The Long Distance Ski Championship


Tomorrow, the 10th race in Visma Ski Classics Season VII will take place in Norway when the legendary 54 km long Birkebeinerrennet from Rena to Lillehammer starts at 8 am CET (elite women at 7:45 am).  The race is also the second event of the Visma Nordic Trophy competition that started with Vasaloppet, followed by Birkebeinetennet tomorrow, Årefjällsloppet in Sweden, Reistadlöpet in Norway and the final event in Finland- Ylläs-Levi.

Last year, Birkebeinerrennet was won by John Kristian Dahl of Team United Bakeries and the women’s race by Seraina Boner of Gel Intérim Rossignol. The former is a strong favorite to win this year as well due to his victory in Vasaloppet two weeks ago (his third in total). The most notable star addition to the men´s elite group is Martin Johnsrud Syndby representing the same team as Dahl. Sundby won the 50 km World Cup race in Holmenkollen last weekend and has already secured the overall victory in the FIS World Cup this season. Also new on the Visma Ski Classics start line this winter is Daniel Richardsson representing Team Tynell.  Two other celebrity participants come from royal families as the Danish Crown Prince and his Norwegian counterpart will go head-to-head in the amateur race.

Besides Sundby and Dahl, the men’s race has many contenders for the highest place on the podium. Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander leads the overall competition by 349 points over his teammate Andreas Nygaard, but the fight behind Gjerdalen is extremely tight. There are five pro skiers, including Nygaard, who are within less than a hundred points from the second place. Stian Hoelgaard of Team LeasePlan is third only 12 points behind the aforementioned Nygaard. The other skiers in the top six are Morten Eide Pedersen of Team BN Bank, Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan and Ilya Chernousov of Team Pioneer Investments.

In the women’s overall competition, the Vasaloppet winner Britta Johansson Norgren of Lager 157 Ski Team has a solid lead over her greatest opponent Katerina Smutná of Team Santander, who had to retire in Vasaloppet after the amazing stretch of five consecutive wins in Visma Ski Classics. Behind these two female athletes, there are two pairs fighting neck and neck; Astrid Øyre Slind of Team United Bakeries and Sara Lindborg of Team Serneke, currently in places 3 and 4 respectively, and Emilia Lindstedt of Team Ski Pro Am and Heli Heiskanen of Team Robinson Petshop Trainer, fifth and sixth respectively in the standings.

When it comes to the remaining Visma Ski Classics competition categories Nygaard and Norgren are dominating the sprint competitions, but there are great fights behind these two leaders as Pedersen and Jens Eriksson of Team Santander are almost tied and the same goes for Slind and Smutna in the women’s competition. Hoelgaard is the strongest skier in the men’s youth category, but Svenja Hoelzle of Team Synnfjell and Evelina Bångman of Team Ski Pro Am are fighting tooth and nail for the first place in the women’s youth category. Hoelzle has a 24-point lead over Bångman Team Santader is in a league of its own in the team competition, but there is a great battle to be seen between Lager 157 Ski Team, Team United Bakeries and Team LeasePlan as these teams try to take their rightful place right behind Team Santander.

Birkebeinerrennet has one of the most challenging courses in Visma Ski Classics with two major climbs along the way. The first one starts right from the beginning and goes to an elevation of 900 meters above sea level presenting skiers about 600 meters of vertical climb. The other one starts at the 28 km point in Kvarstad going to the highest point on the course, but this climb is much shorter than the first one (about 200 meters of vertical climb). The Visma Classics sprint point is in Skramstadsätra at 9 km.

“The course, conditions and weather forecast look perfect,” the CEO of the race Jo Gunnar Ellevold says confidently. “We have a lot of natural snow, and if the weather is on our side, we can expect a new time record. We always set out to make the best race ever, and this year is no exception. The course, the profile and those climbs make this like a rite of passage for all participants. The tradition and our history along with the amazing popularity that Nordic skiing has in Norway make this a special event. I’m also happy to see how Visma Ski Classics has brought in more pro skiers and made long distance skiing a worldwide brand. It is a very good marketing tool for us, too.”
Birkebeinerennet information

Date:                           Saturday March 18th 2017
Distance:                    54km Classic Technique
Location:                    Rena Lillehammer Norway
Start Time:                 Women CET 07.45
                                    Men CET 08.00 
VSC Sprint:                9km Skramstadsaetra
Record number of participants:      14 750

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