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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 United Bakeries) were part of a group of four that broke away from the field on the final lap of the race.  However, Tore Bjørserth Berdal and Tord Asle Gjerdalen were unable to keep pace with the pair on the final steep climb. The title was determined on the homestretch where Eliassen edged Kjølstad by less than one second. Gjerdalen frm (Team Santander) claimed third after winning the Marcialonga last weekend.

According to a Ski Classics press release, Kjølstad was happy with his race as Marcialonga and La Diagonela were disappointments for him after finishing 18th and 23rd.

On the women’s side, Boner broke Britta Johansson-Norgren’s winning streak. Johansson-Norgren (Team Lager 157) has won the past three Ski Classics races but she struggled to double-pole the challenging course with 1300 meters of climbing and finished fourth, nearly eight minutes behind the leader.

Although Boner has won the Ski Classics three times, this was her first win of the season. She dominated the race ahead of Katerina Smutna (Team Santander) winning by over three minutes.

Smutna was the second across the line but was given a three-minute penalty for allowing a coach to help her clean her skis. This moved Astrid Øyre Slind into second place for her first Ski Classics podium.

According to a Ski Classics press release, Boner said she felt great right from the beginning and three laps went by in a “zone” for her. She was really pleased to be the number one today as it has been a challenging season for her so far.

Johansson-Norgren remains at the top of the overall standings and Eliassen extended his lead over Gjerdalen.

The racers were pleased with the course and efforts by the race organizers to host a high-profile race in short notice and are excited to see more races at the venue, including cross-country skiing world championships in 2019.

“Hopefully this is the start of a long cooperation between us and Seefeld, I believe it could have a natural place in the Visma Ski Classics calendar for years to come,” said David Nilsson, Ski Classics CEO said according to a press release.

Results  | Overall Standings

 

Toblach-Cortina to be Held on Alternate Course

Event 7 of the Ski Classics series is the Toblach-Cortina to be held in northern Italy. Due to warm weather, the race will not be held on the full course but instead on an alternate 32 k course that starts in Prags/Braies and finishes in Toblach.

Although it is a disappointment, racers and organizers were pleased a full course could be pulled together at Seefeld.

“We are delighted that the local organizers in Toblach has secured the race next weekend, even if the snow conditions make it impossible to do the full course. For our Pro Team Athletes we are happy that we had the tough race in Seefeld last weekend, which makes a 32km course more easy to live with,” Nilsson said in a press release.

 

Fifth FIS Worldloppet to be Relocated to American Birkebeiner

After unseasonably warm weather devastated the course and artificial snow deposits of the Tartu Marathon in Estonia, the decision was made to designate the American Birkebeiner as the fifth stage of the FIS Worldloppet Cup.

The American Birkebeiner has been designated as a FIS Wordloppet Cup race for the past three years. The Birkie previously alternated with Finlandia Hiihto but they turned down the offer, allowing the Birkie to keep the designation in consecutive years.

Tartu asked if they could host it this year as it interferes with the World Cup schedule next year. To American Birkebeiner Executive Director Ben Popp, it only seemed fair to share the opportunity.

“There’s now 20 Worldloppet races and nine race weekends on the calendar, so there’s always that give and take to try to give everybody that opportunity to host the Marathon Cup,” he said in a 2015 interview with FasterSkier.

However, when the cancellation of the Tartu Marathon became inevitable, the Birkie was a natural replacement.

“The American Birkebeiner is a great race and loved by athletes. It is definitely the best substitute for Tartu Marathon, as it has a similar course, just in different technique,” said Epp Paal, the race coordinator of FIS Worldloppet Cup, according to a FIS press release.

The American Birkebeiner is excited to host yet another FIS Wordloppet Cup event and the course is currently in great shape with a favorable forecast.

The race will take place Feb. 20 on the traditional course from Cable to Hayward, Wis.

— Kaitlyn Patterson

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