PETTER ELIASSEN AND KATARINA SMUTNA TRIUMPH IN YLLAS-LEVI
Petter Eliassen of Team Leaseplan and Katarina Smutna of Team Santander were victorious as the seventh season of Visma Ski Classics concluded with Yllas-Levi, a new race based 170 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland.
Eliassen’s victory was his second Visma Ski Classics race win in a row. The Norwegian also won last weekend’s Reistadlopet. For Smutna, this was her seventh stage success of the season.
Both of the Hertz yellow champion bibs had already been decided ahead of the grand-finale in Lapland, with Tord-Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) and Britta Johansson-Norgren (Lager 157 Ski Team) confirmed as respective winners of the most coveted competitions in Visma Ski Classics.
But both elite races still provided plenty of excitement in near-perfect conditions on the 67 kilometre track, as the two neighbouring municipalities - Yllas in Kolari and Levi in Kittila - worked together to host a superb conclusion to the biggest-ever Visma Ski Classics calendar.
In the women’s race, a trio of Smutna, Johansson-Norgren and Justyna Kowalczyk (Team Santander) got away from the rest of the field after the opening climb and skied together for almost half the race. Kowalczyk took all three of the remaining green sprint stages at Akaslompolo, Kukastunturi and Pyhajarvi, with Johansson-Norgren having already won the inaugural women’s green sprint bib competition.
Those three skiers were caught by the leading men with 31 kilometres to go out on the track and this provided the next key moment in the women’s race. With a pack of men passing through, Kowalczyk got stuck in the traffic, allowing both Smutna and Norgren to get ahead of her and she never caught them, finishing back in a distant third spot.
Smutna and Johansson-Norgren were locked together into the last kilometre, when the Czech once again owned a greater turn of speed than the Swede, to power home as she had also done to Johansson-Norgren on several occasions earlier in the season. This provided some measure of joy for Smutna, after her rival’s overall success in their season-long battle for the Hertz yellow jersey.
Johansson-Norgren commented afterwards, “I was a little tired today, it was good to get away and I hoped to beat Smutna at the end but she was too strong. I am really satisfied with the season, winning the yellow jersey and Vasaloppet. But maybe next season, not so many second places!”
For a long time, the men’s race proved to be a tight affair. Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) did enough in the first green sprint stage at Akaslompolo to successfully defend his title. The Norwegian also remained firmly in contention for the race victory at around halfway, alongside a group of approximately fifteen other contenders including Eliassen, Morten-Eide Pedersen (Team BN Bank) and Anders Aukland (Team Santander.)
But as he has done so many times before in his career, Eliassen chose the perfect time to outperform the rest of the men’s field. The Visma Ski Classics legend attacked on the last climb with about 12.5 kilometres remaining and quickly opened up a twenty second lead.
The chasing pack simply could not respond to that, as Eliassen cruised to victory in Levi. Behind him, Nygaard and Stian Hoelgaard (Team Leaseplan) won a mass sprint finish to clinch second and third place on the podium respectively.
“It was tough to break away in the long flats and downhills but I felt very good in the uphills and in the last one I was able to do it. Still, I was not sure of winning until the final few kilometres,” Eliassen said after his victory.
In the pro team category, Team Santander had already sealed a third consecutive title long before Yllas-Levi. But a strong mix of results from the Lager 157 Ski Team in Finland ensured that they clinched second place, ahead of former pro team champions Team United Bakeries.
Hoelgaard’s strong race performance in Finland put the seal on his successful defence of the men’s pink youth jersey presented by Seefeld. Evelina Bangman of Team Ski Pro-Am did enough to win the women’s pink youth competition. Both these events are for skiers of 26 years of age and under entered in Visma Ski Classics.
The Visma Nordic Trophy also concluded in Finland. This brand-new category rewards the top three male and female skiers across the final five events of the Visma Ski Classics season. Eliassen's victory meant he won the men’s competition ahead of Aukland, with Gjerdalen in third spot. Meanwhile, Johansson-Norgen capped a superb season by winning the women’s Visma Nordic Trophy in front of Kowalczyk and Astrid Oyre Slind (Team United Bakeries.)
The biggest-ever season of Visma Ski Classics is now over, with most skiers looking forward to a break before training resumes ahead of the start of season eight next winter.
For more information about Visma Ski Classics visit: www.vismaskiclassics.com
To watch videos and live events visit: play.vismaskiclassics.com
Visma Ski Classics VII (2016/2017):
Event 1: 27th November Prologue Pontresina Switzerland
Event 2: 3rd December La Sgambeda Livigno Italy
Event 3: 4th January Changchun Vasaloppet China 50km
Event 4: 14th January Kaiser Maximilian Lauf Seefeld Austria 60km
Event 5: 21st January La Diagonela St Moritz Switzerland 50 km
Event 6: 29th January Marcialonga Trentino Italy 70km
Event 7: 11th February Toblach-Cortina Italy 50km
Event 8: 19th February Jizerska Padesatka Czech Republic 50km
Event 9: 5th March Vasaloppet Sweden 90km
Event 10: 18th March Birkebeinerrennet Norway 54km
Event 11: 25th March Årefjällsloppet Sweden 55 km
Event 12: 1st April Reistadløpet Bardufoss Norway 50km
Event 13: 8th April Ylläs-Levi Finland 67km
|2||Britta Johansson Norgren||LAG||3:13:53.7|
Visma Ski Classics Champion women, presented by Hertz
|1||Britta Johansson Norgren||LAG||2120|
|3||Astrid Øyre Slind||TUB||1473|
Visma Ski Classics Champion men, presented by Hertz
|1||Tord Asle Gjerdalen||SAN||1744|
|5||Morten Eide Pedersen||BNB||1208|
Visma Ski Classics Sprint women
|1||Britta Johansson Norgren||LAG||440|
|4||Astrid Øyre Slind||TUB||135|
Visma Ski Classics Sprint men
|2||Morten Eide Pedersen||BNB||181|
Visma Ski Classics Pro Team
|2||Lager 157 Ski Team||LAG||4384|
|3||Team United Bakeries||TUB||3948|
|5||Team BN Bank||BNB||2521|
Visma Ski Classics Youth women, presented by Seefeld
Visma Ski Classics Youth men, presented by Seefeld
Visma Nordic Trophy women
|1||Britta Johansson Norgren||LAG||835|
|3||Astrid Øyre Slind||TUB||595|
Visma Nordic Trophy men
|3||Tord Asle Gjerdalen||SAN||580|