The Long Distance Ski Championship

“TO BE THE HUNTED TEAM MAKES US MOTIVATED!”

TEAM SANTANDER (Ranking 1)

Written by: Teemu Virtanen

A Spanish bank and some Norwegian power -- that is the combination that makes the earth tremble, at least the ground the Visma Classics athletes stampede on. To be fair, the team is not just empowered by Norwegian superiority as there is a rising Swede in their ranks. Oskar Kardin, the team believes, will be the next Swedish Vasaloppet winner, and why not, this lad stood on the podium in Årefjällsloppet last year.

First and foremost, Team Santander is the Aukland brothers' team. Jørgen is now behind-the-scenes pulling the strings with Magnar Dalen while Anders, well you know, does not know how to quit. Good for him as he is still pushing the envelope and showing the skiing world that age is indeed just a number (1st in Årefjällsloppet & 2nd in Reistadlöpet last year).

The Yellow Jersey winner and Mr. Marcialonga, Tord Asle Gjerdalen, will again be hard to beat. But the competition is getting fiercer, and his toughest opponent may just come within his own team. The Green Bib winner Andreas Nygaard is on his way to the throne, and this season may be the one when he takes the scepter and rules the kingdom.

Øyvind Moen Fjeld may be their weakest player (at least in terms of podium places), but weak is not the right word to describe this soldier; in the top 18 in every race except Marcialonga (26th) and he was 4th in Vasaloppet and 6th in Birkebeinerrennet in 2016. If he is the weakest link, this team is practically unbeatable. And they have been that way for three straight years.

And that takes us to the question at hand. Is their winning streak going to last? Justyna Kowalczyk and Katerina Smutná jumped ship leaving the team without a female star (the team also lost Snorri Einarsson and Jens Eriksson). Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes is certainly trying to fill that hole, but she is no superstar yet (but a great skier; 3rd in Årefjällsloppet last season). As Magnar has said in many occasions; the upcoming season will be the hardest to win for the team! But being hunted keeps them on their toes!