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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

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…

Old and New, Many Contenders in the Hunt at 2016 American Birkie

HAYWARD, Wis. — Despite rain, wintery mix and above-freezing temperatures in the 48 hours leading up to race time, the excitement for the 43rd American Birkebeiner is high. With the late decision to change the Birkie to a Worldloppet event, the fields are deep and promise some dramatic racing. In the women’s field, France’s Aurelie Dabudyk wears the red bib leading the FIS Worldloppet Cup. Dabudyk battled American Holly Brooks for the win last year but couldn’t match Brooks’ attack over Lake Hayward. Brooks will not return to defend her title this year as she has dialed down her racing schedule after a demanding marathon schedule last season and a rollerski injury this fall. Dabudyk will be challenged by three-time Birkie champion Caitlin Gregg, who, in her first season as U.S. Ski Team member, returned to the U.S. last month after racing on the World Cup. Last year Gregg did not race the Birkie as she…

El Niño Tests Birkie Organizers and Racers: Thunder in Hayward on Thursday

HAYWARD, Wis. — A steady rain and rumbles of thunder could be heard at Hayward High School Thursday evening, spiking the anxiety of hundreds of skiers claiming their bibs at the Birkie Expo. Nothing gets skiers riled up quite like an unusual or unpredictable race conditions and this year’s 43rd American Birkebeiner on Saturday is shaping up to be the perfect storm. The weather for the first half of race week was seasonable with pristine skiing conditions. Two to five inches of new snow fell on the course Monday overnight and temperatures plummeted below zero degrees Fahrenheit. However, northern Wisconsin would not be spared the wrath of El Niño for the annual congregation of skiers in Hayward. It was going warm up and it was going to rain. Temperatures were forecasted to rise above freezing by midday Thursday and not fall below the magic 32 degrees until long after the last racers crossed the finish…

City of Lakes and Mora: CXC Marathon Cup Roundup

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…

Johansson-Norgren Back on Top, Gjerdalen Edges Eliassen at Toblach/Dobbiaco Cortina

The 39th Toblach/Dobbiaco Cortina made its debut on the Visma Ski Classics Circuit this year. Although the course had to be shortened to a 32 kilometer event, the course still offered its share of climbing between the start in Prags/Braies and the finish in Toblach.  Both the men’s and women’s races were determined in the final meters in some of the closest finishes of the Classics this year. In the women’s race, Seraina Boner of Switzerland pushed the pace on a lead group of seven with 15 kilometers to go. She was matched by Sweden’s Johansson-Norgren and Masako Ishida of Japan.  The three women raced the second half together and the title was decided in a sprint finish and Johansson-Norgren bested Boner (+1.34) and Ishida (+1.58) for her fifth Classics victory of the season. Johansson-Norgren recovered from a fourth place finish last weekend at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf where Boner took a convincing win….

Warm Weather Shakes Up International Schedule; Birkie Becomes 5th Worldloppet

Eliassen, Boner Win Relocated Ski Classic at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf Poor snow conditions in Oberammergau, Germany, leading up to the König Ludwig Lauf, forced the cancellation of the sixth Visma Ski Classics race. However, thanks to some quick organizing from Seefeld resort, the professional race was decided to be relocated to the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Tirol, Austria, just four days before the event. Seefeld has hosted cross-country ski events twice for the Winter Olympics and features 200 kilometers of groomed ski trails. Initially a 50 k event, the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf extended the course for the Ski Classics event making a challenging three-lap, 65 k event while also offering a 22 k citizens race. Petter Eliassen took his third Ski Classics win of the season just beating Johan Kjølstad in a sprint finish. Seraina Boner of Team Exspirit took her first win of the season on the women’s race. Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go) and Kjølstad (Team…

Gjerdalen Bests Eliassen, Johansson-Norgren Wins Again at Manmade Marcialonga

Two kilometers of manmade snow is one thing, but covering 70 k with artificial snow is another story. Yet, despite no natural snow, the organizers of Italy’s Marcialonga, the fifth event in the Visma Ski Classics, managed to pull-off the classical-style Worldloppet race event on Sunday with complete snow coverage over the 70 k course. Testing the tracks first were the women marathoners, who started 10 minutes prior to the men. At the 18 k mark, Sweden’s Britta Johansson-Norgren and Austrian Katerina Smutna broke away from the other 937 female competitors and skied together until the infamously most difficult part of the course, the Cascata climb. With 2.5 k of uphill to the finish in Cavalese, the real battle for first between Norgren and Smutna began. In the end, Norgren bested Smutna by 1.4 seconds, claiming her first Marcialonga win in a time of 3:13:50.7. It was her third-consecutive Ski Classics…

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

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CXC Team Dominates Noquemanon Ski Marathon

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…