The Long Distance Ski Championship

Johansson Norgren and Gjerdalen win La Diagonela

Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, and Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander, were able to break away in the final hill and claim the victory bells in La Diagonela. Kateriná Smutná, Bauer Ski Team, is back in action and the grand old man Anders Aukland, Team Santander, managed to be on the podium again.

The 5th edition of La Diagonela took place in perfect winter conditions in the famous Engadin valley. For the first time, the full 65 km course was in use when the elite women started their 3.5-hour journey into the Swiss wonderland.

A large group of skiers stayed together for the first 20 km until the women hit the first tough climb towards the legendary St. Moritz. At this stage, Sara Lindborg, Team Serneke and 2nd in Kaiser Maximilian Lauf, was struggling while Johansson Norgren and Smutná broke away from the pack. Lina Korsgren, Åre Ski Club, was able to follow a bit behind, and she caught up with the two after an intensive chase.

These three skiers got some help from a couple of male skiers while Lindborg, skiing alone, re-gained her strength and tried to catch up with the three. She got quite close, but the final 10 km proved to be too much for her. Norgren pushed really hard in the final hills and got a safe gap while Korsgren let Smutná do all the work and sprinted in the end taking home the second place.

“I felt a little tired today at some points,” Johansson Norgren admitted. “Of course, Kateriná and I got a bit afraid when Lina caught us up, but I just needed to save some energy and focus on winning. I did my final push some kilometers before the finish and that was enough this time around. It may seem that I’m unbeatable right now, but anything can happen in the upcoming races. It was great to have Lina and Kateriná on the podium again and they will be strong in Marcialonga!”

In the men’s race, about 50 skiers were in tact all the way to the long climb toward St. Moritz. The “Visma Skier of the Day” Morten Eide Pedersen, Team BN Bank, aggressively attacked a few times splitting up the large group. After St. Moritz, there were 13 skiers in the lead group all the way to the final 13 kilometers. Pedersen attacked again, and very soon only three skiers were able to follow; Ilya Chernousov, Bauer Ski Team and two Team Santander skiers, Tord Asle Gjerdalen and Anders Aukland.

Gjerdalen attacked only about 500 meters before the finish leaving last year’s winner Chernousov and the 45-year-old legend Aukland behind. Those two had a tight fight in the end, but the former was able to speed up in the end and finish second.

“I had an easy race,” Gjerdalen said happily. “I had really good skis, and the old man Aukland helped me a lot. I had a perfect day on the tracks, and I didn’t have to push too hard in the race. I knew I was going to be strong in the final climb and made my move right before the finish.”

In the sprint competition, Oskar Kardin, Team Santander, Anton Karlsson, Lager 157 Ski Team, and Ermil Vokuev, Russian Marathon Team, continue their cat and mouse play while Johansson Norgren cleaned the table and managed to get all available points. There was no climb competition in this race. The youth bibs are now carried by Kardin and Evelina Bångman, Team Mäenpää. Team Santander is leading the team competition by 30 points over Lager 157 Ski Team. Gjerdalen and Johansson Norgren are also leading Visma Alp Trophy after two races out of four.

Lina Korsgren 2nd, Britta Johansson Norgren 1st, Katerina Smutna 3rd 

Ilya Chernousov 2nd, Tord Asle Gjerdalen 1st, Anders Aukland 3rd