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 victory.
“Kristina Smutna was so strong. It was a hard fight on the final climb up to Cavalese. I trained the whole summer on getting stronger in the finish, so I am very glad to be the first today,” Norgren said in a FIS Worldloppet press release.
Smutna took second overall, and Switzerland’s Seraina Boner crossed in third, 3:59 after the race winner Norgren.
In the men’s event, 4,798 participants from over 10 different countries completed the race, but Norway came away victorious with the top-five spots.
Once again, the Cascata climb determined who, of the 20 favorites in the lead, would eventually win.
With 10 k to go, Petter Eliassen of Norway moved to the front of the group. Two of his compatriots Tord Asle Gjerdalen and Stian Hoelgaard followed suit as he pushed the pace towards the final climb.
With 800 meters of uphill left, Gjerdalen overtook Eliassen’s yellow bib and crossed the finish line in Cavalese as the race winner in a time of 2:49:49.1.
“I was not supposed to increase the speed that early, but I took the risk and made it in the end. I want to thank all the people working for this event, the snow was incredibly good despite the fact that it was all dry around us,” Gjerdalen said in a Worldloppet press release.
Eliassen finished 5.3 seconds later for second place, and Hoelgaard in third, 5.4 seconds behind Gjerdalen.
Racing picks up again on Feb. 13-14 in France with the 68 k freestyle La Transjurasienne Worldloppet event.
— Gabby Naranja