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

The 39th Toblach/Dobbiaco Cortina made its debut on the Visma Ski Classics Circuit this year. Although the course had to be shortened to a 32 kilometer event, the course still offered its share of climbing between the start in Prags/Braies and the finish in Toblach.  Both the men’s and women’s races were determined in the final meters in some of the closest finishes of the Classics this year.

In the women’s race, Seraina Boner of Switzerland pushed the pace on a lead group of seven with 15 kilometers to go. She was matched by Sweden’s Johansson-Norgren and Masako Ishida of Japan.  The three women raced the second half together and the title was decided in a sprint finish and Johansson-Norgren bested Boner (+1.34) and Ishida (+1.58) for her fifth Classics victory of the season. Johansson-Norgren recovered from a fourth place finish last weekend at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf where Boner took a convincing win.

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

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

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

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

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

Results | Overall standings 

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

Eliassen, Boner Win Relocated Ski Classic at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf

Poor snow conditions in Oberammergau, Germany, leading up to the König Ludwig Lauf, forced the cancellation of the sixth Visma Ski Classics race. However, thanks to some quick organizing from Seefeld resort, the professional race was decided to be relocated to the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Tirol, Austria, just four days before the event.

Seefeld has hosted cross-country ski events twice for the Winter Olympics and features 200 kilometers of groomed ski trails. Initially a 50 k event, the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf extended the course for the Ski Classics event making a challenging three-lap, 65 k event while also offering a 22 k citizens race.

Petter Eliassen took his third Ski Classics win of the season just beating Johan Kjølstad in a sprint finish. Seraina Boner of Team Exspirit took her first win of the season on the women’s race.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results  | Overall Standings

 

Toblach-Cortina to be Held on Alternate Course

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

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

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

 

Fifth FIS Worldloppet to be Relocated to American Birkebeiner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Kaitlyn Patterson

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

Tor Asle Gjerdalen (l) and Britta Johansson-Norgren (r) after winning the 2016 Marcialonga 70 k classic on Saturday. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Tor Asle Gjerdalen (l) and Britta Johansson-Norgren (r) after winning the 2016 Marcialonga 70 k classic on Saturday. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Two kilometers of manmade snow is one thing, but covering 70 k with artificial snow is another story.

Yet, despite no natural snow, the organizers of Italy’s Marcialonga, the fifth event in the Visma Ski Classics, managed to pull-off the classical-style Worldloppet race event on Sunday with complete snow coverage over the 70 k course.

Testing the tracks first were the women marathoners, who started 10 minutes prior to the men.

At the 18 k mark, Sweden’s Britta Johansson-Norgren and Austrian Katerina Smutna broke away from the other 937 female competitors and skied together until the infamously most difficult part of the course, the Cascata climb.

With 2.5 k of uphill to the finish in Cavalese, the real battle for first between Norgren and Smutna began.

In the end, Norgren bested Smutna by 1.4 seconds, claiming her first Marcialonga win in a time of 3:13:50.7. It was her third-consecutive Ski Classics victory.

“Kristina Smutna was so strong. It was a hard fight on the final climb up to Cavalese. I trained the whole summer on getting stronger in the finish, so I am very glad to be the first today,” Norgren said in a FIS Worldloppet press release.

Smutna took second overall, and Switzerland’s Seraina Boner crossed in third, 3:59 after the race winner Norgren.

In the men’s event, 4,798 participants from over 10 different countries completed the race, but Norway came away victorious with the top-five spots.

Once again, the Cascata climb determined who, of the 20 favorites in the lead, would eventually win.

With 10 k to go, Petter Eliassen of Norway moved to the front of the group. Two of his compatriots Tord Asle Gjerdalen and Stian Hoelgaard followed suit as he pushed the pace towards the final climb.

With 800 meters of uphill left, Gjerdalen overtook Eliassen’s yellow bib and crossed the finish line in Cavalese as the race winner in a time of 2:49:49.1.

“I was not supposed to increase the speed that early, but I took the risk and made it in the end. I want to thank all the people working for this event, the snow was incredibly good despite the fact that it was all dry around us,” Gjerdalen said in a Worldloppet press release.

Eliassen finished 5.3 seconds later for second place, and Hoelgaard in third, 5.4 seconds behind Gjerdalen.

Racing picks up again on Feb. 13-14 in France with the 68 k freestyle La Transjurasienne Worldloppet event.

Results: Men | Women

— Gabby Naranja

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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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Treinen Defends Qaniq Challenge Title; Frankowski Tops Brooks in Two-Day Event

 

Sunrise in Valdez, Alaska, site of the Qaniq Challenge. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

Sunrise in Valdez, Alaska, home of the Qaniq Challenge. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

By Gavin Kentch

VALDEZ, Alaska — Lex Treinen defended his title in the second-annual Qaniq Challenge while Rosie Frankowski set the pace for the women, completing an Alaska Pacific University (APU) sweep of the two-day series last Saturday and Sunday.

The Qaniq Challenge sent skiers around a classic course on the first day of racing, then over a different skate course on Day 2.  Each course was roughly 15 kilometers.  Lowest combined time from both days wins.  In this year’s race, as in 2015, time gaps created on Day 1 proved difficult to overcome on Day 2, and the overall finish order remained largely unchanged after the first day of racing.

Saturday sent the field of 36 racers over a classic individual-start course.  Race organizers called the classic course as 19 k, but by general acclaim it seems to have been somewhat shorter than that. Two-thirds of the course was pancake-flat, running along a river and out to the shores of the Pacific Ocean and back.  The remaining third had rolling hills, plus one steep uphill and dramatic downhill.  All top male finishers chose to double pole the course on skate gear.

Snow coverage was impeccable, with a base ranging from two to three feet on the designated nordic trails to at least one foot running along the river.

Rosie Frankowski (APU) races to a victory in the Day 1 classic race on Saturday, the first of the two-day Qaniq Challenge. Frankowski won the classic leg by 1:20 over Brooks. (Photo: Susan Orlansky)

Rosie Frankowski (APU) races to a victory in the Day 1 classic race on Saturday, the first of the two-day Qaniq Challenge. Frankowski won the classic leg by 1:20 over Brooks. (Photo: Susan Orlansky)

Frankowski had the fastest classic time in the women’s field, in 47:40.6, and fifth-fastest overall.  Holly Brooks (APU) was second (+1:20.7) for seventh overall, and Lauren Fritz (APU) came in third, roughly three minutes behind Brooks (+4:17.3).

Treinen was fastest among the men in 42:01.7. Teammate Tyler Kornfield (APU) followed 14.3 seconds later in second.  There was a gap to Paul Kovacs (Australian National Team) in third (+2:01.5).  Treinen and Kornfield were the only two racers in the field to complete the classic course faster than the next day’s skate course.

A freestyle mass start followed on Sunday.  The skate course was advertised as 14 k, but seems to have been somewhat longer than that. Race organizers seeded skiers for the mass start in the order of their Saturday finish time, with small numbered posts along the tracks in the start area to help racers find their correct position and line up for the chevron start.

The skate course started in a clearing on the side of the Richardson Highway, approximately five miles east of downtown Valdez.  The skate course took racers up a dramatic valley ringed by mountains, twice around a loop of approximately 4 k, and then back to the finish by the same route.  It was very flat; a decent citizen racer was able to V2 100 percent of the course.

Start of the Day 2 skate race of the 2016 Qaniq Challenge, with Kornfield (2), Treinen (1), Kovacs (3), and Brooks (7). Treinen went on to win the event, posting the fastest skate and classic legs. (Photo: Susan Orlansky)

Start of the Day 2 skate race of the 2016 Qaniq Challenge, with Kornfield (2), Treinen (1), Kovacs (3), and Brooks (7). Treinen went on to win the event, posting the fastest skate and classic legs. (Photo: Susan Orlansky)

The top-three from Saturday finished in the top three on Sunday, as the flat course and mass start format made it difficult for any of the top contenders to break away.  The top four finishers from Saturday – Treinen, Kornfield, Kovacs, and Dylan Watts (former APU Elite Team coach) – skied together in a lead pack throughout the race, before Treinen pulled away near the end for a narrow victory.  The next four overall finishers – Brooks and Frankowski, along with two male citizen racers – followed in a chase pack approximately 3 1/2 minutes back.  The third woman, Fritz, skied nearly the entire race on her own, finishing 10th overall.

The two lead packs were reflected in the final results.  Treinen was first for the men in 42:55.0, with second through fourth finishing within 20 seconds of him.  Kornfield in second was 3.3 seconds back, Kovacs was 9.3 seconds out in third, and Watts finished fourth (+19.6).

Similarly, Brooks was the fastest woman, finishing within the chase pack in 46:46.9.  Frankowski came in 3.3 seconds later in second. Brooks later explained, in informal in-person remarks after the race, that the four members of her pack took turns trading off the lead, but that Frankowski wasn’t particularly keen on letting her open up a big gap.

The final podium, based on combined times, remained unchanged from the first-day results: Treinen, Kornfield and Kovacs for the men, then Frankowski, Brooks and Fritz for the women.

Lex Treinen (1) leads APU teammate Tyler Kornfield (2) and Australian Paul Kovacs (3), and former APU coach Dylan Watts (4) into the finish of the skate race on the final day of the Qaniq Challenge in Valdez, Alaska. (Photo: Susan Orlansky)

Lex Treinen (1) leads APU teammate Tyler Kornfield (2) and Australian Paul Kovacs (3), and former APU coach Dylan Watts (4) into the finish of the skate race on the final day of the Qaniq Challenge in Valdez, Alaska. (Photo: Susan Orlansky)

Treinen and Frankowski each pocketed $3,000 dollars for the victory, receiving symbolic oversized checks at an awards banquet on Sunday evening.  Kornfield and Brooks took home $1,500 apiece for second.  Kovacs and Fritz, in third, each earned $500 for the weekend.

It’s fair to say that $3,000 is a lot of money in the world of American domestic cross-country ski racing.  As Frankowski noted in an in-person interview, “The most money I’ve previously won is $150 at a SuperTour [for fifth place in the Sun Valley SuperTour 10 k classic last month], so this is an extreme amount compared to that.  I’ve never won nationals or anything like that.  It’s, honestly, awesome, because being a ski racer is a very un-lucrative profession, and so even with side jobs, it’s hard to make ends meet.  So this is awesome.”

An ebullient Frankowski continued, “I’ve won money on the SuperTour probably three times in my life, and it’s always been $100, or $150.  Let’s just say, a race like this – I don’t think I’ve ever made $3,000 in my life at one time.”

Treinen echoed more of the same.  While he took home $4,000 for his fifth-place finish in last year’s American Birkebeiner ($1,500 for fifth overall, then $2,500 more as the top American), “the next closest race [last year] was 100 bucks or something.”

Treinen rejected the suggestion that this payout represented a generous $3,000 in income for fewer than 90 minutes’ worth of work.  “I do not think that’s a fair way to look at it,” Treinen noted.  “Although it does sometimes feel like that. … I would rebut that the race itself was the fun part, the enjoyment part of it.  And the work itself was the hours over the summer and all winter long, training.  So there were many long hours spent to earn this victory.  But right now it does feel like I only worked an hour to get the victory, so it feels kind of good.”

Treinen leaves Valdez as the two-time defending champion, and as the only male winner in the race’s history.  When asked if he’d ever won any other race twice in a row, the gracious and fraternal Treinen responded, “No, I have not won any other race this year.  But I maybe beat my brother twice in a row [in recent Besh Cup races], and that’s as good as winning a race two years in a row.”

Race Director Darryl Verfaille reports that the Qaniq Challenge is fully funded, at current prize levels, through 2017.

Results: Combined times (overall results) | Day 1 classic individual start | Day 2 freestyle mass start

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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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Inaugural CXC Marathon Cup Opens Saturday at Seeley Hills Classic

CXC Marathon CupBy Kaitlyn Patterson

The Midwest might not have mountains, elevation, or the first skiable snow, but it could very well be a hot spot for high-quality ski marathons. In addition to hosting the king of North American ski marathons: the American Birkebeiner, there are numerous events across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan that boast annual turnouts of hundreds of skiers and prize purses to draw strong fields.

This year, six of these races including the Birkie, will be a part of the inaugural Central Cross Country (CXC) Marathon Cup.  The CXC Marathon Cup connects some of the biggest ski events across the region including two races in Minnesota, two in Wisconsin and two in Michigan.  The races are split between classic and skate disciplines with two skate races, two classic races, one skiathlon, and one weekend with both a classic and skate race.

“The idea grew out of a discussion of how we can bring excitement to the teams and clubs around the region,” explains Yuri Gusev, the CXC Director and one of the drivers of the new initiative.

The Marathon Cup will be scored in four competition categories: individual overall, individual age-indexed overall, individual age class, and team. To contribute points for a team, skiers must be registered for a CXC Club. Anyone who completes one of the Marathon Cup races will be scored as an individual and does not need a CXC/USSA Master membership. However, racers are encouraged to support the CXC Marathon Cup and grassroots nordic programs around the Midwest through purchasing a membership.

For each race, age-adjusted times will be calculated as (initial time)/(age index), using the age-index table listed in the CXC scoring rules. This allows racers’ times to be adjusted to put racers of different ages on an equal basis.

The age-adjusted scoring is an interesting new twist that Gusev thinks might have potential beyond the Marathon Cup.

“Hopefully some small events, local races will pick up on that age index and they can use it also in local events,” he explains.

The top three in the age adjusted standings as well as each age class will be eligible for prizes.  The overall top male and female will win cash prizes and the overall points leaders will wear a special bib throughout the season.

“Hopefully we can create more excitement in the region for master distance skiers and at the same time benefit all six events. We also hope to get more skiers traveling around to participate in all six events because in many cases, those events play a big role in sport development at the local and regional level,” says Gusev.

“For instance the Birkie has a big grant program for clubs all over the United States. Many events stay involved in sport development and assisting youth and junior programs around the region, so the more participation they get, the more funding they get. The goal is that they will be able to give back to the sport as well,” Gusev explains.

2016 Race Calendar:

Seeley Hills Classic (42K classic) January 16th- Seeley, WI

Noquemanon Ski Marathon (50K classic) January 23rd- Marquette, MI

City of the Lakes Loppet (2 or 3 day tour) February 5-7th- Minneapolis, MN

Vasaloppet (58K skate) February 13th- Mora, MN

American Birkebeiner (51K skate) February 20th- Hayward, WI

Great Bear Chase (50K skiathlon) March 5th- Calumet, MI

Each race was already well-established but race organizers were excited about the concept of the Marathon Cup.

“Everybody [race organizers] bought into the concept right away. They saw potential benefits and they saw how it will help the sport in general and local clubs and teams,” Gusev said.

As for the Gusev’s expectations for the Cup this year, he understands it will likely be a process.

“We are going to take one step at a time,” he said. “This year we put the concept together, and we will test the waters, and we will learn what we should do better and we’ll keep growing.”

More information on the CXC Marathon Cup can be found here.

Follow updates from the Marathon Cup on FasterSkier’s Marathon blog throughout the season!

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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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Jizerska 50 Preview: A 15-Lap Race with a Story

The stadium which athletes will pass through many, many times at this weekend's marathon. (Photo: Jizerska 50)

The stadium which athletes will pass through many, many times at this weekend’s marathon. (Photo: Jizerska 50)

A continuing lack of snow in central Europe makes it tough to run a point-to-point race, much less a marathon. And so the organizers of the Jizerska 50, which is to be held on Sunday in the Czech Republic and this year is both a WorldLoppet and Ski Classics competition, have been forced to get creative.

What that looks like for elite competitors is a 50 kilometer marathon which will be run as 15 laps of a 3.3 kilometer course.

For the rest of the field, the race will be just four laps of the course. To deal with the huge number of people competing on the tiny loop, the field was asked to sign up for starting waves, with each one capped at 400 people. Most waves are given two hours to complete the course, and then the next wave goes off.

Waves have additionally been distributed over all three days of the weekend, with skiers in any wave starting after 3 p.m. required to wear headlamps.

But back to the elite field and their many laps to add up to 50 k. In coming up with a backup plan, race organizers were able to honor the history of the race in a unique way while still treating racers to a brutal competition.

The first Jizerska race took place on the last Saturday in January 1968 when 52 competitors participated and ran along the Jizera Mountains from Bedrichov to Korenow and back to Bedrichov. The event was originally designed to test the endurance of mountain climbers as they prepared for major expeditions.

In 1970, the participating field included 15 members of a Czech mountaineering expedition team who were about to travel to Peru. Four months later, they were buried by a rockslide after the Ancash earthquake caused a huge section of Huascaran, the 22,205-foot mountain where they were climbing, to collapse.

“No one will ever again use the start numbers 1-15,” Jizerska 50’s David Dousa noted this week. “They the belong tho the mountaineers. ”

In honor of these men, each of the 15 laps in the 2016 Jizerska 50 will be a tribute to one of the expedition members.

“We are delighted to finding this solution this year in order to pay tribute to the history (of the race), and also being able to create an extremely tough 50km race in which the winners will be real cross-country heroes,” says David Nilsson, CEO of the Visma Ski Classics, said in a press release.

It has been more than a month’s break since the last Ski Classics events. The 2016 Ski Classics started with a double-header in Italy on December 5 and 6, featuring a 15 k team prologue, followed by the 24 k La Sgambeda classic race, also shortened from the original 35 k version due to lack of snow.

15 laps might be a hard race, but some skiers are looking forward to it.

“It will be long and it will be tough race with great elevation,” Stanislav Rezac, a top Czech marathoner, told iDNES.cz. “I commend what the race organizers are trying to do.

Leading into the Jizerska, Norway’s John Kristian Dahl of Team United Bakeries is currently in first place for the overall Ski Classics title with 250 points, Russia’s Eugeniy Dementiev og Team Futura is in second place with 220 points, and Johan Kjølstad of Norway and Team United Bakeries is in third place with 190 points.

Austria’s Katerina Smutna of Team Santander is leading the women’s overall standings with 250 points, and has a good shot at extending her lead: in 2015 she won the Jizerska by 47 seconds over Masako Ishida.

Two Swedes are in second and third place in the Ski Classics standings. Britta Johansson Norgren of Lager 157 has 220 points and Lina Korsgren of Team Pioneer Investments in second place with 170 points.

Team Santander’s Anders Nygaard of Norway is leading the sprint competition. With 80 points he has a 50-point gap to the next two racers.

Two Norwegians are leading the Ski Classics youth competition: On the men’s side, Stian Hoelgaard has 104 points, while Tuva Toftdahl Staver has 116 points in the women’s competition.

In the team competition, it is currently dead even between the top two teams: Team United Bakeries and Team Santander both have 665 points after the first two races in the 2016 Ski Classics. Team Expirit is in third place with 461 points.

 

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Dahl Wins La Sgambeda; Smutna and Team Santander Lead Ski Classics Standings

(l-r) John Kristian Dahl, Øystein Pettersen, and Johan Kjølstad of Team United Bakeries racked up the fastest time in the team time trial on Saturday. In Sunday's 24 k classic La Sgambeda, Dahl took the win with Kjølstad in third. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

(l-r) John Kristian Dahl, Øystein Pettersen, and Johan Kjølstad of Team United Bakeries racked up the fastest time in the team time trial on Saturday. In Sunday’s 24 k classic La Sgambeda, Dahl took the win with Kjølstad in third. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

LIVIGNO, Italy— The two leading teams from last year’s Ski Classics series are once again on top. After one weekend of racing, defending champion Team Santander has 670 points, leading Team United Bakeries by just five points. Team Exspirit is in third with 461 points.

Team United Bakeries started the 2016 season off with a win in the team prologue on Saturday. The score combined the time of the team’s best woman from a 15 k mass start, with three times the time of the third-best man from a 15 k team time trial. Each team started separated by two minutes, and it was up to the team to decide how long to keep all the teammates skiing together, or when to drop down to just a core group to get the third man to the finish fastest.

Lina Korsgren of Team Pioneer Investments won the women's 15 k classic prologue. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Lina Korsgren of Team Pioneer Investments won the women’s 15 k classic prologue. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The winner of the women’s mass start was, in a surprise, Lina Korsgren of Team Pioneer Investments, ahead of Katerina Smutna of Team Santander. Britta Johansson Nordgren had made a break with about five kilometers to go, and pulled the other two towards the finish, but they passed her in the final few hundred meters. Nordgren, of Lager 157 Ski Team, finished third.

Masako Ishida was the top Team United Bakeries finisher, in seventh.

In the men’s team time trial, Team United Bakeries had the fastest group, with Johan Kjølstad, Øystein Pettersen, and John Kristian Dahl crossing the line in 32:33. Team Exspirit (Morten Eide Pedersen, Daniel Richardsson, and Bill Impola) was second, crossing the line at 32:48, and Team Santander (Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Anders Aukland, Snorri Einarsson) third in 32:54.

The next test was the La Sgambeda itself. Originally scheduled as a 35 k classic race up and down the valley outside of Livigno, the race was shortened to 24 k due to low snow conditions.

Team Santander on course during the men's prologue. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

Team Santander on course during the men’s prologue. (Photo: Visma Ski Classics)

The elite women started first, with Smutna– last year’s Ski Classics champion – outsprinting Norgren Johansson of Lager 57 Ski Team and Justyna Kowalcyk, also of Team Santander. The ladies completed the four 6 k loops in 1:01:47.

Ten men came to the finish together, but Dahl was the best of the pack in the sprint (video from Norway’s TV2 here). Evgeniy Dementiev of Team Futura by just 0.08 seconds. Kjølstad place third another 0.33 seconds back.

“It was good to take a victory,” Dahl told TV2. “I have not won since Vasaloppet in 2014, so this is not an everyday occurrence for me.”

World Cup regulars Ville Nousiainen of Finland and Chris Andre Jespersen of Norway took a break from their usual scenes to jump in the race, finishing eighth and ninth, three seconds out of Dahl’s time.

Prologue Results

La Sgambeda Results

Visma Ski Classics Rankings

Britta Norgren Johansson leads Katerina Smutna and the rest of the women's field in the Visma Ski Classics Prologue.

Britta Norgren Johansson leads Katerina Smutna and the rest of the women’s field in the Visma Ski Classics Prologue.

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Kowalczyk Wins Marchablanca Outright

Overall champion Justyna Kowalczyk and men's winner Carlos Lannes.  (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet Race Organization)

Overall 2015 Marchablanca champion Justyna Kowalczyk and men’s winner Carlos Lannes. (Photo: Ushuaia Loppet Race Organization)

Poland’s multi-time Olympic and World Championship medalist, Justyna Kowalczyk, beat all comers, male or female, in the 29th edition of Argentina’s Marchablanca on Sunday, Aug. 16.  Second place overall and first place for men went to Argentina’s Carlos Lannes at 5 seconds back.
The traditional competition took place this year in classic technique and consisted of one 21-kilometer clockwise loop of the Marchablanca/Provincial Cross Country Ski course in the Valley of Tierra Mayor outside of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Kowalczyk commented, “today required 21 KM of fighting wind and rain to get to the finish of this beautiful race.”  Such conditions are not unheard of in the Southern Patagonian region and they often turn ski racing into something resembling a springtime bike race in echelons and packs having to negotiate swirling winds.
Race CEO Pablo Valcheff concurred, “conditions were tough and starting 48 hours before the race we went to work in order to maintain the best course and stadium quality possible.”
Over 450 skiers from 10 countries participated in this year’s Marchablanca.  The race is organized by the Club Andino Ushuaia.  It is also the accompanying race to Argentina’s Worldloppet member, the Ushuaia Loppet, which took place eight days earlier.
Podium 21 KM, Classic
Men
1. Carlos Lannes   1h:17m.15s
2. Martín Banchi         1h:17m 36s
3. Federico Cichero     1h:17m.44s
Women
1. Justyna Kowalczyk   1h:17m.10s
2. María Giro                 1h:55m.36s
3. Clarisa Panosetti      2h:04m.29s

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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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Four Weeks Until Ushuaia Loppet and Marchablanca

 

 
Ushuaia Loppet and Marchablanca

(Press release)

Only four weeks remain until the start of Argentina’s 42-kilometer Ushuaia Loppet, the first-ever Worldloppet competition on the continent of South America.  Local snow conditions are good if not excellent.  FIS skiers in the Ushuaia Loppet, set for Aug. 8, can now have their finishing points count towards their international ranking as well.

Worldloppet membership for the Ushuaia Loppet is a big step forward for cross-country skiing in South America.  Membership raises the profile of the event.  It also drives more Fuegian skiers to the sport and, thus, strengthens the structure of nordic skiing in the Southern Patagonian region.

Ushuaia Loppet CEO Pablo Valcheff says “the existence of these events represents the accumulation of decades of hard work in this region.  We’re thrilled to be hosting the event.  Equally important is the standard that Worldloppet membership holds us to, the chance it gives us to develop, and the ability to show the potential that exists for skiing here, around the Earth’s southernmost city.”

The Ushuaia Loppet is capped at 120 skiers in 2015, partly to control its growth and partly due to the relatively remote location of the event.  Registration is currently 75% full.  Skiers from 18 countries have registered for the event.

The Ushuaia Loppet’s accompanying event, the traditional Marchablanca, will be held in classic technique this year and measure the typical 21 KM.  The Marchablanca will take place on Sunday, Aug. 16.

The Race Organization is overseen by the local nonprofit Club Andino Ushuaia.  Over 50 years old, the CAU is proud to be taking the next step in developing cross-country skiing in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and South America.

There’s still room to join, registration is available at www.ushuaialoppet.com.

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Early Snow in Argentina in Ushuaia’s First Worldloppet Year

Ushuaia Loppet

(Press release)

The first significant snowfall of the austral autumn left 40 cm of snow in Ushuaia and 70 cm on the cross-country trails of the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area and in the Valley of Tierra Mayor. The Club Andino Ushuaia (CAU) began grooming operations at the Francisco Jerman after intense snowfalls Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24. The CAU hopes to have at least some trails open and groomed as soon as possible for skiers.

The Valley of Tierra Mayor is groomed as part of a wider partnership between the CAU, Argentine governmental authorities, and two private entities, Cerro Castor downhill ski area and Centro Invernal Tierra Mayor.

The Ushuaia Loppet’s Pablo Valcheff commented that it’s great to see a relatively early snow in 2015 given that this winter marks the first winter that the event is an official Worldloppet member. Additionally, the Province of Tierra del Fuego as a whole has worked to develop programs to get young people on skis, on the snow, and active in the austral winter. The goal is to continue to improve nordic skiing in what is South America’s best location for the activity.

A regional calendar of events including FIS races is crowned by the Marchablanca and the Ushuaia Loppet which will start off the 2015-16 Worldloppet International Ski Marathon Series.

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It All Comes Down to Khanty

 

Holly Brooks is excited to get the last race of the season under her belt. Photo: Submitted

Holly Brooks (USA) is excited to get the last race of the season under her belt. (Courtesy photo)

By Inge Scheve

When Holly Brooks steps onto the start line of the Ugra Ski Marathon in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, for the last race in the 2014/2015 FIS Marathon Cup on Saturday, she’ll have four points separating her from second place in the race for the overall title.

“In order to claim the overall victory, I need to beat [Estonia’s] Tatjana [Mannima] and stay 51 points ahead of Aurelie [Dabudyk of France],” Brooks explained in an email. “There are lots and lots of Russian girls on the start list so anything could happen.”

A rookie to the FIS Marathon Cup this season, Brooks is in full battle mode as the final event, the 50 k freestyle Ugra, gets underway in Siberia on Saturday. With one race to go, Brooks has 455 points, while Mannima has 451 points and Dabudyk in third has 404 points. All three are on the start list, and each has a shot at the overall trophy.

Women’s overall standings prior to the final event

Deep field

Brooks traveled to Siberia earlier this week and was one of the first international racers to arrive at the venue. That gave her plenty of time to check out the course and research her competitors.

“I looked up a couple of the Russian girls on the FIS website the other day, and many don’t have profiles. However, today, I met a bunch of Russian female biathletes out on course so the competition is sure to be tough! The depth of Russian skiers is amazing,” Brooks noted.

“There are always racers that you’ve never heard of, and who are capable of winning. Therefore, I could be fighting for the podium, or I could be fighting for a top ten, I just don’t know.”

Elite women’s start list

Waited a month 

While the Engadin in Switzerland on March 9 was the last FIS Marathon Cup race before the Ugra, Brooks has tried to stay race fresh both mentally and physically in the month between the two races.

After the Engadin, where Brooks placed fifth, she travelled to Norway and competed in the Birkebeiner on March 21, a part of the Ski Classics series, before spending some time in Chamonix, France, prior to her trip to Russia.

“I’m just crossing my fingers for fast skis, no broken poles, and a body that will cooperate with a race effort on April 11th, long after I’m usually ‘done’ racing for the season,” Brooks wrote.

“No matter what the result ends up, I’m proud of my effort this season. It’s not been easy chasing the FIS Marathon cup as a ‘solo show,’ but I’ve met a lot of great people and made a lot of friends along the way,” she added. “Salomon and BP Alaska have been integral parts in making this journey a reality, and I can’t wait to get home to Alaska and share stories with people just one week from now.”

Still open in the men’s overall

The Ugra is not only the deciding event on the women’s side. Petr Novak of the Czech Republic has lead the FIS Marathon Cup with a comfortable margin for months and enters the Ugra with 406 points, but the overall title is not in his pocket.

With 347 points, Benoit Chauvet of France could snag the overall if he wins on Saturday and Novak finishes outside the top five.

Sergio Bonaldi of Italy is in third place overall, but with 229 points, he cannot threaten the top two, even if he were to win the Ugra.

Men’s overall standingsElite men’s start list

Expecting more than 1200 skiers

Khanty-Mansiysk, a well-established venue on the biathlon World Cup, is new to the FIS Marathon Cup. Aside from the 50 k freestyle FIS Marathon Cup race, the Ugra also offers 25 k freestyle and 5 k freestyle events on Saturday, and organizers are expecting about 1,200 participants total.

Two Russians won last year’s Ugra 50 k: Ekaterina Rudakov and Alexey Ivanov. In 2013, Alexander Legkov and Natalya Makoveeva won the race. The Ugra Ski Marathon is also the final event of the 2014/2015 Euroloppet series.

The weather forecast is calling for temperatures around freezing on race day, but the forecast for Friday is rain and 6 degrees Celsius (43 Fahrenheit), potentially serving up some interesting spring conditions for racers on Saturday.

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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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Everything Rides on Årefjällsloppet, Last Ski Classics Marathon

 

Årefjällsloppet is the final event of the 2015 Ski Classics series. Photo: Magnus Östh/SKi Classics

The Årefjällsloppet is the final event of the 2015 Ski Classics series. (Photo: Magnus Östh/Ski Classics)

By Inge Scheve 

Ski Classics leader Petter Eliassen of Norway can expect a solid run for his money on Saturday – literally speaking.

After winning the Norwegian Birkebeiner last weekend, Eliassen of Team LeasePlan Go goes into Årefjällsloppet in Åre, Sweden, with a 168-point lead for the overall Ski Classics title, ahead of fellow Norwegian Anders Aukland of Team Santander.

The Årefjällsloppet is the ninth and final event of the 2014/2015 Ski Classics series. Due to low snow and challenging conditions, the 75-kilometer course has been reduced to 47 k. But despite cutting down on the length, race organizers promised a challenging event that will separate the good from the best.

In his effort to defend the yellow bib in the final event and claim the overall 2015 Ski Classics Champion title, Eliassen will face one of the toughest start fields in the long-distance series this season.

And while Aukland is Eliassen’s the closest challenger for the overall, there is prize money awarded to the top-six racers in the overall competition. Norway’s Øystein Pettersen of Team United Bakeries is currently ranked third overall, 158 points out of second, and leads the sprint competition by 40 points. Pettersen has 240 sprint points, while Aukland’s teammate Andreas Nygård of Norway is second with 200 points, and Eliassen has 160 points.

In the women’s field, overall leader Katerina Smutna of Austria will have to fend off Switzerland’s Seraina Boner, Norway’s Laila Kveli, Japanese star Masako Ishida, and Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren to take the overall victory. Smutna leads Boner by 175 points, and Norgren is another 139 points back in third.

The team competition is also coming down to the wire in the last event. Team Santander goes into Årefjällsloppet with a 61-point lead on Team United Bakeries, and Team Coop is in third, 547 points out of second.

In the youth men’s competition, Norway’s Anders Høst of Lyn Ski has an almost 100-point lead to Team Coop’s Bill Impola of Sweden in second. In the women’s race, Norway’s Tone Sundvor of Team Synnfjell is in first place, 196 points ahead of Norway’s Tuva Toftdahl Staver of Team LeasePlan Go is in second.

Complete standings

Strongest field to date

The final event of the 2014/2015 Ski Classics features the strongest start fields in the four-year history of the Swedish race.

Among the top elite racers on the start list is Norway’s John Kristian Dahl, who was third at the Birkebeinerrennet last weekend, and Sweden’s Jörgen Brink, in addition to the top overall contenders.

And in addition to the usual long-distance specialists, a whole slew of World Cup racers such as Norway’s Petter Northug, Sweden’s top racers, including Johan Olsson, Marcus Hellner and Daniel Richardsson, as well as Russian Olympians Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin, and Czech superstar Lukas Bauer are on the start list, along with some of Sweden’s top women: Stina Nilsson, Emma Wikén and Sofia Bleckur.

Start lists

Men’s Elite
Women’s Elite

Payday

At the end of the day, the Ski Classics will award the prize money for the overall Ski Classics winner for both the men’s and the women’s categories, as well as the overall sprint competition, team competition, youth men and youth women winners.

Total Prize Money for entire season: 200,000 Euros ($216,315 U.S. dollars)

Total Prize Money per event: 21,000 Euros ($22,713 USD)

Ski Classics Champion Men

First place: 20 percent of total prize money
Second: 8 percent
Third: 5 percent
Fourth: 3 percent
Fifth: 2 percent
Sixth: 1 percent

Ski Classics Champion women

First place: 20 percent of total prize money
Second: 8 percent
Third: 5 percent

Ski Classics Team Champion

First place: 20 percent of total prize money

Ski Classics Sprint Champion

First place: 6 percent

Ski Classics Youth Champion Men

First place: 1 percent

Ski Classics Youth Champion Women

First place: 1 percent

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Eliassen, Kowalczyk Take Vasaloppet Titles

Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk and Norway's Petter Eliassen won the 90 k Vasaloppet on Sunday in Sweden. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk and Norway’s Petter Eliassen won the 90 k Vasaloppet on Sunday in Mora, Sweden. (Photo: Swix Ski Classics)

(Press release)

The 2015 Vasaloppet is the seventh of nine marathons in the Swix Ski Classics tour. Warm and wet conditions made the 90-kilometer classic race from Sälen to Mora, Sweden, extra tough with big time gaps between the athletes. With ten kilometers to go there was only three athletes left in the leading group; Petter Eliassen (Team LeasePlan Go), Anders Aukland (Team Santander) and Stanislav Rezac (Silvini Madshus Team). With two kilometers to go Eliassen started to push hard and won Vasaloppet for the first time, just ahead of Aukland.

“Amazing to win Vasaloppet and it is hard to believe,” Eliassen said. “I was hoping to fight for the podium today but I never really believed that I could win. But the race developed my way and the tactic was to not use any energy before Oxberg. Then I tried to push hard in the last two hills to get a gap before the finish sprint.”

Also the women had a tough race were Justyna Kowalczyk (Russian Marathon Team) won ahead of Britta Johansson Norgren (Team SkiProAm) and Seraina Boner (Team Coop).

“It was a really tough race and I broke my pole directly at the start,” Kowalczyk said. “An amazing experience winning Vasaloppet and I felt great the first 75km. But the last 15km was very painful and I am super happy to win.”

Aukland and Katerina Smutna (Team Madshus Silvini) are still leading the Swix Ski Classics Champion competition presented by Rottefella. Andreas Nygaard (Team LeasePlan Go) took back the green sprint bib and Team Santander is still leading the Team Competition. Anders Høst (Team Lyn Ski) took over the lead in the men’s youth competition and Tone Sundvor (Team Synnfjell) is still leading the women’s youth competition.

Top results

Swix Ski Classics Event 7 – Vasaloppet Men
1 PETTER ELIASSEN 04:01:48.30
2 ANDERS AUKLAND 04:01:53.65
3 STANISLAV ŘEZÁČ 04:02:12.10
4 ØYSTEIN PETTERSEN 04:04:43.95
5 JOHN KRISTIAN DAHL 04:05:01.90

Swix Ski Classics Event 7 – Vasaloppet Women
1 JUSTYNA KOWALCZYK 04:41:02.05
2 BRITTA JOHANSSON NORGREN 04:45:18.80
3 SERAINA BONER 04:49:16.85
4 LAILA KVELI 04:50:11.50
5 LINA KORSGREN 04:54:30.40

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