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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

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

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

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

Vasaloppet Comes Down to a Field Sprint 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men’s Results | Women’s Results 

Overall Ski Classics Standings

 

Worldloppet Returns to Europe at Bieg Piastow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men’s results      |    Men’s overall standings

Women’s results |  Women’s overall standings

— Kaitlyn Patterson

arthritis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for a more in-depth recap.

Results (top 25): Skate | Classic

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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

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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

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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

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Gregg Edges Liebsch in Seeley Hills Classic; Naryshkina Dominates Women’s Race

 The women's and men's winners of the Seeley Hills Classic, Natalia Naryshkina (l) and Brian Gregg (r) took the lead in the CXC Marathon Cup after the first race.

The women’s and men’s winners of the Seeley Hills Classic, Natalia Naryshkina (l) and Brian Gregg (r) with race organizer Dennis Kruse. Naryshkina and Gregg lead the CXC Marathon Cup after the first race.

By Kaitlyn Patterson

It was a cold morning in Seeley, Wis., so cold that the traditional 42-kilometer Seeley Hills Classic, the first race of the CXC Marathon Cup, was slightly shortened to 38 k with temps at -5 degrees Fahrenheit at the start and not predicted to rise above zero degrees.

Seeley Hills traditionally draws strong fields to race exclusively classic technique on the American Birkebeiner’s famous ski trails. The race starts and ends at the “OO” trailhead, the Birkie’s halfway point.

Brian Gregg leads Matt Liebsch (r) and Nick Power (l) during the Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

Brian Gregg leads Matt Liebsch (r) and Nick Power (l) during the Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

In the men’s field, Brian Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus), Matt Liebsch (Gear West/Salomon), and Nick Power (CXC Team) established themselves as the lead group halfway through Saturday’s race. Liebsch and Gregg later dropped Powers around 33 k, but neither could get away.

“We made a number of moves on each other but were unable to break the other,” Gregg wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “We train together a lot and we know each others strengths and weaknesses.”

However, a badly timed fall from Liebsch in the final kilometers gave Gregg the lead coming into the final stretch, which proved crucial for the win.

“With 2 km to go I planted a pole between my legs which cost me the first position,” Liebsch wrote. “That proved key as we were catching short course skiers and without an open lane I could not challenge Brian on the short double pole finish zone.

“That said I don’t know if I could have found the strength to get in front him, he is quick in the finish and I know it from training and racing with him a lot over the years,” Liebsch added.

Gregg edged Liebsch by just one second, winning in 1:52:40. Powers took third, 1:32 back.

Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) racing to a 10-minute win in the 2016 Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) racing to a 10-minute win in the 2016 Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday in Seeley, Wis. (Photo: CXC)

In the women’s field, Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) dominated the race, winning by more than 10 minutes in 2:10:10 for her second-consecutive Seeley Hills victory.

“I went first and tried to go with a small group of men,” Naryshkina wrote in a Skype message to FasterSkier. “My skis were well prepared by CXC coach Bruce [Manske], maybe it helped me win. … I want to thank the organizer Dennis Kruse and all the volunteers who helped him.”

Naryshkina is coming off a strong showing at U.S. nationals last week in Houghton, Mich., where she reached the classic-sprint final and placed sixth. Ten minutes and 10 seconds behind her, Elaine Nelson (Duluth, Minn.) placed second and Josie Nelson (Minneapolis, Minn.) finished just another second back in third.

“I had a very good day today, but it was very cold. My hands and toes were very cold in the beginning of the race, but somehow warmed up later in the race,” Naryshkina, who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, but spends her winters in Cable, Wis., said in a CXC press release. “The classic track was in excellent shape and I raced most of the course at a consistent pace and went a little bit faster towards the end. My skis worked very well during the whole race, glide and kick was perfect.”

Upsides to the cold conditions included straightforward waxing and great kick.

“Conditions on the Birkie Trail are fantastic,” Gregg wrote. “With 6 tracks wide the entire course. Cold temperatures made for fantastic classic conditions with great grip.”

Although Gregg leads the CXC Marathon Cup after the first race, the leader’s bib will change hands over the next month as the only other CXC series race Gregg plans to do is the Birkie.

Depending on her 2016 race schedule, Naryshkina may be a force in the CXC Marathon overall standings. Naryshkina won five of the Marathon Cup events in 2015 in addition to winning the classic race at the Birkie.

The post-race party at the Sawmill Saloon in Seeley is a favorite for skiers to enjoy fellowship and share race stories. Just over one month from now, the Seeley Saloon will host many more skier gatherings as racers reconvene in the Seeley/Hayward area to enjoy the biggest ski event in North America, the American Birkiebeiner.

Results

CXC Marathon Cup information

— Alex Kochon contributed reporting

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Eliassen Dominates Jizerska 50; Norgren Leads Swedish Double-Poling Sweep

After 15 loops around the 3.3 k course, Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go demolished the Visma Ski Classics field at the Jizerska 50 in the Czech Republic.

Double-poling the whole way, Eliassen finished with a gap of three minutes and 14 seconds to Johan Kjølstad of Team United Bakeries.

“It was unexpected that there would be so much distance,” Eliassen told TV2, according to a translation. “They probably slowed a bit and watched each other [for the finish].”

Indeed, true fight of the race was for second place, with Kjølstad edging Anders Aukland of Team Santander and Daniel Richardsson of Team Exspirit by just over a second.

After finishing third in La Sgambeda, the first race of the Ski Classics series, Kjølstad now leads the overall standings by 35 points over Eliassen, with John Kristian Dahl – who won La Sgambeda but finished 17th in the Jizerska – in third.

“That was the target today,” Kjølstad told TV2. “I have to be very happy.”

With the many-lap format, racers were pulled as they were caught by the leading group. That meant that just 26 of the 120 men who started in the elite field actually finished.

In the women’s race, it was Britta Johansson Norgren of Team Lager 157 who put on the double-poling show. In fact, all three of the podium finishers – all of them Swedes – double-poled the whole course.

Norgren bested Lina Korsgren Team Pioneer Investments by a minute and one second.

“It shows that Swedish girls are far ahead when it comes to double-poling,” Norgren told Sweden’s TV12 (as reported by Längd.se). “It was really tough [for the first 10 k]. But I had great skis and later when I got a small gap it was just to go and try to keep the momentum… my form is good and I really wanted to win here.”

Sara Lindborg of Team Skistart.com, finished third, another minute and 14 seconds back.

All three were previously teammates at Team Ski Pro Am, the first and only all-women team on the Ski Classics circuit. That team continues without them, with Emilia Lindstedt currently wearing the youth women’s leader bib.

With the win Norgren, who finished second in La Sgambeda, moved into the overall Ski Classics lead, 50 points ahead of Katerina Smutna of Team Santander. Korsgren is in third, another 30 points back.

The next Ski Classics race is La Diagonela in Zuoz, Switzerland, a 66 k race which may be the first of this year’s series to have enough snow to be held on its full race course.

Results

Ski Classics standings

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FIS Races Precede Ushuaia Loppet and Marchablanca

A Brazilian skier waits for his start during the FIS classic technique sprint qualification round on July 25 at the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area near Ushuaia, Argentina. (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet)

A Brazilian skier waits for his start during the FIS classic technique sprint qualification round on July 25 at the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area near Ushuaia, Argentina. (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet)

(Press release)
The Brazilian Winter Sports Federation in collaboration with the Club Andino Ushuaia recently held a set of FIS races at the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area near Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.  Results are available at http://data.fis-ski.com/cross-country/results.html.  The FIS races are part of a body of events in the region’s “International Month of Cross Country Skiing” which also consists of the 21-kilometer Marchablanca in classic technique and the 42 k Ushuaia Loppet in free technique.
The Marchablanca is a traditional and family friendly event for hundreds of skiers.  An elite category does exist and elite skiers are called to the line early in order to start first.
For the first time ever, the Ushuaia Loppet will be a full Worldloppet member and mark the beginning of the 2015-16 Worldloppet calendar.  Registration for the Ushuaia Loppet has reached 110 skiers from 18 countries, including Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland.
Conditions have been the best they have been in 15 years.  There are over 30 kilometers total of groomed trails at the Jerman and the Provincial Cross Country Ski Trail (PIPEF), both within 30 minutes of Ushuaia.  More information is available at http://www.ushuaialoppet.com/.

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Eliassen Takes It All in Årefjällsloppet, Ski Classics Final

 

Seraina Boner of Switzerland and Team Coop and Petter Eliassen of Norway and Team LeaseplanGO won Årefjällsloppet on Saturday, the final of the the nine events in the 2015 Swix Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Seraina Boner (l) of Switzerland and Team Coop and Petter Eliassen of Norway and Team LeasePlan Go won the Årefjällsloppet on March 28, the last of nine events in the 2015 Swix Ski Classics marathon series. (Photo: Ski Classics)

By Inge Scheve

Petter Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go) continued his winning streak in the Swix Ski Classics final 47-kilometer marathon, Årefjällsloppet, on Saturday in Sweden, which also earned him the overall title as Ski Classics champion. Seraina Boner (Team Coop) won the women’s race.

Once again, it was an all-Norwegian men’s podium in the Ski Classics. And once again Eliassen was the strongest in the end, skiing away from Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander about 2 kilometers from the finish. The third Norwegian, John Kristian Dahl of Team United Bakeries snagged the last spot on the podium after edging Anders Aukland of Team Santander at the finish.

In the women’s race, Boner of Switzerland skied away from the rest of the pack in the tough uphill halfway through the race. Swedish World Cup star Sofia Bleckur was second, and Japan’s Masako Ishida of Team United Bakeries took third.

Start of the women in Årefjällsloppet 2015. Photo: Ski Classics

Start of the women in the 2015 Årefjällsloppet. (Photo: Ski Classics)

In from left field

With his victory at Årefjällsloppet, Eliassen made Ski Classics history by winning four consecutive Ski Classics events. The former Norwegian national-team racer, who joined Thomas Alsgaard’s long-distance project Team LeasePlan Go prior to the 2014/2015 season, was considered an outsider for the overall in the beginning of the season. But the rookie marathon racer inched in on the overall race by race.

“It’s actually a bit unreal right now. It will be hard to land after this,” Eliassen told the Norwegian broadcaster TV2 after the race. “But I think the marathon series will be my arena in the future … It’s really nice that the entire team does so well. We should be quite happy with this season.”

His first Ski Classics victory came in the König Luwdiglauf in Germany on Feb. 1, but Eliassen caught the most attention when he won the Vasaloppet two weeks before the Norwegian Birkebeiner. When he won Birkebeinerrennet in Norway last weekend, he cruised into the over yellow leader bib for the final event in Sweden this weekend. And by winning the Årefjallsloppet, he proceeded to take the overall 2015 Ski Classics Champion title by more than 230 points.

Overall Ski Classics results and standings

Årefjällsloppet results

Petter Eliassen won the 2015 Birkebeinerrennet last weekend, and headed into the Swix Ski Classics final this weekend wearing the yellow overall leader bib. Photo: Kent Murdoch

Petter Eliassen won the 2015 Birkebeinerrennet last weekend, and headed into the Swix Ski Classics final this weekend wearing the yellow overall leader bib. (Photo: Kent Murdoch)

Payday

Årefjällsloppet was the last of the nine Ski Classics events of the season, which means that the banquet also included overall awards and a solid payday for many of the pro racers.

In addition to the prize money for Årefjallsloppet itself, 200,000 Euros was awarded at the season-end banquet on Saturday night. The top overall male/female received 8 percent of that (16,000 Euros) plus the prize money for the event (21,000 Euros for each individual win) for a total of roughly $40,000 U.S. dollars. Money was also awarded to the top-six men overall, and the top-three women overall.

Placing fifth in the Årefjällsloppet, Austria’s Kateřina Smutná (Team Silvini Madshus) narrowly beat Boner for the overall women’s title by 75 points. Boner won two of the 2014/2015 Ski Classics events – the first, La Sgambeda, and the last – and reached the podium in every race except the König Ludwiglauf. In placing fifth in the Ski Classics final, Smutna earned 100 points. Had she been 11th or worse, Boner would have been the overall Ski Classics champion. Britta Johansson Norgren of Sweden was 219 points out of second in third overall.

Holly Brooks won the Dolomitenlauf in Austria earlier this season. She has focused on the long-distance events in the FIS Marathon Cup, but raced some of the Ski Classics events as well. (Photo: Thomas ISEP)

Holly Brooks won the Dolomitenlauf in Austria earlier this season. She has focused on the long-distance events in the FIS Marathon Cup, but raced some of the Ski Classics events as well. (Photo: Thomas ISEP)

Holly Brooks, the only American racer in the elite Ski Classics series, placed 16th overall for the season. Brooks only raced the Ski Classics events that were also a part of the FIS Marathon Cup, and those that did not interfere with her other race plans. With one event to go in the 2014/2015 FIS Marathon Cup, Brooks is now narrowly in the lead for the overall title in that circuit.

Increasing interest

The Ski Classics was extended from six events last season to nine events this season, which was the fourth edition of the long-distance series. More teams and more racers participated in the series, and 2014/2015 had a record amount with almost 30 professional teams registered.

The season opened Dec. 13 in Livigno, Italy, with the 15 k La Sgambeda team prologue, a brand-new event and format to the series, followed by the 35 k La Sgambeda classic the next day. Then the race series took a month break and continued with the 50 k Jizerska Padesatka in the Czech Republic on Jan. 11, La Diagonela in Switzerland on Jan. 17, Marcialonga in Italy on Jan. 25, and König Ludwiglauf in Germany on Feb. 1. Four weeks later, the series resumed with the Vasaloppet in Sweden on March 8, followed by the Birkebeinerrennet in Norway on March 21 and the Årefjällsloppet in Sweden on March 28.

Ski Classics Overall: men

  • First place: Petter Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go) 1270 points, 20 percent of total prize money
  • Second: Anders Aukland (Team Santander) 1032 points, 8 percent of total prize money
  • Third: Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) 930 points, 5 percent of total prize money
  • Fourth: Øystein Pettersen (Team United Bakeries) 915 points, 3 percent of total prize money
  • Fifth: Morten Eide Pedersen (Team Coop) 646 points, 2 percent of total prize money
  • Sixth: John Kristian Dahl (Team United Bakeries) 633 points, 1 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Overall: women

  • First place: Kateřina Smutná (Team Silvini Madshus) 1290 points, 20 percent of total prize money
  • Second: Seraina Boner (Team Coop) 1215 points, 8 percent of total prize money
  • Third: Britta Johansson Norgren (Team SkiProAm) 996 points, 5 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Team Champion

Team Satander, 3556 points, 20 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Sprint Champion

Øystein Pettersen, Team United Bakeries, 6 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Youth Champion Men

Anders Høst, LYN Ski, 441 points, 1 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Youth Champion Women

Tone Sundvor, Team Synnfjell, 327 points, 1 percent of total prize money

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Novak, Mannima Win Bieg Piastów; Brooks Fourth

Tatjana Mannima of Estonia and Petr Novak of the Czech Republic are leading the overall FIS Marathon Cup with two events to go. Photo: Worldloppet

Tatjana Mannima of Estonia and Petr Novak of the Czech Republic are leading the overall FIS Marathon Cup with two events to go. (Photo: Worldloppet)

Petr Novak of the Czech Republik and Estonian marathon specialist Tatjana Mannima won Saturday’s 51-kilometer Bieg Piastów classic race in Poland.

With the victory, Mannima move into the FIS Marathon Cup leader’s bib, passing American Holly Brooks by 17 points. Mannima led the FIS Marathon Cup after her victory in the Tartu Marathon earlier this month, but had to turn over the red bib to Brooks after last weekend’s American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis.

Novak increases his gap in the overall FIS Marathon Cup by 89 points over France’s Benoit Chauvet.

The Bieg Piastów served up a race day with challenging-and-changing conditons. The day started with -1-degree Celsius temperatures and some foggy weather, but during the race, the sun burned through the fog, lightening spirits while complicating waxing.

Setting up for a thriller

In the women’s race, the skiers stayed in a pack for around 25 k. Lapping through the stadium, Brooks was caught behind a racer grabbing a drink and had to let the other women go, she explained to the organizers after the race. Brooks never managed to bridge the gap.

That left Mannima, Klara Moravcova of the Czech Republic and France’s Aurelie Dabudyk to battle out the podium places. Mannima won the sprint finish and secured her third classic win on the FIS Marathon Cup this season. Moravcova was second (+3.7) and Dabudyk took third (+5.5). Brooks placed fourth, 3:46.3 off the podium and 3:51.8 behind Mannima in first.

“It was a hard race, but I had very good skis, especially in the downhills,” Mannima said. “I had a big advantage of good glide, which helped me a lot. … I am very happy win here today, and to get the red bib back again. I hope I can now keep it until the end of the season.”

With today’s victory Mannima leads with 427 points, while Brooks in second place has 410 points. Dabudyk is in third place with 354 points. With two races left, it will be a tough fight for the overall victory until the end.

Novak set out with a plan

On the men’s side, the race took a clear direction early on, and by 26 k, only seven men, including the podium contenders, were left in the lead pack. With 10 k to go, Novak and Stanislav Rezac, also of the Czech Republic, made their moves and dropped Chauvet.

The Frenchman was the only one of the former seven racers who was still with them at that point. It looked as if the finish of this year’s La Transjurassiene would be repeated, but Novak made his move on a short uphill before the finish and kept on pushing for first in 2:19:19.7. Rezac finished second (+2.1) and Chauvet battled alone to claim third (+1:58.5).

“After the waxing disaster in the U.S., I came home very disappointed and did not feel well,” Novak told organizers after the race. “On the other hand, it gave me some extra motivation to have a good race today.”

“I wanted to be at the head of the race to control the situation and not to spend too much energy,” he added. “I knew that with Rezac, I would need to save enough energy for the finish sprint. I thought that he would start pushing hard on the last uphill, and I needed to keep up with him there. One k before the finish there was a little bump, and I took my chance and accelerated there. Luckily, I was able to keep the gap until the finish line.”

FIS Marathon Cup overall 

With the victory today, Novak increased his lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Novak now has 404 points. Chauvet is in second place with 315 points, and Sergio Bonaldi of Italy is third with 223 points.

More than 1,500 skiers representing 27 countries participated in Saturday’s 51 k classic marathon.

Complete results & overall FIS Marathon Cup standings

— Inge Scheve

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Rønning, Mannima Win Tartu Marathon; Mannima Takes Overall FIS Marathon Cup Lead

Eldar Rønning - Tartu 2015 - Photo Tartu Ski Marathon

Eldar Rønning celebrates his 2015 Tartu Ski Marathon win on Sunday in Elva, Estonia. (Photo: Tartu Ski Marathon)

 

By Inge Scheve

Eldar Rønning missed the Norwegian national team selection for the World Championships in Falun, but he won Sunday’s 63-kilometer classic Tartu Ski Marathon by about 15 seconds while Tatiana Mannima of Estonia won the women’s race from Otepää to Elva, Estonia.

Røning was impressed with the event, both in terms of the course and the race organization, comparing the race to nothing less than the legendary Vasaloppet.

“Wonderful race, a very good course and race organization. I even could say it may be better than Vasaloppet,” Rønning told the FIS Marathon Cup media after the race.

“Probably, I even have not raced on such good track for 63 km. I definitely recommend to everyone in Norway to come to Tartu Marathon,” he added.

Rønning finished in 2:43:41, while Audun Laugaland, also of Norway, finished 16 seconds later in second place. Rønning’s time for the 63 k classic event was one of the fastest in the history of the race, although still short of the course record.

Tough battles for the podium

For almost half of the race, a six-man group was leading, with Norway’s Rønning, Martin Hammer and Laugaland, Estonia’s Algo Kärp and Martti Himma, and Belarusian Aleksei Ivanov. Before the Palu Service Point, which is at 15 k before the finish, Rønning and Laugaland surged, and dropped the rest of the lead group. Rønning and Laugaland determined the final result in the last kilometer of the race.

“I tried to tire out Eldar with a long sprint, but I had no luck. In the last kilometer, he outraced me,” Laugaland said after the race. “I am very happy with this second place. Together with Eldar we made good speed after we opened up a gap after the sprint price. We decided to work together and to give it a try to just push on. It worked out great. In the end, he was just a bit stronger then me today.”

The two Estonians fought over the last spot on the podium, which Himma took for third.

Due to unsuccessful ski choice, one of the predicted favorites, Kärp, had to admit the defeat.

“Honestly, I’m very disappointed in my today’s performance,” Kärp said. “The most deciding moment was before the start. I chose the classic style of cross-country skis, and compared with other men, I had too much traction.”

Mannima snags overall lead

Hometown favorite Mannima, who also won La Transjurassienne marathon in France last week, won the women’s race by almost five minutes to spare to Antonella Confortola of Italy. Fellow Estonian Triin Ojaste was third, seven minutes behind Mannima.

Mannima cited picking the right skis as a major key to her success.

“It was critical to choose the correct skis today,” Mannima said. “I am very thankful for the waxers who helped me to make the right choice.”

With the Tartu victory, Mannima passes American Holly Brooks for the overall FIS Marathon Cup lead. Brooks chose to sit out the Tartu in order to prepare for the American Birkebeiner next weekend.

“Winning the FIS Marathon Cup is my main goal this year,” Mannima said.

Back on track

In all, nearly 6,370 skiers from almost 30 countries participated in the 43rd Tartu Maraton: 4,994 of them completed the 63 k event, while 1,374 did the shorter 31 k distance.

Race organizers were pleased to be able to run the race on the original 63 k course this year. Although most parts of Estonia suffer from lack of snow this year, but the area around Tartu and Otepää have good snow conditions. Last year, the Tartu ski marathon was canceled due to lack of snow.

Race organizers were curious about the turnout for the Tartu this year. As Vasaloppet is happening one week later then usual due to the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, a lot of athletes who normally participate in the Tartu Marathon as a final preparation for the legendary 90 k race have dropped the Tartu this year. The same goes for several of the FIS Marathon Cup athletes, who skipped the Tartu in order to prepare the next FIS Marathon Cup race, the American Birkebeiner, in Hayward, Wis.

However, Rønning is certainly a merited racer with a strong long-distance record. The same goes for Mannima and the top women on the result list.

Results

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Another Marathon Podium for Brooks in La Transjurassienne

Holly Brooks (left) was second in the 56k classic Transjurassienne in France on Saturday, and increases her lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Tatiana Mannima (center) of Estonia won the race, and Aurelie Dabudyk of France was third. Photo: Salomon Nordic

Holly Brooks (left) placed second in the La Transjurassienne 56 k classic in France on Saturday, increasing her lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Tatjana Mannima (center) of Estonia won the women’s race, and Aurelie Dabudyk of France was third. (Photo: Holly Brooks/Salomon Nordic)

By Inge Scheve

Estonia’s Tatjana Mannima won La Transjurassienne women’s 56 k classic, part of the FIS Marathon Cup series, in 3:09.29.9 hours on Saturday, edging American Holly Brooks by 4.1 seconds and France’s Aurélie Dabudyk by 24 seconds in third.

Stanislav Rezac of the Czech Republic won the men’s race for the sixth time, clocking in at 2:47:08.0, with almost 10 seconds to spare to Petr Novak, also of the Czech Republic. The last spot on the podium became a photo finish sprint between World Cup veteran Jean-Marc Gaillard and Benoit Chauvet, both of France, with Gaillard coming out on top. They finished 1:25.3 and 1:25.4 behind Rezac, respectively.

A fight from the start

The racers literally had to fight their way to the finish.

“It was was grueling! Strong wind and many times the tracks were drifted in,” Brooks wrote in an email about of the windy and exposed terrain, noting that underestimating her food intake made the race extra challenging.

“I was very undernourished for the race, which was entirely my fault. We were out there going HARD for over 3 hours. I should have brought more with me, but I didn’t in the craziness of the morning. The two girls that I was racing with had feeds practically every two kilometers. I was bonking and extremely jealous,” she added.

“I couldn’t see straight, let alone hardly at all approaching the finish line. I didn’t know where I was, and where exactly the other girls were in the end – I just pushed on. Lesson learned.”

Overall, the two-time U.S. Olympian was content with her effort considering she was totally new to the race and the course.

“It’s my first time here, I didn’t know the track, I had never seen the finish so I didn’t really know where to go and what to expect,” she said.

Holly Brooks along the windblown course in the 56k classic Transjurassienne in France. Photo: Salomon Nordic

Holly Brooks along the windblown course in the 56k classic Transjurassienne in France. (Photo: Holly Brooks/Salomon Nordic)

Shooting pain for 55 k

In placing second in the tough French marathon, Brooks also increased her overall lead in the FIS Marathon Cup, but it came at a cost.

“One last hardship today is that my chronic elbow problem is back and extremely inflamed,” she wrote. “The Marcialonga (with 57 k of double-poling two weeks ago) was a bad idea for me given my health history. I went 55 k today with shooting pain in my elbows, so first priority in the Midwest will be to find a good PT.”

Brook plans to race the American Birkebeiner in northern Wisconsin in two weekends on Feb. 21.

“Readers, please let me know if anyone can help me out,” she wrote.

Mannima as the race winner was more than excited to log a FIS Marathon Cup victory. This was her first marathon podium in almost two years.

“I am so happy! It’s so amazing to be back on the podium,” she told race organizers after the race.

“It was a hard race but we three girls worked well together the whole way through. In the end, I felt very good, so I thought I would just give it a go. I pushed hard, and somehow the others couldn’t follow,” she added.

Back on top

Rezac had also been waiting for a podium in the FIS Marathon Cup for the last two years.

“I am very happy that I could win this race again,” said the 42-year-old marathon veteran, adding that he lost count of how many times he had won the Transjurassienne.

“I didn’t know that I had already won it that many times, but it’s a really nice race and I like to ski here,” he said when FIS announcers told him it was his sixth victory.

Rezac, too, was excited to be back on the FIS Marathon Cup podium.

“It’s a long time since I won a FIS Marathon Cup! My next races will normally be the Vasaloppet and the Bieg Piastów [in Poland].”

Stanislav Rezac of the Czech Republic (center) won the Transjurassienne 2015, with Petr Novak, also of the Czech Republic, in 2nd place and Jean Marc Gaillard of France (right) in 3rd. Photo: Salomon Nordic

Stanislav Rezac of the Czech Republic (center) won the Transjurassienne 56 k classic on Saturday, with Petr Novak, also of the Czech Republic, in second and Jean-Marc Gaillard of France (right) in third. (Photo: Holly Brooks/Salomon Nordic)

Increased the lead in overall FIS Marathon Cup

Brooks and Novak continue to lead the overall FIS Marathon Cup, which means they get to keep racing in the red leader bibs. Brooks has 260 points after four of the nine events in the 2015 Marathon Cup, while Dabyduk has 214 points and Mannima has 167 points.

“It was really a great girls race today with us three working together and battling throughout the whole race and until the end,” Brooks wrote. “I am really happy that I could extend my lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup, and am now looking forward to going home and enjoying some time off before the American Birkebeiner.”

She is skipping the next FIS Marathon Cup race, the Tartu Skimarathon in Estonia.

“I’m assuming that Mannima will win [the Tartu], and if that’s the case she’ll be 7 points ahead of me and wear the red bib in the Birkie. My goal will be to get it back,” Brooks wrote.

In the men’s overall, Novak has 280 points, while Chauvet has 195 points and Toni Livers of Switzerland has 150 points. Livers was on the start list for the Transjurassienne, but was sick and unable to race this weekend. Both Brooks and Novak are next headed to the American Birkie.

Wait – there’s more!

Many of the elite skiers racing in the 56k classic FIS Marathon Cup on Saturday will also take on Sunday’s 68 k freestyle event.

Results: Women | Men

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Naryshkina, Liebsch Repeat as City of Lakes Champions

The men's podium on Sunday, the last day of the City of Lakes Loppet Minne Tour in Minneapolis, with winner Matt Liebsch (c), runner-up Erik Fagerstrom (r), and Torin Koos (l) in third. (Photo: Marybeth Liebsch)

The men’s podium on Sunday, the last day of the City of Lakes Loppet Minne Tour in Minneapolis, with winner Matt Liebsch (c), runner-up Erik Fagerstrom (r), and Torin Koos (l) in third. (Photo: Marybeth Liebsch)

By Vince Rosetta

A line on the race website summed up the 2015 City of Lakes Ski Festival; this wasn’t your ordinary loppet.

Minneapolis, home of the City of Lakes Loppet, has seen a very low snow year this winter, forcing organizers to be creative to find snow to hold the race. Typically the Loppet is a point-to-point marathon classic and skate race, all within the Minneapolis city limits. Last weekend, the races were all held on a manmade course on the Theodore Wirth Golf Course. A 3.1-kilometer loop course hosted the sprints, classic and freestyle races.

Part of the Loppet weekend is the Minne Tour, a three-day competition that combined this year’s Finn Sisu Sprints, the 16.5 k Hoigaard’s Classic and the 13.2 k Loppet Skate race to crown a men’s and women’s overall winner. Matt Liebsch of Gear West/XC United has won this race four times and was the local favorite to repeat. His toughest competition came from four-time U.S. Olympian Torin Koos who was in town for the weekend.

Koos recently finished up a new job as an assistant news producer for KSL, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, so his trip to Minneapolis was short, but he raced all three days he was in town.

Coming on such short notice, Koos didn’t have a majority of his equipment. Fortunately, Gear West, where Liebsch is the director of race services, helped Koos out on the ski side. “I have to give a big shout out to them for sure. People really are ‘Minnesota nice,’ ” Koos wrote in an online message.

For Koos, a Minnesota native, this was a homecoming for him. “When you ski in Minnesota, you can feel the ski community behind you,” he explained. “It’s always a bit of a homecoming for me to race in the Midwest. I was born in Minneapolis, my parents grew up in the Twin Cities and it’s a bit of a family reunion when I get to race back there.”

On the women’s side, defending Minne Tour champion Natalya Naryshkina from the Central Cross Country (CXC) Team was back again to try her hand at a repeat.

Women’s defending champion Natalia Naryshkina (CXC) in the City of Lakes 16.5 k classic race. (Photo: Bruce Adelsman/skinnyski.com)

Koos won the first event on Friday, the Finn Sisu Sprints, capitalizing on a strong start and taking that pace all the way to the finish. John Wessling of Minneapolis came in second and Tamer Mische-Richter of Bloomington, Minn., came in third.

Liebsch fell and injured his bilateral tendon, and finished seventh. The win for Koos gave him a two-minute time bonus heading into Saturday’s 16.5 k classic race.

For the women, Naryshkina easily claimed victory on the short sprint course. Rounding out the top three in the Finn Sisu Sprints were high-school students Sarah Bezdicek and Kathleen Dewahl.

Commenting on his injury on Monday, Liebsch explained, “It was really painful and hurt all weekend. Towards the end of Fridays sprint I ran out of snow, fell, and tweaked something in my arm. After the race on Friday I met my friend and he helped pop the tendon back into place, and that really hurt. Skiing on Saturday was really tough only being able to use one arm. Freestyle on Sunday was easier if I kept my body asymmetrical.”

Saturday’s 16.5 k classic came down to a finish-line lunge. Liebsch nipped Koos at the finish after the pair fought their way through lapped traffic and deteriorating snow conditions. Liebsch won in 37:01, and Koos took second, just one second behind him. Dartmouth College and CXC alumn Erik Fagerstrom finished third.

“Anytime I head to the start line, I have aspirations of winning. The first two days were pretty solid, especially when considering the Saturday classic race was only the second time I’ve skied this winter with kickwax under me feet,” Koos commented after the first two days of racing.

Saturday’s classic finish came down to a ski tip. Liebsch (l) edged Koos at the line. (Photo: Bruce Adelsman/skinnyski.com)

A classic specialist, Naryshkina won the women’s classic race in 45:02. Dewahl came in second (49:21) and Josie Nelson placed third.

Heading into the 13.2 k freestyle race on Sunday, Koos had a 1.29-second lead over Liebsch. While he had the advantage of the shortened course, Liebsch knew it well, racing on the same course a few weeks ago during the Twin Cities Championships (which he won, beating several Division-I college skiers).

“Knowing the course was really important. I learned a lot from the last time I raced here. Being able to pick good lines and weave through the crowd is vital on a short loop course like this,” he said. “I was able to find firm snow on the side of the climbs. This helped when the snow turned into sugar.”

At the start of Sunday’s mass start, Liebsch got out first and fast and was able to pull out a sizeable lead over the rest of the pack. With his injured arm bothering him, Liebsch was forced to V2 most of the course in order to keep his upper body as still as possible.

Getting emotional support from the hometown crowd, Liebsch crossed the line one minute and 51 seconds in front of Fagerstrom to win the skate race and overall crown, ahead of Koos. This was Liebsch’s fifth City of Lakes Loppet title.

“It was an incredible weekend,” Liebsch said afterward. “The Loppet and the Wirth staff do an incredible job. It would have been nice to have a full point to point race but they did their best to make this weekend a great time for everybody. How can you not have a good time with an event sponsored by a beer company and feature an organic smores station!”

Koos, who placed third on the day, 2:06 behind Liebsch, reiterated, “I’m always impressed racing in the Twin Cities. No matter the weather or conditions, the Loppet Foundation always puts on top-notch races. This year was no exception.”

Naryshkina led the women’s field by more than two minutes and easily defended her title winning the Minne Tour in consecutive years.  She crossed the line in 35:59; Sarah Daniels was second (37:29) while Jane Guenther finished third (37:47).

As the winner of all three events, Naryshkina took the Minne Tour title in 1:18:30. Dewahl placed second overall in 1:27:51, and Guenther rounded out the podium in 1:29:10.

Results

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Eliassen of Norway and Norgren of Sweden Win König Ludwig Lauf

Petter Eliassen of Norway and Britta Johansson Norgren of Sweden won the König Ludwig Lauf in Germany. The event was the sixth of nine races in the 2015 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Petter Eliassen of Norway and Britta Johansson Norgren of Sweden won the König Ludwig Lauf in Germany. The event was the sixth of nine races in the 2015 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go won the 46 k König Ludwig Lauf, a Swix Ski Classics marathon, with a tenth of a second’s margin, while Britta Johansson Norgren of Team SkiProAm could cruise into victory with almost a minute to spare in the women’s race.

At the starting line, the athletes could clearly see their route through the Ammergau Alps. The 46 k course starts in Ettal and passes the village of Graswang and the Linderhof castle on the way to the finish line in Oberammergau. There were Ski Classics sprints to be contested in Graswang after 9 k and Steinbrücke after 33 k.

But shortly after the gun went off it started to snow, which made it tough to ski in the front of the pack. Despite the conditions, several racers made attempts to break away from the main group, but it all came down to a sprint finish.

Eliassen has been strong the whole season, and he finally won his first Ski Classics race in a photo finish with fellow Norwegian Tore Bjørseth Berdal of Team United Bakeries. In that perspective, the 1.6-second margin down to third place was huge. Eliassen finished in 1:59:42.9 and Berdal in 1:59:43.00.

After 46k, a tenth of a second separated Petter Eliassen (left) from Tore Berdal (yellow) in second place. Photo: Ski Classics

After 46k, a tenth of a second separated Petter Eliassen (left) of Norway from Tore Berdal (yellow), also of Norway, in second place. Photo: Ski Classics

“It was awesome to win today. I tried to make my moves on the hills, but I didn’t quite succeed. We worked as a team the whole way, which allowed me to save some energy,” Eliassen said to Norwegian broadcaster TV2 after the finish, explaining that conserving power was an important strategy.

“I am not the best sprinter in the end, so I tried to push hard all the way from the last 5k, making the other guys tired. It was amazing to win my first Swix Ski Classics race, and I am in a good position to reach the podium in the champion competition,” Eliassen said in a Ski Classics press release.

Norway’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander followed up last weekend’s Marcialonga victory with a new Ski Classics podium and placed third, clocking in at 1:59:44.6.

Yesterday, he raced the 30 k skiathlon at the Norwegian national championships, hoping to land a spot on the national team squad that will be representing Norway at the 2015 FIS World Championships in Falun, Sweden, later this month. After finishing fifth in the skiathlon, he narrowly missed the National team selection. As soon as the team selection was announced Saturday afternoon, Gjerdalen flew from the race venue in Røros, Norway, to the Ski Classics in southern Germany.

Norway’s Øystein Pettersen of Team United Bakeries moved back into the green points bib after winning the first sprint of the day, at 9 k, pushing Team Santander’s Andreas Nygaard, also of Norway, down to second place. Pettersen, who ended up 16th in the Koenig Ludwiglauf, has 180 sprint points and now leads the sprint competition by 20 points after six of the season’s nine events. Eliassen of Norway is third with 120 points, 40 points behind Nygaard, who has 160 points.

Alone Into The Finish
In the women’s race, which started 15 minutes before the men’s, Britta Johansson Norgren and Lina Korsgren, both Swedish and both of Team SkiProAm, managed to break away from the chasing group half way through the race.

Korsgren had to let go at the big climb by the Linderhof Castle, and Norgren continued to ski alone won her first Swix Ski Classics victory by nearly a minute, with a time of 2:16:28.6.

“Our first gap came a little bit too early, but I had really fast skis and my shape is good, so I just had to go for it. It was amazing to win for the first time, and also to have two more team members among the top five,” Norgren said to Ski Classics reporters after the race.

After getting dropped by Norgren, Korsgren was caught by the chase group. She lost the sprint finish by a tenth of a second to Austria’s Katerina Smutna of Team Madshus Silvini, and ended up third. Smutna and Korsgren clocked in at 2:17:10.10 and 2:17:10.20, respectively.

Complete results

No changes in the overall standings
Smutna, and Norway’s Anders Aukland of Team Santander, who was fourth in the König Ludwiglauf, are still leading the Ski Classics Champion competition. Also, Aukland’s Team Santander took over the lead in the team competition.

Sweden’s Bill Impola of Team Coop and Norway’s Tone Sundvor of Team Synnfjell are still leading the youth competition.

All Ski Classics standings
Long and proud history
König Ludwig Lauf was run for the first time on March 17, 1968. The distances were 45 k and 90 k. After three years, in 1971, there were already 1,383 racers. Thanks to the foundation of the Alpetris the number of participants number increased to over 2,000 in 1974.

Only two years later, in 1976, the race was integrated in the Euroloppet and later became a part of the Worldloppet race schedule. König Ludwig Lauf has been a part of the Ski Classics since 2011. It also serves as the World 20th annual Medical Cross Country Championships, where physicians, pharmacists, dentists and veterinarians from all over the world participate.

–Inge Scheve

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Enman, Youngman Post Fastest Times in Masters’ National Champs 10 k

Eli Enman was the fastest man on the 10 k course in Craftsbury, Vt. Thursday for the U.S. Masters’ National Championship. The Huntington, Vt. skier crossed the line with a time of 25.29.2 to take both the Master 2 age group and the best time of the day. Following Enman was Sproule Love of New York, N.Y. who finished with a time of 25:41.6 and was the top finisher in the Master 3 category. The third-fastest time went to Tim Donahue who crossed the line with a time of 26:12.2 to finish first in the Master 4 category.

Elizabeth Youngman of Sun valley, Idaho was the fastest in the women’s 10 k field and Master 6 age group with a time 29:43.7. Sarah Pribram of Shelburne, Vt. notched the second-fastest women’s time with 31:56.0 and finished first in the Masters 4 category. Joann Hanowski third overall with a time of 32:17.3 and finished second in the Masters 6 age group.

Full results

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Gjerdalen and Smutna Win Marcialonga; Brooks 17th

Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Norway and Katerina Smutna of Austria won the Marcialonga 2015. Photo: Ski Classics

Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Norway and Katerina Smutna of Austria won the Marcialonga 2015. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Norway won the three-way sprint in the men’s race of the 2015 Marcialonga, while Katerina Smutna of Austria won the women’s race by 10 seconds. Former U.S. Ski Team racer Holly Brooks was 17th. The 57-k classic race in Northern Italy was the fifth event in the 2015 Ski Classics series and the third event of the 2015 FIS Marathon Cup.

Due to lack of snow, the course was cut from 70 k to 57 k, making the competition even fiercer than expected with a fight for positions right from the get-go.

The Marcialonga ends with an extremely challenging last climb of 2 k up to the finish in the town of Cavalese. Norway’s Øystein Peterssen of Team United Bakeries made a move just before the last climb and lead the race until the last 500 meters.

However, Gjerdalen and Anders Aukland, both of Team Santander, caught Pettersen during the last half-kilometer, turning the race into a three-way sprint. Gjerdalen was the strongest in the end, snagging the victory from his teammate by 2.5 seconds and earning his first Ski Classics victory.

Øystein Pettersen (left) and Tore Berset keep Team United Bakeries in the lead in the team competition. Photo: Stian Grønås

Øystein Pettersen (left) and Tore Berset keep Team United Bakeries in the lead in the team competition. (Photo: Stian Grønås)

“It was really cool to win here in Italy, and one of the most important races of the season. We had incredible skis, and the whole team did a great job attacking during the race,” Tord Asle Gjerdalen said to Ski Classics reporters after the race, which he finished in 2:05:15.8.

Øystein Pettersen was third (2:05:21.7), and teammate Tore Berseth was fifth, contributing to keep the team on top of the Ski Classics team competition.

Tight race for the women’s podium 
In the women’s race, it also came down to a three-way sprint. Austria’s Katerina Smutna of Team Silvini Madshus, Norway’s Laila Kveli of Team Santander, and Swiss long-distance veteran Seraina Boner of Team Coop entered the last climb close together. Smutna made her final move close to the finish and won with a 10-second margin down to Kveli, crossing the line in 2:20:32.3. Kveli clocked in at 2:20:42.2 and and Boner in 2:20:44.5.

“My skis were much faster the second half of the race, but I used too much energy catching up. Laila and Katerina were just too strong today,” Boner said in a press release from Team Coop.

Brooks remains on top of FIS Marathon Cup

Despite finishing 17 among the women, Holly Brooks maintains the lead in the FIS Marathon Cup and will continue to wear the red leader-bib when she moves on to her next race.

Brooks now has 194 points in the FIS Marathon Cup, and has a 40-point margin over to Aurelie Dabudyk of France in second place with 154 points. Dabudyk was ninth in the Marcialonga. Smutna and Riitta-Liisa Roponen of Finland both have 100 points and are tied for third place after three of the nine events in the FIS Marathon Cup.

With sixth place today, Petr Novak of the Czech Republic increased his lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup, as Toni Livers of Switzerland was racing the World Cup in Rybinsk, Russia, and his other main competitors Benoit Chauvet and Adrien Mougel, both of France only finished 60th and 78th, respectively. After the Marcialonga, Novak has 200 points, while Livers has 150 points and Chauvet has 145 points.

Trading bibs

With second place today, Anders Aukland moves into first place in the overall Ski Classics standings, while Pettersen drops to second place, giving up the yellow leader bib. Morten Eide Pedersen is in third place.

In the women’s overall competition, Smutna keeps the yellow bib and increases her lead to Boner, while Ishida of Team United Bakeries is third. Team United Bakeries remains in the top of the team competition, while Team Santander moves up to second place, only nine points behind.

Team Santander’s Andreas Nygaard of Norway reclaimed the green sprint bib Sunday, pushing Norway’s Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlanGO down to third place, while Pettersen remains in second place.

Bill Impola moved up to snag the overall youth racer bib, while Tone Sundvor of Team Synnfjell is now first place in the overall youth women’s competition.

The Ski Classics moves to Germany for the 45 k König Ludwiglauf next Sunday. After that, the long-distance series takes a month off before the Vasaloppet in Sweden on March 8, Birkebeinerrennet in Norway on March 21 and the Ski Classics Final, Årefjällsloppet on March 29.

Top 3 women Marcialonga 57k classic

1. Katerina Smutna, Team Silvani Madshus/Austria, 2:20:32.3
2. Laila Kveli, Team Santander/Norway, 2:20:42.2
3. Seraina Boner, Team Coop/Switzerland, 20:20:44.5

Top 3 men Marcialonga 57k classic

1: Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander/Norway, 2:05.15.8
2. Anders Aukland, Team Santander/Norway, 2:05:18.4
3. Øystein Pettersen, Team United Bakeries/Norway, 2:05:21.7

Complete results and standings

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Brooks Wins Dolomitenlauf by 2 1/2 Minutes, Seizes FIS Marathon Cup Lead

American Holly Brooks (c) after winning the 50 k Dolomitenlauf on Sunday in Lienz, Austria. (Photo: Worldloppet.com/Dolomitenlauf)

American Holly Brooks (c) after winning the 42 k Dolomitenlauf on Sunday in Obertilliach, Austria, ahead of France’s Aurelie Dabudyk (l) in second and Italy’s Antonella Confortola (r) in third. (Photo: Worldloppet.com/Dolomitenlauf)

By Inge Scheve

American Holly Brooks crushed her competitors and cruised to the victory in the 42-kilometer freestyle Dolomitenlauf on Sunday in Obertilliach, Austria, part of the FIS Marathon Cup, while Switzerland’s Toni Livers won the men’s race.

“It was my first Dolomitenlauf and wow, it was such a beautiful race with a well prepared course,” Brooks told FIS after winning the race in 1:43:55.6. “The conditions were just great with perfect sunshine and new snow.”

With the victory in the Dolomitenlauf, which was reduced from 60 k to 42 k and moved from Lienz to the nearby village of Obertilliach due to difficult snow conditions, Brooks took the lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup from Finland’s Riitta-Liisa Roponen. Brooks has 180 points, while Aurelie Dabudyk of France moved into second with 125 points, and Roponen has 100 points in third. Roponen didn’t compete in Sunday’s Dolomitenlauf.

“I am so happy to now wear the red bib, meaning that I am the leader in the overall cup,” Brooks said. “This is so exciting! My next start will be at Marcialonga, and I am really looking forward to it.”

No drama

In the men’s race, Livers led a group of about 10 racers, which took off soon after the start. About halfway through the race, Livers had dropped the pack and already had about a minute’s lead on the rest of the field.

In the end, Livers crossed the finish line 1:41.3 minutes ahead of last year’s winner Petr Novak of the Czech Republic in second and Adrien Mougel of France in third. Livers won in 1:32:07.2, and Mougel finished 3 seconds behind Novak.

Brooks, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team who competed at her second Olympics last season, broke away early in the race, creating a gap to the other women and winning by 2:29.5 minutes over Dabudyk. Italy’s Antonella Confortola placed third 1 second later. Dabudyk and Confortola skied together for much of the second half of the race, trying without luck to catch Brooks.

Straight from Alaska

Brooks recently returned to Europe after an extended holiday break and volume training camp at home in Anchorage, Alaska.

She opened her marathon season with three races in one weekend Dec. 12-14 at La Sgambeda in Livigno, Italy, where she placed second to Roponen. From Austria, Brooks plans to travel to Val di Fiemme and Cavalese, Italy, to join her Ski Classics team, Team Santander, for the Marcialonga, which takes place next Sunday, Jan. 25.

Ideal conditions

The higher-elevation, backup venue in Obertilliach, Austria, treated the roughly 1,500 participants from 29 countries to stellar conditions with temperatures around -3 degrees Celsius, fresh snow and sunshine. The Dolomitenlauf offered a full 42 k course and shorter 20 k, both freestyle technique. Saturday featured classic races on the same course, but were not a part of the FIS Marathon Cup.

Novak and Brooks currently lead the overall FIS Marathon Cup after two of nine events. The Marcialonga in Italy on Jan. 25 is the next event on the circuit.

Complete results/FIS Marathon Cup standings

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Double Victory for United Bakeries in Dramatic La Diagonela

Team United Bakeries Ishida Masako of Japan and fellow Bakery team racer Øystein Pettersen both bag their first Ski Classics victory after sprint finishes in La Diagonela, Switzerland, on Saturday. Photo: Ski Classics

Team United Bakeries’ Masako Ishida of Japan and Øystein Pettersen after notching their first Ski Classics wins after sprint finishes in La Diagonela, Switzerland, on Saturday. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

By Inge Scheve

Team United Bakeries’ newly signed Masako Ishida of Japan pulled off the sprint finish in the La Diagonela women’s race, while teammate Øystein Pettersen of Norway fought his way to first place in the men’s race, both earning their first Ski Classics titles at the 43-kilometer marathon on Saturday in Zuoz, Switzerland.

Pettersen bagged his first-and-unexpected Ski Classics victory after a sprint finish, just ahead of Christoffer Callesen of Team Leaseplan Go and teammate John Kristian Dahl (Team United Bakeries), making the podium 100-percent Norwegian.

However, the podium crew had to work for it. Sweden’s Bill Impola of Team Coop put the race into action when he broke away from the field after 14 k. He put a gap on the chasing group, and had a 1 minute and 30 second lead at the most.

Impola looked like he had it all made, but with only 1.5 k to go, Impola went down the wrong track instead of the track towards the finish. When he realized the mistake, it was too late and the eight-skier chase group came first tot the finish in Zuoz. At the end of the day, Pettersen had the strongest sprint, and beat Callesen by three seconds, while Dahl snagged the third spot on the podium, less than half a second ahead of Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway.

Surprise victory

“I thought I was fighting for second place until there was 600 meters to the finish. Then I heard that Bill had taken a wrong turn,” Pettersen said to Norway’s TV2 after the race. “That was, of course, really sad for Bill. He was really strong. But when he makes a mistake, I feel like a million.”

However, Pettersen admits that the victory comes with a ting of a sour taste.

“Of course. I feel bad for Bill. He was so strong today,” Pettersen added, after letting Impola take care of spilling the champagne on the podium.

Silver lining

“After the first lap I increased the tempo, and suddenly I had a 15-20 second gap,” Impola told reporters after the race. “Then I just continued and the gap increased. Then suddenly, I was stopped by a team staff telling me I was going down the wrong track.”

While it was disappointing to lose by technical failure, Impola saw the silver lining in the situation – aside from the winners letting him spill the champagne.

“Now I know I can win these races in the future, and I would like to thank Team United Bakeries for the way they treated me after the finish. Now I look forward Marcialonga,” Impola said.

Bill Impola of Team Coop lost the victory when he missed the finish lane at the end of the race, but won the podium champagne celebration. Photo: Ski Classics

Bill Impola of Team Coop lost the victory when he missed the finish lane at the end of the race, but won the podium champagne celebration. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

Reversing the order

Ishida also won in a sprint finish. This time, she beat Katerina Smutna of Austria by three seconds, reversing the order from last weekend’s Ski Classics event, the 45 k Jizerska in the Czech Republic.

Seraina Boner of Switzerland was third, a second behind Smutna.

Drama on several levels

Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson organized a jury meeting after Impola lost the victory due to skiing the wrong track. The jury determined they would not overturn the winning order.

“Bill Impola showed impressive strength today, however the race is decided on the finish line, and it is the skiers’ responsibility to know the track,” Nilsson said in a press release. “From Ski Classics, we will of course also discuss with the organizers how to make sure the track is clearly marked, so mistakes will not happen in the future. In addition, we have two disqualifications for skating in the elite men, so this was a dramatic Saturday.”

Earlier this week, the organizers were struggling to cover the race course with enough snow to hold the race. Then, on Friday, heavy snowfall created additional problems for the organizers.

“It began in the morning when due to last night heavy snowfall, the risk for avalanches forced the organizers to change the already remade course, and it is of course sad that a mistake should decide the race,” Nilsson said. “La Diagonela is a fantastic race and the organizers have done a great work last week securing the event.”

On race-day morning, the racers were treated to a 43-kilometer course that also included two sprint preems for both men and women. La Diagonela was the fourth event in the 2015 Swix Ski Classics.

Complete results

STANDINGS AFTER LA DIAGONELA IN SWIX SKI CLASSICS

Swix Ski Classics Champion

Men
1. Øystein Pettersen, United Bakeries, 445 points
2. Morten Eide Pedersen, Team COOP, 435 points
3. Anders Aukland, Team Santander, 430 points
4. Petter Eliassen, Team LeasePlanGO, 380 points
5. Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander, 235 points

Women
1. Kateřina Smutná, Team Madshus Silvana, 560 points
2. Seraina Boner, Team COOP, 500 points
3. Masako Ishida, United Bakeries, 370 points
4. Britta Johansson Norgren, Team SkiProAm, 340 points
5. Laila Kveli, Team Santander, 220 points

Swix Ski Classics Sprint
1. Petter Eliassen, Team LeasePlanGO, 110 points
2. Øystein Pettersen, United Bakeries, 70 points
3. Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, 50 points
4. Anders Aukland, Team Santander, 40 points
4. Bill Impola, Team COOP, 40 points

Swix Ski Classics Youth

Men
1. Anders Høst, LYN, 183 points
2. Bill Impola, Team COOP, 180 points
3. Stian Hoelgaard, Team LeasePlanGo, 125 points
4. Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, 99 points
5. Vetle Thyli, United Bakeries, 80 points

Women
1. Tuva Toftdahl Staver, Team LeasePlanGo, 90 points
2. Hilde Losgaard Landheim, Team COOP, 62 points
2. Tone Sundvor, Team Synnfjell, 62 points

Swix Ski Classics Team Competition
1. Team United Bakeries, 1490 points
2. Team Coop, 1354 points
3. Team Santander, 1246 points
4. Team LeasePlanGo, 920 points
5. Silvini Madshus team, 839 points

Complete standings

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Eide Pedersen and Smutna win Jizerska Padesatka

Katerina Smutna of Austria and Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway won the Jizerska 45k classic race in the Swix Ski Classics on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Katerina Smutna of Austria and Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway won the Jizerska 45k classic race in the Swix Ski Classics on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Morten Eide Pedersen of Team Coop won the sprint finish in the 45 k classic marathon in the Czech Republic, with Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlanGO 3 seconds behind, while Katerina Smutna won the women’s race by almost a minute.

“I’ve been strong earlier this season, and I’ve felt strong since Christmas. I had fantastic skis, even though the conditions differed some over the course of the race,” Eide Pedersen said to TV2 after the race.

Half way through the race Eide Pedersen and Eliassen of Team LeasePlanGO skied away from the rest of the group and worked together for the rest of the race.

“I didn’t feel very strong at the start, so I tried to conserve my energy,” Pedersen said. “By the second climb, I felt much better and surged. Then Eliassen and I created a gap to the rest of the field.”

Eide Pedersen was strongest in the finish sprint and won his first Swix Ski Classics race.

“It was amazing to win a Ski Classics race, and also my first podium place (in the Ski Classics),” Eide Pedersen said in a press release. “It was a tough race, but I felt better and better all the time. I know I am pretty good sprinter, so I stayed behind in the end and managed to win the sprint.”

Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway and Team Coop bagged his first ever Ski Classic victory when he won the Jizerska on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Morten Eide Pedersen of Norway and Team Coop bagged his first ever Ski Classic victory when he won the Jizerska on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

With Tord Asle Gjerdalen in third place, the Norwegians dominated the men’s podium. While Gjerdalen of Team Santander was almost a minute behind Eide Pedersen and Eliassen, he beat defending Jizerska champion and Team Santander teammate Anders Aukland by a tenth of a second in a fierce three-way sprint for the last spot on the podium. Gjerdalen clocked in at 1:47:29.1, Aukland in 1:47:29.2 and Team United Bakeries Tore Bjørseth Berdal of Norway in 1:47:29.4.

Anders Malmen Høst of Lyn Ski was fifth, a second behind Berdal. Stanislav Řezáč of the Czech Republic and Team Silvani Madshus was four seconds behind Høst – and one of only two non-Norwegians among the top ten, followed by Team United Bakeries Øystein Pettersen in eighth place, Sweden’s Bill Impola of Team Coop in ninth, and Team United Bakeries John Kristian Dahl of Norway in tenth place.

Katerina Smutna of Austria cruised into victory in the Jizerska 50 on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Katerina Smutna of Austria cruised into victory in the Jizerska 50 on Sunday. Photo: Swix Ski Classics

Comfortable margin in the women’s race
Austria’s Katerina Smutna, who competes on the World Cup and is not attached to a pro team, beat Ski Classics rookie and fellow World Cup regular Masako Ishida of Japan by 47 seconds. Team Coop’s Seraina Boner of Switzerland finished almost two and a half minutes behind Smutna but snagged the last spot on the podium from Norway’s Laila Kveli of Team Santander. Britta Johansson Norgren of Team SkiProAm was fifth among the women.

Smutna, Ishida and Boner skied away early in the women’s race. As the race progressed, Boner fell back, leaving Smutna and Masako alone to fight for the victory, but Smutna won ahead of Masako.

“I was surprised the three of us got away so early, but it was really great to win, and you will for sure see me in more Ski Classics races this winter,” Smutna said to Ski Classics reporters after the race.

Season over for Kjølstad

Team United Bakeries’ Johan Kjølstad of Norway, who was second overall in the 2015 Ski Classics prior to the Jizerska, broke his ankle right before the start of the Jizerska on his way to the race start. With a broken ankle and a torn ligament on the inside of the ankle, his season is likely over, says team manager Henrik Kvissel to Norwegian TV station TV2.

“I was just walking over to the car to get down to the start to test skis, but it was really icy. Everything happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to react at all. I slipped and twisted my leg from the knee down to my ski boot,” Kjølstad said in an interview with TV2 after his trip to the hospital.

“It was almost like an ugly soccer tackle. The result is a broken ankle and torn ligament, which was perfect timing right now,” he said sarcastically, adding that he was looking forward to four straight weekends with Ski Classics events. “Half of this year’s Ski Classics down the drain. What can I say? I’m just really disappointed.”

Reshuffling some of the overall standings

After the third event in the 2015 Ski Classics, Team Coop remains in the lead of the team competition, more than 100 points ahead of Team United Bakeries. Team Santander is in third place, only four points behind the bakery crew.

In the individual overall competition, Anders Aukland remains in first place, with Eide Pedersen jumping five spots to second place overall after the Jizerska victory. Eliassen moved up to third overall.

Among the women, Boner stays in first place in the overall women’s competition, with Norgren in second place and Norgren’s Swedish teammate Lina Korsgren in third overall.

In the sprint competition, Øystein Pettersen snags first place ahead of Eliassen, while previous leader Andreas Nygaard of Norway drops to third place after three of the nine events. Impola remains in first place in the youth bib competition.

Rough conditions

Jizerska Padesatka was the third event in the 2015 Ski Classics. Last year, the event was cancelled due to massive rain and lack of snow. This year, rain yesterday and freezing temperatures over night made the conditions challenging, and forced organizers to modify the course. The original course was reduced to 45k, and the second Ski Classics Sprint was moved to Smedava.

The track of the Jizerska 50 is located in the beautiful Jizera mountain region, where the start of the race is in the mountain village Bedrichove and after a about 10km uphill it passes through the checkpoints Na Knejpe, Kristianov, Hranicni, before turning back via Smedava and Hrebinek to the finish line in Bedrichov.

Run for the 48th time, the Jizerska 50 has become the biggest cross-country skiing race in Central Europe, treating participants to the challenging and charming landscape of the Jizera Mountains. Jizerska has been a part of the Worldloppet worldwide series of long-distance races since 1999. Among the famous participants in the past are Bjørn Dæhlie, Thomas Alsgaard, Lukáš Bauer and Stanislav Řezáč, the latter two from the Czech Republic.

The Jizerska 50k race began in the late 60’s as a test event for mountain climbers, when preparing for a mountain climbing expedition. The first race took place in January 1968 when 52 competitors participated. In 1970, the participating field included the members of expedition Peru 1970, who four months later were buried by a rockslide under Huascaran.

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