By Teemu Virtanen
The Visma Ski Classics Season IX has been an action-packed tour with 12 events starting in Livigno in November/December and finishing tomorrow when the 70 km Ylläs-Levi starts at 7:25 am CET with the elite women. That will certainly be a thrilling race in its own right, but the most exciting battle will be seen starting at 8 am CET in the men’s race where two skiers are going neck-and-neck from the beginning to the end.
These two gladiators are, of course, Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Eiendom, and Petter Eliassen, Team BN Bank, and the former is only 27 points ahead the latter. So, the one who wins the race will be crowned as the King of Visma Ski Classics this year. They both agree that the situation is exceptionally exciting and even somewhat nerve-racking, but they are ready to give their best and then some.
Eliassen and Nygaard, even if they are from different teams, train a lot together and they do many joint tempo trainings. As a matter of fact, they did one tough preparation workout on Tuesday, and Nygaard proved to be a touch better. Hence, Eliassen is saying that his dear opponent is the favorite come tomorrow.
“It’ll be a tough race for both of us,” Eliassen admits while getting ready to test his skis the day before. “In the last prep training, the VO2 max workout on treadmill, we did together, Andreas was able to go double-poling about a minute longer than me. I reached 88 ml/kg per minute in diagonal striding, which was higher than Andreas’ result, but his double-poling score was better than mine. So, it will be a challenge to beat him!”
Last weekend, Eliassen decided to go double-poling in Reistadløpet as he was a bit concerned about his diagonal striding technique and the conditions seemed to favor skiing without kick wax. He also said that he is still suffering from an inflammatory injury in his right hand that he got in the 220 km Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet a week before the Norwegian race. Nygaard won that race and admitted that he felt very tired in Norway, but he should be recovered now.
When asked about tomorrow’s clash of the titans, Nygaard thinks that there is perhaps too much excitement in the air. A lot is riding on the result of the race, and both skiers know that.
“We are fighting for the Champion title,” Nygaard states without hesitation. “And tomorrow’s result will affect us financially and in many other ways. It is the most important race of the year. But it is also great for the sport and Ylläs-Levi that we have this battle.”
Naturally, everyone wants to know about the tactics for these two skiers when they face each other. Both of them are convinced that the pace will be high during the race.
“I need to stay with Eliassen when he attacks,” Nygaard says determinedly. “I think the first serious breakaway attempt will happen after the first sprint in Äkäslompolo when we start climbing again. I may get some help from my teammates, but I personally need to be strong tomorrow. No one can pull me through the course as I need to do the work myself. And Iivo Niskanen and Jean-Marc Gaillard are also racing, and they will add a new flavor to the mix.”
Eliassen, on the other hand, thinks that the pace will be high even in the first climb up to Yllästunturi.
“My teammates will ensure that we’ll keep up a good speed, and I’ll try to save some energy so that I can go fast the last 20 km. And I think that Andreas would like to show me and the others that he is more than just a good sprinter, and he will be ready for high speed as well.”
Finally, they both agree that Ylläs-Levi is the perfect stage for their epic battle, and the event is one of their favorite races. They like the course with its beautiful scenery all the way from Ylläs to Levi. They also appreciate the fact that the last race is long and challenging.
“Ylläs-Levi probably has the best course in the tour,” Nygaard declares. “It’s long one with good climbs, nice flats and fast downhills. This is the best place to end our long and hard season!”
Eliassen concurs with the same tone: “There’s pretty much everything on this course as Andreas says, and Lapland is simply magical with its nature and landscapes. A lot of skiers come from Northern Norway, where I live, to ski here and they all love it here. I think Ylläs-Levi is absolutely superb!”