far behind were Gerard Agnellet (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team) in sixth (+1.34) and Adrien Backscheider in seventh (+1.7).

“I came here to test myself for the World Championships in Lahti, so I was not sure how my body would react in the race,” French World Cup skier Robin Duvillard said according to FIS Worldloppet press release. “But the pace was not too high, so it was good for me. I am happy to win here, for a French it is big to win La Transjurassienne!”

Maria Gräfnings after winning the 2017 La Transjurassienne on Feb. 12 in France. (Photo: Wordloppet.com)

The women’s race came down to Maria Gräfnings (SAS & TG Hütten Team) dominating the field. She was alone at the 10 k mark and started to work together with some of the men until the finish, where she crossed in 2:05:43.35. She beat local favorite Aurelie Dabudyk (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team), who was apparently was not feeling like herself, by 2 minutes and 18 seconds. Third place went to Aurore Jéan (Douanes SC Grandvaux), who was with Dabudyk for a while before getting dropped near the finish. She finished another 54 seconds back for the final spot on the podium. Dabduyk remains on top of the overall standings.

“After a few kilometers, I felt strong and got rid of my chasers,” Gräfnings said, according to the press release. “From that moment on I decided to never look back again and started to rush to the finish.”

“It is simple. Maria was very strong today and I wasn’t. I was not feeling so well today, so I am very happy to be second!” Dabudyk said, according to the press release.

The next FIS Marathon Cup stage will be the Tartu Maraton from Otepää to Elva, Estonia, on Feb. 26.

Results: Men | Women

–Ian Tovell

Olex Ends 30-Year German Drought at König Ludwig Lauf

Germany's Max Olex, of the Adidas XCS-Team (l) celebrates his victory in the König Ludwig Lauf on Feb. 5 in Oberammergau, Germany. Olex, who previously skied for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, became the race's first German winner in 30 years. (Photo: Worldloppet.com)

Germany’s Max Olex, of the Adidas XCS-Team (l) celebrates his victory in the König Ludwig Lauf on Feb. 5 in Oberammergau, Germany. Olex, who previously skied for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, became the race’s first German winner in 30 years. (Photo: Worldloppet.com)

After warmer than usual temperatures and rain it was uncertain if the fourth stop of the Worldloppet circuit would happen or not on Sunday, Feb. 5. The organizers of the 44th König Ludwig Lauf in Oberammergau, Germany, able to work all night in order to get the conditions ready for the classic and freestyle races, which were shortened from 50 kilometers to 38 k. After Germany had been without a homegrown winner in the race for 30 years, Max Olex, of the Adidas XCS-Team (who previously raced at the University of Alaska Fairbanks), was able to end the drought in the elite men’s freestyle race, outlasting Damien Tarantola (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team) and Buttin Bastien (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team) in a photo finish. Olex (1:26:20.6) was able to outlunge Tarantola (+0.1) and Bastien (+0.8). Toni Livers (Team Gel Rossignol) was leading on the final uphill in front of the pack of 20 men, but a crash on the downhill forced him to slow down, allowing Olex and company to overtake him before the finish. Livers ended up finishing sixth (+1.8), just ahead two Americans, Tyler Kornfield in seventh (+2.4) and David Norris in eighth (+2.9), teammates at Alaska Pacific University.

“There are those days where you know, you can do it!” Olex said, according to a press release. “It was always one of my biggest dreams to win the König Ludwig Lauf, since here is my home and today was the day. I woke up at 5:00 this morning and couldn’t sleep anymore, so I went outside to see the conditions and saw that they are perfect for me. My words are still missing about this victory!”

In the women’s 38 k classic race, Aurelie Dabudyk (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team) the current overall Worldloppet leader was challenged by Maria Gräfnings (SAS & TG Hütten Team). It was a close race until the final stretch where Dabudyk (1:36:34.4) was able to hold off Gräfnings by seven-tenths of a second. Gräfnings’s teammate Tatjana Mannima rounded out the podium in third (+39.2).

“Today it was a very hard race for me,” Dabudyk said, according to the press release. “I didn’t feel so great after the Marcialonga, but fortunately, I was strong enough to win. Now I need some days break and then preparations for our home race, the Transjurasienne!”

The next Worldloppet race will be the 68 k freestyle La Transjurassienne on Feb. 12 in Morez, France.

Results: Men | Women

— Ian Tovell

Smutná Holds Off Norgren; Gjerdalen Wins Third Marcialonga

Norway's Tord Asle Gjerdalen (l) and the Czech Republic's Katerina Smutná after winning the 2017 Marcialonga. (Photo: Marcialonga.it)

Norway’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen (l) and the Czech Republic’s Katerina Smutná after winning the 2017 Marcialonga. (Photo: Marcialonga.it)

The sixth race in the Ski Classic series took place on Sunday, Jan. 29, with the 44th annual Marcialonga, a 57-kilometer classic race (this year from Mozzin to Cavalese, Italy).  The race was orginally suppoed to be 70k, but was shortened due to low snow.

In the women’s race, Britta Johansson Norgen of Team Lager 157, and Katerina Smutná (Team Santander) broke away from the group early and were able to keep up the pace until the finish. Smutná was able to outlast Norgen at the finish to beat her by 0.8 seconds, taking the win in 2:22:46.4 hours. Sara Lindborg (+4:22.2) of Team Serneke rounded out the podium.

Norgren had a game plan to keep a fast pace throughout the whole race so the only person that would be able to follow her was Smutná. She was able to achieve that goal, but just didn’t have enough power at the end to defend her 2016 Marcialonga title. Norgren remains the overall women’s leader with a 75-point lead over Smutná.

“I respected Britta’s past victories in this race and the pace was high in the beginning when she was leading,” Smutná said, according to a Ski Classics press release. “The battle between Britta and I continues after this and the next step is in Toblach-Cortina. Luckily, we have a two-week break before that.”

On the men’s side, a few different skiers attempted breakaways. Thomas Gifstad of Team Forever Nordic broke away from the lead pack, but eventually was caught by the chase group and ultimately finished 46th. Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) made the other move, which lasted almost to the finish, but was caught right before the Cascata climb.

The race then came down to Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander), Johan Kjölstad (Team United Bakeries), and Morten Eide Pedersen (Team BN Bank). Gjerdalen was able to finish strong and win his third-straight Marcialonga in 2:08:36, becoming the first man to claim three-consecutive wins in that race. Kjölstad (+2.6) finished second with Pedersen (+2.9) following in third. Gjerdalen leads the men’s overall standings with 824 points, 174 points over Nygaard in second place.

“I wasn’t nervous about my teammates’ breakaway,” Gjerdalen said, according to the press release. “It was part of our team tactics. I broke my pole in the beginning, that’s why I was a bit behind in the first control point. It was an easy race for me as I let Petter Eliassen and John Kristian Dahl and the guys do all the work when we were catching up with Andreas. I had a free ride until the last hill and then I knew it was my time again.”

Eliassen ended up 10th and Dahl placed 19th.

Americans Tyler Kornfield and David Norris of Alaska Pacific University (APU) finished 43rd (+5:03.8) and 66th (+10:43.1). Canadian Paralympian Brian McKeever finished 57th (+9:13.5) and guide Graham Nishikawa 81st (+12:56.5), followed by Ian Murray in 85th (+13:37.5) and McKeever’s other Paralympic guide Erik Carleton in 111th (+17:50.2).

The next Ski Classics race will be a 50 k in Toblach-Cortina, Italy, on Feb. 11.

Results: Men | Women

— Ian Tovell

Gjerdalen, Norgren Win La Sgambeda

Tord Ashe Gjerdalen crosses the finish line during the Ski Classics Series in Livigno, Italy in front of Ilya Chernousov on December 3, 2016. (Photo Credit: Visma Ski Classics)

Norway’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen crosses the finish line in first at La Sgambeda last Saturday, Dec. 3, in Livigno, Italy, in front of Russia’s Ilya Chernousov. (Photo\: Visma Ski Classics)

The Visma Ski Classics series continued this past weekend in Livigno, Italy, with the first marathon of the season, La Sgambeda. The conditions were perfect as a cold night before ensured a hard surface for skiers and the sunshine on race day guaranteed for a great 30-kilometer classic race. Both the men’s and women’s races ended with a sprint to the line.

In the men’s competition, the lead group stayed together until the final climb. There, Norway’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) and Russia’s Ilya Chernousov (Team Pioneer Investment) passed Norway’s Petter Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go), who had led most of the race. Gjerdalen and Chernousov came to the finish neck and neck, but Gjerdalen was able to take the win by 1.3 seconds. Eliassen, who won last week, finished third, 2.7 seconds behind the winner.

“It was a tough race and I just tried to stay behind John Kristian Dahl and let Petter do all the work,” Gjerdalen said, according to a Ski Classics press release. “I felt strong in the last hill, but I wasn’t sure if I could beat Ilya in the end.”

Eliassen could not overcome the Livigno burden and said that he will probably never win La Sgambeda. Chernousov was quite happy with his performance behind Gjerdalen and said he will be focusing on long-distance races this season as well as continuing to podium.

“I tried to maintain a high speed over the first lap to wear out the others. But when I saw that the field was still large I gave up, ” Eliassen said in an interview with Altaposten. “This course is a little too fast for me, so I was never going to win this race. That’s why I’m happy.”

“I felt tired during the start and fought to stay behind Petter Eliassen,” Gjerdalen said in a finish-line interview. “During the end, I had the most energy and better skis than Chernousov. It was perfect for me.”

Like the men’s race, the women’s race came down to the last climb. Britta Johansson Norgren (Lager 157) and Katerina Smutná (Team Santander) were able to break away from Sara Lindborg (Team Serneke) on the last hill. Norgen tried to pull away from Smutná, but it came down to the finish, where Norgren was able to increase her double-pole tempo. Norgen was able to beat Smutná by 1.3 seconds, while Lindborg placed third, 17.4 seconds out of first.  Norgren finished as the fastest female as well as the best sprinter on the day making her a double jersey holder.

“The last climb was really hard and I was nervous seeing Katerina right behind me,” Norgren said with a smile on her face, according to the press release. “I felt strong today and this was a great race. I was freezing while skiing the first lap, but once the sun got up it was fine.”

Smutná said that Norgren was simply stronger on Saturday and she did all she could the last 100 meter, but was not able to match her attack. Lindberg said that she felt strong from the start, but couldn’t match the intensity of the two other skiers.

Norgren and Gjerdalen are now leading the individual standings, while Team Santander is the top team after two races. Norgren and Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) are leading in the sprint standings. The next Ski Classics race, the Vasaloppet China 50 k classic, will be held Jan. 4 in Changchun, China.

Results

— Ian Tovell (Aleks Tangen contributed translating)

Eliassen, Smutná Kick Off Ski Classics with Prologue Win

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Team Gel Intérim/Rossignol celebrate their win in Sunday’s 8 k team prologue on the first day of another Ski Classics season. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The seventh season of the Visma Ski Classics officially began this past weekend with the 8-kilometer prologue on Sunday in Pontresina, Switzerland. The starting order was reversed so the winners of last season’s prologue started first. This time around, last year’s last-place finishers Team Gel Intérim/Rossignol took first.

The individual races both on the men and women side came down to the wire. In the men’s race, last year’s overall Ski Classics champion Petter Eliasson of Team LeasePlan Go started off slow and was 12 seconds out of first at the first timing point, but was able to pick it up the second half and claim the overall victory in 19:42.66 minutes. He beat Bastien Poirrier (Team Gel Intérim/Rossignol) by 8.53 seconds for the win.

“The plan was to start off easy so I would have more energy for the final two laps,” he said in a TV interview with NRK. “I hoped that my conditioning would be better this weekend and I didn’t think I would win this weekend because the distance was so short. I’m actually surprised.”

“It was a bit hard to double pole because my poles kept sinking into soft snow,” he said, according to a Ski Classic press release. “Other than that, I had no problems on the course.”

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Top 3 men from Sunday’s Ski Classics prologue. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

About 16 seconds out of first, Morten Eide Pedersen (Team BN Bank) took third. Both he and Poirrier said they were satisfied with their results and that the podium is their goal every race in the Ski Classics series.

In the women’s prologue. Katerina Smutná (Team Santander) edged out last season’s overall champion Britta Johansson Norgen (Lager 157 Ski Team) by 0.66 seconds. Sara Linborg (Team Serene) finished third (+20.66)..

“It was a hard race and the course was getting really soft,” Smutná said after the race while suffering from stomach cramps, according to a press release. “But this was a great start for the season and I’m off to Livigno and ready for the next race on Saturday.”

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The three women’s bib winners after Sunday’s Ski Classics prologue. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Norgen was pleased with her finish, but said that Sunday was not her best race day, citing trouble double poling up the course’s steepest hill.

Since there are no sprint points awarded for the prologue, Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) currently retains the green bib race since he won the category winner last season. This will be the first year that women have a sprint completion in the Ski Classics series and Norgen, last year’s second-fastest woman, will keep the green bib until the next race.

The next race, the 25 k La Sgambeda, is set for Saturday, Dec. 3, in Livigno, Italy.

Prologue results

– By Ian Tovell (Aleks Tangen contributed translation)

Announcing Inaugural CXC Marathon Cup Winners

Women's overall CXC Marathon Cup winner Natalia Naryshkina (Photo: CXC)

Women’s overall CXC Marathon Cup winner Natalia Naryshkina (Photo: CXC)

(Press release)

Six marathon events across three states, with grueling courses, made up the inaugural CXC Marathon Cup series.

Weekend after weekend skiers were challenged not only by the length and terrain of each marathon, but everything in between, including: frigid and warm temperatures, challenging snow conditions, and the fatigue of skiing six marathons in a little over two months.

With strength, determination and endless endurance, two skiers persevered through the challenges of the marathon series to claim the coveted CXC Marathon Cup overall title, CXC Team athletes Chris Pappathopoulos and Natalia Naryshkina.

The inaugural year of the CXC Marathon Cup could not have been possible, without the hundreds of event organizers who worked hard to run these great events. We want to recognize them for their efforts and crown these events with the CXC Marathon Cup Event Awards which include: Best Overall Event, Best Grooming, Most Heroic Effort and Best Website.

Chris Pappathopoulos, winner of the men's overall CXC Marathon Cup. (Photo: CXC)

Chris Pappathopoulos, winner of the men’s overall CXC Marathon Cup. (Photo: CXC)

“The marathon season was a whirlwind of eight marathons, one sprint, and one 24K skiathlon in 9 weekends,” said Chris Pappathopoulos. “Achieving my goal of winning the CXC Marathon Cup involved practicing what I preach to my athletes, set a goal and make a plan to achieve the goal. Then adjust the plan as necessary for the unexpected circumstances that arise. Being a working dad there were plenty of deviations from the training I wanted to do this year. These challenges just provided opportunity to focus on what I had control over and not worry about the other things.”

Pappathopoulos had an outstanding season and was the only athlete who competed in all of the CXC Marathon Cup races, which earned him the Viking Award. Five podium finishes and a victory in the 42k Hoigaard’s Classic Marathon which was part of the City of Lakes Loppet, Minne Tour highlighted his season.

Looking back at Pappathopoulos’ results in the CXC Marathon Cup Season:

Chris Pappathopoulos with his overall CXC Marathon Cup "trophy" (Photo: CXC)

Chris Pappathopoulos with his overall CXC Marathon Cup “trophy” (Photo: CXC)

“Winning the CXC Marathon Cup boiled down to three things: training, recovery and equipment,” Pappathopoulos said. “Skiers are made in the summer. I log a lot of long workouts in the summer and fall to adapt to racing a marathon almost every weekend. Recovery is the aspect of training and competing that gets far less attention than it should. Often times recovery is one of the hardest things for someone who loves training and races. I’ll admit I may have taken some liberties from sound recovery practice with activities like the Night Noque, but it was worth it.”

“Finally, skiing is an equipment sport. Everyday there is an opportunity to test something whether it be wax, skis, pole length, different feeds etc. Much of this doesn’t cost anything. I put a lot of effort into dialing in my Rossignol skis with Boulder Nordic Sportgrinds that complemented the skis and Start poles.”

Naryshkina dominated several of the CXC Marathon Cup events this season, earning five victories and seven podium finishes.

Looking Back on Naryshkina’s Marathon Cup season:

  • 42k Seeley Hills Classic: First
  • Noquemanon 50k Classic: First
  • City of Lakes Loppet/Minne Tour: Sprints first, 42k classic first, 42k Skate, second.
  • Vasaloppet USA 58k Freestyle: First
  • The Great Bear Chase 50k Skiathlon: Second

The final points have been updated for each category: Overall Champions, Overall Age-Indexed Champions and Age Group Champions.

Don’t forget about all of the great prizes for the Overall Age-Indexed Champions as well as the Age Group Champions!

Age-Indexed Champions:

  • 1st Place – CXC Gold Membership – $5,000 value
  • 2nd Place – CXC Silver Membership – $2,500 value
  • 3rd Place – CXC Bronze Membership – $1,000 value

Top Three Men’s Overall Age-Index:

  • 1st: Chris Pappathopoulos
  • 2nd: Michael Mandli
  • 3rd: Nick Power

Top Three Women’s Overall Age-Index:

Naryshkina (c) atop the City of Lakes Loppet podium. (Photo: CXC)

Naryshkina (c) atop the City of Lakes Loppet podium. (Photo: CXC)

  • 1st: Natalia Naryshkina
  • 2nd: Jan Guenther
  • 3rd: Alice Flanders

First, second and third place in each age group receive an exclusive invitation to a Masters Fantasy Camp, October 7-9 2016 in Cable, WI (more details to come)! 

Participants will enjoy three days of structured training, complemented with technique sessions and video analysis by professional coaching and Birkie winners. Experience an environment as it would be at the National Team camp!

Men’s Top Three Overall Age Class 

  • 0-29: Nick Power, Andrew Brown, Alex Vanias
  • 30-39: Chris Pappathopoulos, Matt Liebsch, Craig Cardinal
  • 40-49: Craig Stolen, John Munger, Adam Swank
  • 50-59: Milan Baic, Drew Holbrook, Thomas Krenz
  • 60-69: Jonathan Schupp, Dan Berntson, Gregory Worsnop
  • 70+: Charles Duede, Peter Dorsen, Donn Christensen

Women’s Top Three Overall Age Class 

  • 0-29: Alice Flanders, Rosie Frankowski, Ingrid Leask
  • 30-39: Natalia Naryshkina, Erica Ohearn, Caitlin Gregg
  • 40-49: Kim Rudd, Melissa Lewis, Kim Hughes
  • 50-59: Jan Guenther, Sandra Pera, Joan Rundman
  • 60-69: Karen Manske, Ann Pollock, Margaret Meincke
  • 70+: Elizabeth Schluter, Ethel Morse, Judith Karshna

CXC Marathon Cup Event Awards

Marathon Cup Event Awards categories include:

Best Overall Event: The Great Bear Chase

Best Grooming: Seeley Hills Classic (Grooming provided by: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation)

Most Heroic Effort: Mora Vasaloppet

Best Website: Birkie

Most Scenic Course: Noquemanon

Alaska’s Collegiate Skiers Dominate Oosik Classic Podiums

By Gavin Kentch

A host of collegiate skiers from Alaska’s two NCAA ski programs dominated the top of the results sheet in the 16th annual Oosik Classic, a 50-kilometer classic race held on the rivers and woods near Talkeetna, Alaska, last Saturday, March 19.  Skiers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) took the top six spots in the men’s race, while the women’s podium featured representatives of the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), UAF and a speedy citizen racer among the top three.

The Oosik Classic was founded in 2001, and aims to put the “country” back into “cross-country skiing.”  The race is notorious and beloved in the Alaska ski community for its unorthodox courses, distances that may charitably be described as approximate, and festive party atmosphere that characterizes at least three fourths of the field, as well as a number of unsanctioned aid stations.  This year’s race saw relatively cool conditions, even for Alaska in spring, as temperatures were still in the teens at the noon start of the race, and never rose much above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  A light snow fell during the afternoon.  The cool temps and firm trails were a marked departure from the bright sun and klister skiing that have characterized the last several editions of this race.

Amidst the snowfall, the men were led by Michael Fehrenbach, a UAF senior, who completed the two-lap, approximately 50 k course in 1:55:38.  He was followed by Jan Cech, also a senior, 1:23 back in 1:57:01.  Another UAF skier, redshirt sophomore Nick Lovett, finished third in 1:57:48.  UAF, which sent the lion’s share of its men’s nordic ski program down to Talkeetna for the weekend after the recent NCAA Championships, also saw Alexander Eckert, Seiji Takagi, and Conner Truskowski finish fourth through sixth among the men.

The women’s podium was less homogenous.  Shalane Frost, previously described as an “unaffiliated dark horse and Fairbanks local” when she finished third in the inaugural Qaniq Challenge in January 2015, took the win in 2:20:13, good for eleventh overall.  Hanna Slotte, a senior who recently finished her collegiate ski career with UAA, followed 1:47 back in an even 2:22:00.  Third place went to Martina Himma, a sophomore member of the UAF team.  Himma was some distance back from second, finishing in 2:29:12, though she did edge out teammate Ann-Cathrin Uhl by one second in the battle for third.

UAF was back on top of the women’s podium for the one-lap 25 k race, which started 30 minutes after the 50 k.  Christina Turman, an assistant coach for the UAF team (and former collegiate racer for Northern Michigan University), was first in 1:30:23.  Citizen racer Krista Heeringa took second, and first master by a healthy margin, three seconds back in 1:30:26.  Sadie Fox, a freshman skier for UAA, was third in 1:35:53.

The top three in the men’s 25 k race were likewise a mixture of youth and experience.  First place went to Gus Schumacher, who claimed two U16 national titles at Junior Nationals in Cable, Wis., earlier this month, in 1:19:19.  He was followed less than a minute back by high school junior Andrew Hull in 1:20:12.  Third place went to 40-something Anchorage skier Gary Snyder, who finished another 54 seconds back in 1:21:06.

This year’s race had 519 official finishers, including 61 racers in the 50 k and 458 in the shorter race.

The 17th Oosik Classic will be held in Talkeetna in March 2017.  Registration has historically opened on Feb. 1.

Results

Furger Edges Swiss Teammates; Faivre Picon Wins Third Engadin

Thirteen thousand skiers line up for the 48th Engadin Ski Marathon on March 13 in Switzerland. The event is the seventh and second-to-last race on the Worldloppet Cup calendar. (Photo: Worldloppet)

Thirteen thousand skiers line up for the 48th Engadin Ski Marathon on March 13 in Switzerland. The event is the seventh and second-to-last race on the Worldloppet Cup calendar. (Photo: Worldloppet)

Thirteen thousand skiers lined up for the penultimate event of the FIS Worldloppet Cup of the season – the 48th running of the Engadin Ski Marathon in Graubünden, Switzerland.

In a scene similar to the Vasaloppet two weeks ago, the men’s field stayed largely intact for the duration of the 42-kilometer freestyle race. The wind and difficult conditions discouraged racers from leading or pushing the pace and a group of about 50 skiers arrived at the final kilometers together.

Adrien Mougel of France was the first to push the pace and string out the field, but a trio of Swiss skiers asserted themselves in the front in the final kilometer. The Swiss ended up sweeping the podium as Roman Furger edged Toni Livers by 0.8 seconds and Jöri Kindschi (+1.4) for the win in 1:48:08.3.

Roman Ferger of Switzerland takes the win at the 2016 Engadin Ski Marathon on March 13, leading a Swiss podium sweep. Toni Livers and Jöri Kindschi took second and third, respectively (Photo: Worldloppet)

Roman Ferger of Switzerland takes the win at the 2016 Engadin Ski Marathon on March 13, leading a Swiss podium sweep. Toni Livers and Jöri Kindschi took second and third, respectively (Photo: Worldloppet)

A pair of Frenchmen trailed the three Swiss skiers as Bastien Poirrier took fourth (+1.5) and Benoit Chauvet (+3.5) fifth. The rest of the field finished in close pursuit, as only 10 seconds separated the first 14 skiers and the top 30 skiers finished within 77 seconds.

The Engadin was Furger’s first Worldloppet race of the season after racing on the World Cup and posting a win at the Alpen Cup in Campra, Switzerland, in February.

“Nobody wanted to lead today,” Furger said in a post-race press release. “The wind made it very hard, everybody wanted to ski in the slipstream, so I did. But at some key points you have to be in the front and I managed to do it and in the end I was the strongest. I am very happy about my victory.”

Livers’ runner-up finish and victory at Bieg Piastow two weeks ago catapulted him to the top of the Worldloppet standings heading into the final Worldloppet race: the Ugra Ski Marathon in Russia. Livers’ 276 points stands 20 points ahead of Bastien Poirrier and France’s Ivan Perrillat Bouitex both with 256 points.

Livers is looking forward to the Ugra. “I have had great experiences at the FIS Worldloppet Cup stage in Russia,” Livers said in an FIS press release. “I am looking forward to it and I think I can make a very good race there and hope that also my team will be as strong in Russia as we have been today.”

Although the finish may not have been as dramatic as the men’s race, Anouk Faivre Picon of France made history by becoming the first competitor to win three Engadin titles. Fairvre Picon took the win in 1:54:07.1, 14.1 seconds ahead of Seraina Boner of Switzerland.

Klara Moravcova of the Czech Republic continued her consistent season, placing third (+2:19.3). Elisa Brocard of Italy (+3:47.5) edged Aurelie Dabudyk of France (+3.48.6) after Dabudyk recovered from a broken pole early in the race.

Although she was pleased with her victory, Faivre Picon credited Boner with a stronger race.

“I had great skis, better skis than Seraina,” Faivre Picon said in an FIS press release. “But in fact, she had a better race than me. In the beginning she was very fast, only in the middle of the race I was able to catch her and than she had a crash on the last kilometers, so I could win. But yes, I am glad to have my third ‘Steinbockgehörn’ [trophy] here and I have to win it another two times because I promised them to friends!”

In contrast to the tight men’s overall standings, Dabudyk maintains a 121-point lead heading into the last stage and has unofficially won the 2016 Worldloppet Cup. The runner-up position will be determined in the final stage as Brocard currently sits in second, just 35 points ahead of Moravcova.

Shaw Skis Second Worldloppet

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw smiles at the Engadin Ski Marathon. Shaw finished in three hours, 20 minutes at his second Worldloppet race cross country ski race this season after completing the American Birkebeiner in February. (Photo: USSA)

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw smiles at the Engadin Ski Marathon. Shaw finished in three hours, 20 minutes at his second Worldloppet race cross country ski race this season after completing the American Birkebeiner in February. (Photo: USSA)

While the U.S. Ski Team was posting strong performances at the Ski Tour Canada, it was also represented across the world as U.S. Ski and Snowboard (USSA) President and CEO Tiger Shaw completed the Engadin on Sunday.

Nearly one month after USSA CEO Tiger Shaw took on the American Birkebeiner, he checked off another Worldloppet event finishing the race in 3:20:42.

Men’s ResultsMen’s Worldloppet standings

Women’s ResultsWomen’s Worldloppet standings

— Kaitlyn Patterson

Weekend Roundup: Vasaloppet’s Tight Finish; Big Margins at Bieg Piastow

John Kristian Dahl of Norway and Katerina Smutna of Austria claim titles at the historical 90 kilometer Vasaloppet on Sunday (Photo: Magnus Östh/Visma Ski Classics)

John Kristian Dahl of Norway and Katerina Smutna of Austria claim titles at the historical 90 kilometer Vasaloppet on Sunday (Photo: Magnus Östh/Visma Ski Classics)

Vasaloppet Comes Down to a Field Sprint 

Challenging conditions made for tight races at the Vasaloppet held last Sunday, March 6, in Sweden.  The historical race from Sälen to Mora is the oldest and biggest cross country ski race in the world, with the inaugural race held 94 years ago in 1922. It features a mass start with a field of 15,800 skiers including the elite racers participating in the Visma Ski Classics series.

The men's field remained compact as 25 men finished within nine seconds after the 90 kilometer race (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The men’s field remained compact as 25 men finished within nine seconds after the 90 kilometer race (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

After 90 kilometers of classic skiing, the first 25 men finished less than 9 seconds apart. Two seconds separated the top two females who finished just ten minutes behind the men. The new snow on the course prevented the field from stringing out early and the lead group of 300 skiers remained intact for the first 30 kilometers.

Although the lead pack thinned as the pace picked up, the title was ultimately determined in a field sprint of the top pack of 19 men. Norwegians managed to claim the top four places as John Kristian Dahl claimed the victory by 0.4 seconds over Stian Hoelgaard. They were closely followed by Anders Høst (+1.1) and Øyvind Moen Fjeld (+1.3). The first non-Norwegian was Swiss World Cup skier Dario Cologna in fifth (+1.5).

Despite finishing just six seconds behind the winner,  overall leader of the Ski Classics Petter Eliassen finished in 21st. Despite his placing, Eliassen retains the Ski Classics lead over Tord Asle Gjerdalen.  The Vasaloppet was the first race since La Sgambeda in December that Eliassan finished outside of the top two in a Ski Classics race.  Johan Kjolstad held onto third, just four points ahead of John Kristian Dahl. Dahl has claimed two previous Ski Classics podiums this season, winning La Sgambeda and taking third at Toblach-Cortina.

A field of 15,800 skiers participated in the historical Vasaloppet event from Sälen to Mora, Sweden (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

A field of 15,800 skiers participated in the historical Vasaloppet event from Sälen to Mora, Sweden (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The women’s race turned into a duel between Austrian Katerina Smutna and Swedish Britta Johansson- Norgren. Despite Norgren’s impressive record of double poling to four Ski Classics wins this season, Smutna managed to edge Norgren on the final stretch to take her first Vasaloppet title. Swedish Lina Korsgren took the last podium place seven seconds behind Smutna.  Her finish moved Korsgren to seventh in the overall standings after posting a win in the Prologue and runner-up finish at Jizerská padesátka.

The women’s overall standings remained stable as Nogren maintains a strong lead over Smutna and Seraina Boner.

Men’s Results | Women’s Results 

Overall Ski Classics Standings

 

Worldloppet Returns to Europe at Bieg Piastow

A field of 1500 skiers line up for the 40th Bieg Piastow on Saturday, March 5 in Poland. The race was the sixth FIS Worldloppet Cup Stage (Photo: Marcin Oliva Soto Photography)

A field of 1500 skiers line up for the 40th Bieg Piastow on Saturday, March 5 in Poland. The race was the sixth FIS Worldloppet Cup Stage (Photo: Marcin Oliva Soto Photography)

In stark contrast to the close finishes of the American Birkebeiner, the margins of victory at Bieg Piastow were measured by minutes instead of seconds. The Bieg Piastow in Poland was the sixth FIS Worldloppet Cup stage and both the male and female victors dominated their competition.

In the women’s race, the top two finishers double poled the 54 kilometer classic technique race. Czech skier Adela Boudikova dropped French skier Aurelie Dabudyk with 20 kilometers to go to win in 2:35:02, over five minutes ahead of Dabudyk. The Bieg Piastow was Boudikova’s second Worldloppet marathon this season after finishing 11th at Marcialonga.

Toni Livers of Switzerland en route to a commanding victory at Bieg Piastow 54 kilometer classic event (photo credit: Marcin Oliva Soto Photography)

Czech skier Adela Boudikova celebrates her victory at Bieg Piastow (photo credit: Marcin Oliva Soto Photography)

“It was a very nice race for me and I am really satisfied with this victory,” said Boudikova in a FIS press release. “It was a very tough race because I decided to take the skating skies, so in the beginning it was flat and fast but then in the end, the uphills were very hard,”

Although she couldn’t match Boudikova, Dadubyk was pleased with her race as she strives for a Worldloppet Marathon Cup victory.

“I also tried to double pole the race, so it was hard but I am glad about the second place,” Dadubyk said in an FIS press release. “There are still two races to go, so it is very important to get points at every race.”

Czech skier Klara Maracova was 34 seconds back from Dabudyk, claiming third. Elisa Brocard of Italy was a distant fourth, over 11 minutes back from the leader.

Dabudyk still retains the Worldloppet leader’s bib but has been denied victories since Dolomitenlauf in January. However, she is the only female to complete every race of the circuit, allowing her to maintain her lead in the overall standings- 126 points ahead of Italian Elisa Brocard in second and 161 ahead of Klara Moravcova.

Despite the recent French domination of the Worldloppet races, they were shut out of the first two places in the men’s race as Swiss Toni Livers and Czech Rocarek Jiri broke away from the field at 25 kilometers. They skied together until grueling hill at 43km where Livers dropped a decisive attack to win in 2:18:42 by 90 seconds. Benoit Chauvet was the first Frenchman, taking third (+2:14).

Toni Livers of Switzerland en route to a commanding victory at Bieg Piastow.

Toni Livers of Switzerland en route to a commanding victory at Bieg Piastow 54 kilometer classic event (photo credit: Marcin Oliva Soto Photography)

“It was the first time for me here at Bieg Piastow and I like the course, it is quite demanding,” Livers said in an FIS press release.

Ivan Perrillat Boiteaux retains the FIS leader’s bib despite finishing 11th at Bieg Piastow. He maintains a 36 point lead over Bastien Poirrier in second and 48 points ahead of Benoit Chauvet and Toni Livers who are now tied for third.

The Worldloppet Calendar includes two more races- the Engadin Skimarathon in Switzerland on March 13 and UgraSki marathon in Russia on April 2nd.

Men’s results      |    Men’s overall standings

Women’s results |  Women’s overall standings

— Kaitlyn Patterson

Caitlin Gregg Wins Unprecedented Fourth Birkie; Norris Tops Men’s Race

The elite men's 51 k skate podium at the 2016 American Birkebeiner, with winner David Norris (APU), runner-up Ivan Perrillat Boiteux (France) and Benoit Chauvet (France) in third. (Photo: Vince Rosetta)

The elite men’s 51 k skate podium at the 2016 American Birkebeiner, with winner David Norris (APU), runner-up Ivan Perrillat Boiteux (France) and Benoit Chauvet (France) in third. (Photo: Vince Rosetta)

Caitlin Gregg and David Norris are 2016 American Birkebeiner champions, each outlasting a competitive international field in the 51-kilometer freestyle race on Saturday to claim their fourth and first Birkie victories, respectively, in Hayward, Wis.

A U.S. Ski Team member and perennial Birkie favorite, Gregg, of Team Gregg, skied a strategic race to drop all but one competitor in the women’s elite race, Aurelie Dabudyk of Team Haute-Savoie and Le Grand Bornad, France, with more than 10 kilometers to go. Gregg attacked slightly after Mosquito Brook at the 38 k mark, Dabudyk went with her and the two went head-to-head to the Main Street finish, with Gregg leading across the Hayward Lake and all the way across the line.

For Gregg, 35, it was her fourth Birkie victory, making her the winningmost skier in the event’s history.

“It always feels great after you win a race like that,” she told USSA’s Tom Kelly after winning in 2:22:44.5 hours, holding off Dabudyk by 5.1 seconds.

The overall Worldloppet Cup leader, Dabudyk secured second, and a regular on the U.S. SuperTour circuit, Erika Flowers of the Stratton Mountain School T2 Team placed third (+1:51.1). A Montana native, Flowers held off Italy’s Elisa Brocard (Haute-Savoie) and Klara Moravcova of the Czech Republic for the third spot on the podium. An early race leader, Brocard placed fourth (+1:52.5), and Moravcova finished fifth (+1:54.2). Italy’s Antonella Confortola was in the money in sixth (+2:00.7), Switzerland’s Rahel Imoberdorf and Nicole Donzallaz placed seventh (+2:55.8) and eighth (+2:56.8), Rosie Frankowski of Alaska Pacific University (APU) was ninth (+3:09.5), and CXC’s Alice Flanders 10th (+5:55.1).

In the men’s race, APU’s 25-year-old Norris outlasted three Frenchmen at the finish, winning his first Birkie title in his first try in 2:05:35.4. France’s Ivan Perrillat Boiteux (Haute-Savoie) placed second, 1 second back, Benoit Chauvet (Gel Interem Rossignol) was third (+1.3) after pushing the pace to break up the pack with about 8 k remaining, and France’s Adrein Mougel (Gel Interem Rossignol) finished fourth (+4.7).

“Benoit took off the front and he had a gap and I went and closed that,” Norris explained of Chauvet’s move. “Only five other people went with us so a pack of 20 broke down to five. … Across the lake, we were doing cat and dog and no one was really pushing. I’m not confident in my sprint generally, so I was just like, ‘I need to be first off the lake and that will at least give me a shot for the podium.’ And then I came off the bridge and I just went as hard as I could and I was blown away that no one was coming up on my sides.”

Switzerland’s Candide Pralong (Gel Interem Rossignol) placed fifth (+6.6), France’s Mathias Wibault was sixth (+8.7), and last year’s winner Sergio Bonaldi (Team Salomon Italia) of Italy was seventh (+12.9). Cracking the top 10, Kris Freeman (Team Freebird) was the second American in eighth (+33.7), Canada’s Ivan Babikov was ninth (+34.9), and Tad Elliott (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) 10th (+38.9).

In the 55 k classic Birkie, Welly Ramsey (Maine Winter Sports Center) won the men’s race and former Michigan Tech skier Deedra Irwin of Wisconsin claimed the women’s title.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth recap.

Results (top 25): Skate | Classic

City of Lakes and Mora: CXC Marathon Cup Roundup

Kyle Bratrud leads CXC teammate Nick Power in the 42 k classic at the City of the Lakes Loppet. Power took second in the race to Chris Pappathopoulos, while Bratrud finished third. (Photo: CXC)

Kyle Bratrud leads CXC teammate Nick Power in the 42 k classic at the City of the Lakes Loppet. Power took second in the race to Chris Pappathopoulos, while Bratrud finished third. (Photo: CXC)

February was the month of Minnesota racing on the CXC Marathon Cup series as the state hosted City of the Lakes Loppet and Mora Vasaloppet on consecutive weekends. Although both sites struggled with low snow leading up to the races, Minneapolis won the last minute snow lottery and Mora made the best with what they had with the help of some new snowmaking equipment.

Although conditions looked dire leading into the City of the Lakes Loppet (Feb. 5-7), Minneapolis received 9-13 inches of snow the week of the race allowing them to pull off the full race schedule. The events included the Finn Sisu sprints in downtown Minneapolis on Friday, the Hoigaard’s Classic Marathon on Saturday, and The Columbia Skate Marathon on Sunday. To earn points for the overall CXC Marathon Cup, racers had to compete in the Minnie Tour which required competing in all three races.

City of the Lakes Loppet

After sprints and two 42-kilometer races, it was Chris Pappathopoulos and Natalia Naryshkina standing atop the overall podium. Although neither of them won both marathons, the combined times bested their respective fields.

The Hooigard Classic Marathon turned into a duel between CXC teammates Pappathopoulos and Nick Power. The two pushed each other to the line but it was Pappathopoulos who outlunged Power for the win. Kyle Bratrud made it another CXC sweep taking third (+3:19).

Although Bratrud took third in both the Finn Sisu sprints and the classic marathon, he did not compete on Sunday so was not scored in the Minnie Tour.

In contrast to the tight finish in the men’s race, Naryshkina continued to dominate classic distance events taking first by 6 1/2 minutes over Bonnie Weiskopf Albrecht of Stillwater, Minn. The next skier competing in the Minnie Tour was Alice Flanders who was edged out by Josie Nelson for the final podium placing (+9:07) and had to settle for fourth (+9:08).

Alex Vanias stands atop the podium after winning the Columbia Sportswear 42 k Skate as part of the City of the Lakes Loppet. Chris Pappathopoulos and Mark Johnson took second and third.

Alex Vanias stands atop the podium after winning the Columbia Sportswear 42 k Skate as part of the City of the Lakes Loppet. Chris Pappathopoulos and Mark Johnson took second and third.

In the Columbia Sportswear Skate race, an early lead group was formed including Pappathopoulos, Andrew Brown and Power. It looked to be another day of CXC domination, however, Alex Vanias from Traverse City caught the group after recovering from a pole mishap at the start line. Vanias attacked and Power went with him.

Although the chase pack reeled them back, Vanias attacked again and skied the second half solo for the win, 54 seconds ahead of Pappathopoulos. Pappathopoulos was able to put nearly three minutes on Power in third to secure his overall Minnie Tour win.

“I woke up Sunday morning feeling a little worse for the wear, but still excited to be starting another marathon in a few hours,” said Pappathopoulos in a CXC press release. “Once the cannon went off the aches and soreness vanished. It was a blast skiing in a train of CXC Craft suits at the start of the race.”

Despite the pole troubles, Vanias’s race went as had hoped.

“Skiing the open sections on the lakes I could see the gap to Chris behind me and I was confident I could hold the lead,” Vanias said.

Heading into the skate race, Naryshinka had a commanding lead in the overall standings after wins in the sprints and the classic marathon, but Flanders gave a valiant effort to make up the difference and fell just short. Flanders took a decisive win by over six minutes in the 42 k race. Kim Rudd finished 30 seconds behind Naryshkina, taking third.

“I am convinced that it takes a certain kind of crazy to be excited to race two marathons in two days,” Flanders said in a CXC press release. “It was surprisingly fun, yet adequately exhausting.”

Despite skate race victories from Vanias and Flanders, the margins wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit from the classic race and they held their positions in the overall standings.

Power and Vanias took second and third, respectively, in the Minnie Tour standings behind Pappathopoulos.

In the women’s overall standings, Kathleen Dewahl of Minneapolis claimed third behind Naryshkina and Flanders after taking fifth in both marathons.

Results: Finn Sisu sprint | Hoigaard’s Classic | Columbia Sportswear Skate| Minnie Tour

Natalia Naryshkina takes her fourth-consecutive CXC Marathon Cup win at the 2016 Mora Vasaloppet. (Photo: CXC)

Natalia Naryshkina takes her fourth-consecutive CXC Marathon Cup win at the 2016 Mora Vasaloppet. (Photo: CXC)

Mora Vasaloppet

In contrast to the snow windfall in Minneapolis, the Mora Vasaloppet on Feb. 13 was not so fortunate as the town of Mora just missed the snowstorm although it is just 70 miles north of Minneapolis. Despite the challenging conditions, race organizers managed to put together a 12 k loop in great condition utilizing manmade snow. Due to the alternate course, the race was shortened to 48 kilometers from the scheduled 58 k.

Although there was minimal snow, it was a frigid day with temperatures below zero degrees at race time.

Making his return to the CXC Marathon Circuit for the first time since the Seeley Classic, Matt Liebsch battled neck and neck with CXC skier Andy Brown. In the end, Liebsch pulled off the win by just 4.73 seconds. Pappathopoulos claimed third, 56 seconds back on Liebsch.

In the women’s race, Naryshkina won her fourth consecutive CXC Marathon Cup event, extending her lead in the overall standings. Her time of 2:10:30 stood as 16th overall and over ten minutes ahead of Melissa Lewis of Fairbanks, Alaska, (+10:33) and Naryshkina’s CXC Teammate Hilary Patzer (+11:58).

“Despite really cold weather, my skis had great glide,” Naryshkina said in a CXC press release. “I really liked the course and organizers did all they could to put together high quality event. There was very little snow in town, but great atmosphere at the event!”

Results: Mora Vasaloppet

Pappothopolous and Naryshkina currently sit atop the overall standings with two races to go. The overall standings will be updated on the CXC website.

The next race on the CXC Marathon Schedule is the American Birkebeiner, now part of the FIS Worldloppet circuit due to snow challenges for the Tartu Marathon in Estonia.

— Kaitlyn Patterson

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

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