The Long Distance Ski Championship

Japanese victory above the arctic circle

Long climbs, tricky snow conditions and impressive breakaways were on the plate for today’s Visma Ski Classics race, Reistadløpet, 50 km, in Northern Norway. Masako Ishida, Team Koteng, beat Justyna Kowalczyk, Team Trentino Robinson Trainer, just before the finish while Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander, broke away in the second long climb.

In the morning, many pro skiers juggled between choosing kick wax or double-poling as a heavy snowfall hit the region. The sky cleared up before the start, and all the podium places went to diagonal striders in both the men’s and women’s races.

Women started first, and the first long climb to Orta proved to be quite decisive as three skiers broke away from the pack; Ishida, Kowalczyk and Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng. The latter was 41 seconds behind the two on the top of the mountain, but she was able to catch up in the following downhill section. The second uphill was a little too much for her, and Kowalczyk and Ishida continued their battle in the front. These two skiers approached the stadium area neck and neck, and Ishida was stronger in the end. Øyre Slind had to ski most of the way by herself, and she finished third over two minutes behind the winner.

“I had better skis than Justyna in the end, and I tried to break away but couldn’t,” the happy winner Ishida said. “It was a tough race, and I’m so glad to have my second Visma Ski Classics victory in my career. This was also my best race of the whole season.”

In the men’s race, a large group went past the first sprint point right before the long uphill. Gjerdalen and Chris Jespersen, Team Koteng, broke away in the climb followed by Anders Aukland, Team Santander, Daniel Richardsson, Lager 157 Ski Team, and Øyvind Moen Fjeld, Team Santander. The second ascent to the top of the mountain was the decisive one as Jespersen struggled with his aggressive kick-wax and Gjerdalen skied away. The legend of the sport Aukland finished third and took home his third podium place of the season.

“I had wonderful skis and I had a perfect day,” Gjerdalen admitted. “When I left the hotel, I was still going to go double-poling, but only a few minutes before the start, I changed my mind and chose diagonal striding. It was the right decision. I don’t even remember my last race with kick wax. Of course, I use that technique for training, but not really for racing anymore.”
The yellow bib holders Gjerdalen and Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, who double-poled today and had a quite struggle, seem to be safe winners of their respective category. But the fight for Visma Nordic Trophy and the Climb Competition are completely open when skiers move from Norway to Finland for the final race. The sprint and youth competitions were locked after today’s race, but the fight remains in the pro team competition. 

The final race of season VIII, Ylläs-Levi, 70 km, takes place on Saturday 14th of April in Finland.
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Masako Ishida (JPN) Team Koteng and Tord Asle Gjerdalen (NOR) Team Santander winners of Reistadløpet

Gjerdalen got rewarded with the Visma Skier of the day award, due to his offensive skiing throughout the race.