Kowalczyk and Eliassen win Reistadløpet!
Reistadløpet is the 12th event in Visma Ski Classics season VII and took place today in northern Norway, going from Setermoen to Bardufoss. Petter Eliassen dominated the men's race and Justyna Kowalczyk was the strongest woman of the day.
Eliassen of Team LeasePlan took the lead in the first long uphill towards Orta, the second control point. After that, he never gave an opportunity for the others to reduce the gap. The chasing group consisted of three skiers from different teams; Anders Aukland of Team Santander, Simen Østensen of Team BN Bank and Lucas Bauer of Team Pioneer Investments. Andreas Nygaard was able to win the first sprint before the longest climb on today’s course and strengthened his lead in the overall green sprint bib competition.
Eliassen showed no signs of slowing down on the second climb and he finished the race three minutes and seventeen seconds ahead of last week’s winner in Årefjällsloppet, Aukland who in turned managed to gain a short gap over Østensen and Bauer in the closing kilometres. Østensen was stronger in the final sprint leaving Bauer in fourth place. The Hertz yellow champion bib holder Gjerdalen improved towards the end to finish in fifth place.
“It felt good to win a race this season,” the extremely satisfied winner Eliassen claimed. “It was a tough race and diagonal striding was the best option today. It has been a while since anyone of us has done a race using kick wax, which made this race quite challenging, but it worked out perfectly in the end. I haven’t really thought about the Visma Nordic Trophy tour that much, but I know that I have a good chance in that now so I will try to win again in the last race in Finland.”
The women’s race was not as clear-cut as the men’s since Justyna Kowalczyk of Team Santander and Masako Ishida of Team United Bakeries were neck and neck until they reached the mountain top for the second time. There, Kowalczyk was able to break away and finally leave the Japanese skier behind. The gap between these two athletes was 55 seconds in the end while Astrid Øyre Slind skied by herself most of the way and arrived at the finish as the third fastest skier almost 3.5 minutes behind the winner.
The women’s Hertz yellow champion bib holder Johansson Norgren managed to win the first green sprint bib stage, but that was the only real highlight of her performance. Double-poling the Reistadlopet course proved to a strenuous task for her. She finished sixth, more than 13 minutes behind the winner in what was her worst result of what has been an otherwise outstanding season.
“I had amazing skis and great glide,” the always-smiling Kowalczyk said. “Masako was strong in the uphill sections and we worked together a bit, but I knew that I had an advantage over her in the last part because of my fast skis. This was the hardest long distance ski race I’ve ever done in my career and before the race, I accepted the fact that this will be a really tough experience. The climbs are so long and steep, and I’ve never raced on a course like this. It was extremely tough but it feels wonderful to win again!”
Gjerdalen and Johansson Norgren continue to wear the yellow jerseys, and they are too far ahead for anyone to catch up. Stian Hoelgaard of Team LeasePlan had another great race to gain sixth spot, which cemented his win in the men’s pink youth bib category, while Evelina Bångman of Team Ski Pro Am took a stranglehold on Svenja Hoelzle of Team Synnfjell by increasing her lead to 114 points in the women’s youth event. Andreas Nygaard is almost assured of victory in the men´s green sprint competition, while Britta Johansson Norgren has sealed the women’s sprint event. Team Santander continues to dominate the team competition. The winners of these seem to be set in stone, but the battles behind them for the other top placings are still to be decided in the season finale in Ylläs-Levi.
The Visma Nordic Trophy tour is beautifully poised ahead of the final race in Finland as Johansson Norgren leads with 665 points, but Kowalczyk and Slind are not far behind, and only 20 points separate these two skiers. Aukland leads the men’s competition, but Eliassen is breathing down his neck as he is only 20 points behind. Gjerdalen is third, 50 points behind his leading teammate.
The last race of the Visma Ski Classics season VII- Ylläs-Levi, will take place on Saturday 8th of April in Northern Finland.
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