The Long Distance Ski Championship


Breakaways, an incredible climb competition and a wonderful spring day were the key takeaways from this year’s Ylläs-Levi, the final race of Visma Ski Classics Season VIII. Astrid Öyre Slind, Team Koteng, was finally able to win, and Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, sprinted away from his teammates taking home his fourth victory of the season.

In the women’s race, five skiers broke away in the first long climb up to Yllästunturi.  Astrid Öyre Slind and her teammate and Reistadlöpet winner Masako Ishida were followed by Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, Team Santander, and Justyna Kowalczyk, Team Trentino Robinson Trainer.

These skiers stayed together until the last climb to Pyhätunturi where Ishida diagonal strode away from the others. Her gap was not decisive as Öyre Slind was able to catch her about seven kilometers before the finish and soon after the three other skiers passed her as well. Öyre Slind was able to stay ahead all the way to the finish while Johansson Norgren finished second and Vikhagen Gjeitnes third.

“I’m so happy to finally win,” the extremely joyous Öyre Slind declared. “We went quite slow after the second sprint as none of us wanted to take the lead. But when Ishida broke away on the last climb, I just tried to slow the pace down to make sure she could win today. But my skis were so good in the end and I was able to catch her, and then I just kept going. This victory feels so good!”

In the men’s race, there were more than 20 skiers in the lead group through the first two sprints. There was an exciting fight between Morten Eide Pedersen, Team BN Bank, and Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander, for the climb competition up on Kukastunturi where the former was stronger taking home that trophy.

Then about 30 kilometers before the finish, four Team Santander athletes followed by Tore Björseth Berdal, Team Koteng, broke away. The Santander skiers worked together and soon Berdal gave in. Anders Aukland, Andreas Nygaard, Tord Asle Gjerdalen and Öyvind Moen Feld came to the finish area together, and Nygaard was the strongest in the sprint followed by Gjerdalen and Aukland respectively.

“The last 20 kilometers were tough,” the happy winner Nygaard said. “I was tired in the end, but so was Tord Asle. He pushed really hard in the last kilometers. But I was able to speed up in the final meters and win the race. It feels so good to end the season on a high note.”

The 50 km Olympic Gold medal winner and the Ylläs-Levi Ambassador Iivo Niskanen, Team Mäenpää, was fifth in the race.
“I broke away from the chasing group on the last long climb, but I couldn’t catch the breakaway guys,” Iivo admitted. “The snow was finer and colder on the top of the fells, and I selected wet condition skis that were not the fastest on dry snow. This is very different from World Cup skiing as there is so much double-poling, both on steep hills and on flats. I may do Ylläs-Levi next year again, but the Visma Ski Classics tour has to wait some more years.”

Johansson Norgren won three competitions this season; the Hertz Champion, the sprint and the climb. Gjerdalen won the the Hertz Champion competition while Anton Karlsson, Lager 157 Ski Team, won the sprint one and Morten Eide Pedersen, was the king of the hill by winning the climb competition. The youth competitions went to Evelina Bångman, Team Mäenpää, and Oskar Kardin, Team Santander. Team Santander was the best pro team of the season. Öyre Slind and Nygaard won the Visma Nordic Trophy tour.

Astrid Øyre Slind (NOR) Team Koteng and Andreas Nygaard (NOR) Team Santander winners of Ylläs-Levi

Masako Ishida got rewarded with the Visma Skier of the day award