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Wild Rumpus Sports

Anxiety, Forecast Temps High as Birkie Approaches

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

By Gavin Kentch

With just over a week to go until the first marathon event of the 2017 American Birkebeiner, race officials are measuring ice thickness on Lake Hayward, groomers are taking protective action, and 13,000 skiers around the country are becoming amateur meteorologists.

First, the facts. The 29-kilometer Kortelopet race is currently scheduled for next Friday, Feb. 24. The 15 k Prince Haakon is set for that afternoon. The main event, the 44th American Birkebeiner, a 50 k freestyle or 55 k classic point-to-point race from Cable to Hayward, starts at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The Birkie trail “is currently in good condition with a 4-8 [inch] solid base,” Nancy Knutson, marketing and communications director at the Birkie, wrote to FasterSkier on Thursday afternoon. (That’s closer to eight inches north of OO, at roughly the midway point of the trail, and closer to four inches at points south, Birkie officials wrote on Facebook earlier this week.) The entire Birkie trail closes to skiers effective midnight tonight until further notice. Lake ice at the end of the course is currently a healthy 16 to 20 inches.

Oh, and the weather is going to get somewhat warm between now and race day.

Here’s the extended forecast for Cable from the Weather Underground site:

Weather Underground extended forecast screenshot for Cable.

Here’s the comparable forecast for Hayward from the ECMWF European model, showing predicted weather and precipitation for the afternoon of each day:

ECMWF European model extended forecast screenshot for Hayward.

While forecasts that far in advance are notoriously unreliable, skiers nonetheless have good reason to be concerned about the potential viability of racing in northern Wisconsin on either or both of next Thursday or Friday.

“Hayward, we have a problem” Birkie aficionado Ari Ofsevit titled a post on his blog on Wednesday of this week. (Ofsevit’s blog,, promises to be required reading over the next week. Ofsevit is an enthusiastic elite-wave skier and Birkie supporter whose site has no official affiliation with the race.)

Ofsevit explained some of his predictions, and the models he was looking at, in a Thursday email to FasterSkier. “It’s going to be real warm,” he wrote. “There’s some base, but it’s not as much as most years.” He continued, “I fear for south-facing hills. It’s still better than rain, though. That’s what sunk the Birkie in 2000: two-foot deep puddles at low points on the trail.”

Summarizing hours spent poring over weather models, Ofsevit wrote, “The good news: the models have a strong signal for a snowstorm next Friday. 6 of the past 8 model runs have shown a strong (6″+) snowstorm next Thursday into Friday. That would be nothing short of a miracle. This will be what to watch.”

So what does he predict? “All in all, I’d say there’s a 40% chance that there’s enough snow on the course for a full race, and a 60% chance there’s enough at least to OO (and maybe back). I think there’s a 50% chance that there’s a snowstorm on Friday. Assuming these are independent (that warmth doesn’t mean snow or not) there’s a 20% chance the race is canceled, a 10% chance the race is significantly shortened and a 70% chance the race is able to run the full course. This is mostly dependent on the snowstorm. And I’m pulling these numbers out of my behind.”

For those of you wanting to play with the data yourselves, Ofsevit explains that “there are a lot” of weather models out there. “The three big ones are the GFS (American model), ECMWF (European model) and CMC (Canadian model) which go out 10-16 days. The GFS and CMC have output here. The Euro is much more proprietary, but you can see model output here. They come out twice a day (4x per day for the GFS) and I’ll be tracking them very frequently in the next week.”

Ofsevit promises frequent updates on this topic over the next week.

Speaking on behalf of the Birkie, Knutson wrote that, “With warmer weather forecast for the coming days, we’re continually monitoring conditions and taking necessary actions to preserve the trail as best we can for race week.” The closure of the entire Birkie Trail at midnight tonight is the most obvious such response. (The Birkie Ridge loop trails will remain open, as well as myriad other trails in the greater Cable area. Those trails are not hoping to host thousands of skiers next week.)

As of Thursday afternoon, race officials “have not made any changes to our Birkie Week plans,” Knutson wrote. But they are “discussing possible contingencies should they be needed. There are any number of contingencies potentially in play depending on what situation, if any, presents itself. For now, it’s full steam ahead!”

(Ofsevit has speculated about alternate possibilities, including a scenario in which “the trail will be skiable north of OO and not to the south. The new Classic trail gives the option of turning the race back at OO and finishing it in Cable, although this would be operationally difficult, it may be an option. We’d certainly miss out on the Hayward finish, but if it’s not skiable and the ice isn’t safe.”)

So what’s next? Knutson concluded, “As always, the safety of our participants is first and foremost in our minds, followed by our goal of creating the best possible participant experience for all. … We hope Mother nature has good things in store for us and we will address changing weather conditions and what that means to Birkie events, if anything, as Birkie week draws nearer. Given the infrastructure it takes to prepare for 13,000 skiers, including the construction of the International Bridge, we need about 4 days to make it all happen. If we find ourselves in a position where we need to adjust event plans, we will share the update by Tuesday afternoon at the latest.”

Knutson promised “daily briefings” at the main Birkie webpage, the event’s Facebook page, and their Twitter feed for interested skiers. Which probably includes around 13,000 people right about now.


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:

— 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:

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:

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:

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:

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

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


France Dominates Dolomitenlauf, FIS Worldloppet Cup Opener

22.01.2017, Loipe Obertilliach, AUT, 43. Dolomitenlauf, Freestyle, im Bild Gruppenbild // during the 43rd Dolomitenlauf Freestyle race at Obertilliach, Austria on 2017/01/22, EXPA Pictures © 2017 PhotoCredit: EXPA/ Michael Gruber

Men’s and women’s top six at the 43rd Dolomitenlauf on Jan. 22 in Obertilliach, Austria. (Photo: EXPA/ Michael Gruber)

The 43rd Dolomitenlauf opened the FIS Worldloppet Cup season last weekend in Obertilliach, Austria. This was originally scheduled to be the second stage of the International Ski Federation (FIS) marathon circuit, however the first stage at La Foulée Blanche in France was canceled earlier this month. Conditions were reported as ideal with sunshine.

Ivan Perrillat Boiteux of France racing to the win in front of Switzerland's Candide Pralong at the 43rd Dolomitenlauf 42 k skate race on Jan. 22 in Obertilliach, Austria. (Photo: EXPA/ Michael Gruber)

Ivan Perrillat Boiteux of France racing to the win in front of Switzerland’s Candide Pralong at the 43rd Dolomitenlauf 42 k skate race on Jan. 22 in Obertilliach, Austria. (Photo: EXPA/ Michael Gruber)

On the men’s side, eight out of the top 10 places all went to French skiers, with the top 10 consisting of four teams and the 10th place finisher just 30 seconds behind the winner.  Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux of the Haute-Savoie Nordic Team took the overall win in 1:39:02.8, outlasting Candide Pralong (Team GEL Interim Rossignol) by 2.2 seconds.  Perillat-Boiteux’s teammate, Loïc Guigonnet finished third (+9.9), before first-time FIS Marathon Cup competitor Kari Varis of Finland (+11.2).

“Our team is very strong this season and I am happy to have this team,” Perrillat-Boiteux said, according to a FIS Worldloppet Cup press release. “I also love the competition with the Rossignol team. Of course, I am happy about my victory today and about wearing the red bib now, but this was only the first race of a long and hard season.”

On the women’s side, it was another dominant performance from last season’s overall winner Aurélie Dabudyk, of France and the Haute-Savoie Nordic Team, who won the race in 1:49:57.4 by 53.5 seconds over runner-up Rahel Imoberdorf of Switzerland. Seraina Boner (GEL Interim Rossignol) rounded out the podium in third, 1 minute and 51.4 seconds out of first. Tatjana Mannima of Estonia made her comeback debut after having a baby and finished fourth (+5:06.3).

I am very happy today. It was just a perfect race for me,” Dabudyk said. “The conditions were great and also my shape. At the beginning of the final lap I attacked Rahel for the first time but it didn`t work out, so I tried it again and again and finally I got away from her.”

The FIS Marathon Cup/Wordloppet series continues Jan. 29 with the Marcialonga in Trentino in Italy.

Results: Men | Women

— Ian Tovell


Nygaard, Rocheva Take Vasaloppet China; Fritz Top American

Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) (green bib) crosses the finish line ahead of Jens Eriksson (Team Santander) (bib 11) to win the Vasaloppet China in Changchun, China, on Wednesday. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/

Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) (green bib) crosses the finish line ahead of Jens Eriksson (Team Santander) (11) to win the Vasaloppet China in Changchun, China, on Wednesday. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/

Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) and Olga Rocheva (Russian Marathon Team) took the overall victories in the Vasaloppet China, a 50-kilometer classic mass start race that covered two 25 k laps through Jingyuetan Park in Changchun, China, earlier Wednesday. The race also doubled as Stage 3 of the six-stage China Tour de Ski. Lauren Fritz (APU) placed 18th to lead the four American skiers competing in the Tour.

At the front of the pack the women’s race was all Rocheva, who won in 2:29:01, nearly two minutes over Swedish skier Britta Johansson Norgren (Team Lager 157). The two were together through a halfway sprint at 25 k, according to a Visma Ski Classics press release, at which point Rocheva sped up to take the sprint, then continued her acceleration to open a gap that she kept all the way to the finish. Norgren ultimately crossed the line 1:43 back of Rocheva. There was another sizeable gap to Japanese skier Masako Ishida (Team United Bakeries) in third (+4:14).

Competition was much tighter in the men’s field, with the top eight skiers all finishing within six seconds of each other. Nygaard, from Norway, won the group sprint, crossing the line in 2:11:36. Jens Eriksson (Team Santander), from Sweden, and Norwegian Stian Hoelgaard (Team LeasePlan) were credited with the same time in second and third.

“The first lap was really easy and everyone was just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” Nygaard said in a Visma Ski Classics press release. “After the sprint” at 25 k, “we increased the pace and the second lap was quite fast skiing until the last five kilometers when we started to prepare ourselves for the sprint. I was so tired in the end and expected others to pass me but they didn’t. I’m so happy to win this race. Now I will go back home and get some sleep.”

The Visma Ski Classics marathon skiers at the top of the standings largely flew in from Europe relatively recently, and were all dealing with some degree of jetlag.

But Fritz and the American men have been in China for close to a week now. Fritz, as noted, was 18th in the women’s race, finishing in just over three hours, 33:33 back from Rocheva.

In the men’s race, Jack Novak (APU) was the top American for the first time in this year’s China Tour de Ski, finishing 25th in 2:34:00 (+22:24). Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) was right behind him in 26th (+26:19). And Skyler Kenna (APU) was 29th (+29:44).

None of the four victors from the opening two sprint stages earned any points today. Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) finished 40th in a leisurely 4:42, outside the points. China’s Zhu Mingliang, Man Dandan, and Li Xin did not complete the race. It is not necessary to finish all stages to be eligible for the overall victory in the China Tour de Ski.

Results (both genders)

— Gavin Kentch


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.


— Ian Tovell (Aleks Tangen contributed translating)


Eliassen, Smutná Kick Off Ski Classics with Prologue Win


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.”


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.”


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.



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


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

About 200 men and 60 women will line up in the elite waves of the 43rd American Birkebeiner on Saturday at Telemark Resort in Cable, Wis.

About 200 men and 60 women will line up in the elite waves of the 43rd American Birkebeiner on Saturday at Telemark Resort in Cable, Wis.

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 was racing in Europe, but this year she will be aiming to become the winningest athlete in Birkie history. She is currently tied with Manfred Nagel of Austria for the most Birkie wins with three apiece.

Holly Brooks after winning the 42 k Dolomitenlauf on Sunday in Lienz, Austria, with second-place finisher Aurelie Dabudyk of France (left) and third-place finisher Antonella Confortola (right). (Photo: FIS/Dolomitenlauf)

Holly Brooks (c) after winning last year’s Dolomitenlauf in Lienz, Austria, with second-place finisher Aurelie Dabudyk of France (left) and third-place finisher Antonella Confortola (right). (Photo: FIS/Dolomitenlauf)

The women’s race features a deep international field with eight seeded starters hailing from outside the U.S.  This includes the top four in the FIS Worldloppet Cup overall standings including Dabudyk and her Haute-Savoie teammate Elisa Brocart of Italy in second.

Although they are newcomers to the Birkie, Czech Klara Moravcova and Switzerland’s Rahel Imoberdorf currently rank third and fourth in the Worldloppet standings, respectively. The runner-up in the 2014 Birkie and 2006 Olympic bronze medalist Antonella Confortola of Italy will also be on the hunt for the Birkie title.

Although many top-10 finishers from last year are missing from the 2016 start list, the field has significant domestic depth. For the Stratton Mountain School T2 team, Erika Flowers will take her first crack at the Birkie fresh off a win at the Craftsbury Supertour and fifth place in the 20 k freestyle mass start at 2016 U.S. nationals.

“I hear the fans are pretty amazing so I am looking forward to skiing by some of the more iconic spots on the course …I’ve heard a lot about Powerline, OO, Bitch Hill, shotskis, drummers, hecklers…the whole scene should be pretty exciting!” Flowers wrote in an email.

Other domestic talent includes Mary Rose of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, as well as Rosie Frankowski (who won the Qaniq Challenge last month in Valdez, Alaska) and Lauren Fritz of Alaska Pacific University.

Caitlin Patterson of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project is notably missing from the start list as she is currently representing the U.S. on the World Cup. SuperTour skiers Annie Hart and Chelsea Holmes are listed on the start list but will not be racing.

Bonaldi is Back, Along with Babikov

Italy’s Sergio Bonaldi (r) outlasts three Frenchmen en route to his second American Birkebeiner victory on Saturday in the 42nd annual Birkie in Hayward, Wis. (Photo: Darlene Prois/ABSF)

Italy’s Sergio Bonaldi (r) outlasts three Frenchmen en route to his second American Birkebeiner victory at last year’s 42nd American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis. (Photo: Darlene Prois/ABSF)

The men’s race also features a talented field, including last year’s champion Sergey Bonaldi of France. As a two-time Birkie champion, he returns as a favorite, however, this year he will be missing the support of any Team Salomon Italia racers who helped landed him on the top step last year.

The most well-represented international team is French team Gel Interim Rossignol fielding four racers including current Marathon Cup leader Bastien Poirrier and consistent Birkie contender Benoit Chauvet. Another French athlete Ivan Perrillat Boiteux of team Houte-Savoie currently sits second in the Worldloppet Cup and will be looking to break up the Gel Interim Rossignol contingent.

Another contender will be Canadian World Cup skier Ivan Babikov. Although he decided last minute to compete, Babikov is no stranger to the Birkie as he has three races and one win in 2008 under his belt.

2012 American Birkebeiner men's 50 k skate podium: (left to right) Matt Liebsch in second, Tad Elliott in first, and Brian Gregg in third.

2012 American Birkebeiner men’s 50 k skate podium: (left to right) Matt Liebsch in second, Tad Elliott in first, and Brian Gregg in third.

For the Americans, Tad Elliott, Matt Liebsch and Brian Gregg have a strong history at the Birkie as the trio swept the podium in 2012, with Elliott leading the charge and Liebsch claimed a victory in 2009. Elliot has come back strong from illness to claim the 30 k freestyle title at 2016 U.S. nationals and poses a threat if the race comes down to closing tactics.  Kris Freeman is another mainstay of American distance skiing and will bring his extensive international race experience to his first Birkie appearance.

Although the weather is disconcerting to many Midwesterners, it hasn’t phased Liebsch.

“I am pumped!” Liebsch wrote in an email. “Bigger euro field so it will be deeper but I am excited for a ‘warm’ birkie.  I think skis could play a big factor in the race and I am excited that it could be a very fast race.”

Lex Treinen of Alaska Pacific University looks to repeat his feat as the top American finisher, after placing fifth last year. He is joined by APU teammates David Norris and Tyler Kornfield, both coming off strong recent results on the SuperTour circuit.

The race can be followed live on Xcountry live starting at 8 a.m. Central on Saturday.

Men’s seeded elite start list | Women’s seeded elite start list

— Kaitlyn Patterson


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

The International Bridge leading onto Hayward's Main Street in the final meters of the American Birkebeiner.

The International Ski Bridge, leading onto Hayward’s Main Street in the final meters of the American Birkebeiner, is complete a couple days out from the 43rd American Birkebeiner from Cable to Hayward, Wis.

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.

They said it would rain, and rain it did. A steady rain pelted Highway 63 between Cable and Hayward Thursday evening with more rain in the forecast Friday.

They said it would rain, and rain it did. A steady rain pelted Highway 63 between Cable and Hayward Thursday evening with more rain in the forecast Friday.

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 line on Saturday.

With temperatures forecasted to top out in the low 40s with rain on Friday, organizers decided not to groom the new snow on the course that fell early in the week to protect the base underneath. To further preserve the trail, the ungroomed Birkie course was closed to all skiers starting 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. It will not be groomed until Friday night.

An illustration of the rain and wintry mix (and thunder and lightning) that graced the Birkie Trail Thursday evening.

An illustration of the rain and wintry mix (and thunder and lightning) that graced the Birkie Trail Thursday evening.

Thursday brought wind and spring-like air that warmed to the mid-30s as forecasted. The skiing on the groomed Korte and Birkie Ridge Loop trails was superb before the rain and mixed precipitation started in the late afternoon.

Despite the great skiing, race week has proven to be of limited value for ski and wax testing due to the dramatically changing conditions and the ungroomed, closed course. Although race wax recommendations have been released, the elite skiers’ fleets will be whittled down Saturday morning after the course is groomed Friday night.

Although the skaters have enough variables to consider, the conditions are proving to be a nightmare for classic skiers. Skins or zeros just might be the ticket and Gear West is offering gift cards for the first male and female finishers on skin skis.

Year after year, each Birkie has its own story and the variables this year are just adding a bit more intrigue. Updated trail conditions can be found on the Birkie Trail website. A live stream of the race can be followed on Saturday at Xcountry Live.

— Kaitlyn Patterson


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


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.

Due to the shortened race course, the women were not caught by the men, a factor that can change the dynamics of the race. “I had a good race. It was fun to have a truly women’s competition when we didn’t get caught by the men,” Boner said in a press release.  “I tried everything I had in the uphills but the others managed to stay with me and Britta was just too strong in the finish.”

The men’s race turned into a duel between Norwegians Petter Eliassen and Tord Asle Gjerdalen. In a scene similiar to Marcialonga, Gjerdalen edged Eliassen on the final stretch, but today by an even smaller margin- just 0.17 seconds.  John Kristian Dahl made a Norwegian podium sweep, taking third  (+26.58) in his first podium since winning La Sgambeda.

Eliassen still has a 110 point lead in the overall standings over Gjerdalen and both are over 200 points clear of Johan Kjølstad in third place.

After posting a series of podium finishes, Boner approaches Smutna in the overall standings- 900 points to Smutna’s 950.  Johansson-Norgren continues to sit atop the overall standings with 1065 points.

The Vasaloppet is the next on the Classics schedule to be held March, 6th.

Results | Overall standings 


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


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.


CXC Marathon Cup information

— Alex Kochon contributed reporting