Today we present the favorites in the Champion competition for Season XI. The Yellow Champion bib is worn by the male and female athlete with the most current Champion points before each event. The overall winner is the athlete with most Champion points after the season in each gender.
MEN - CHAMPION BIB FAVORITES
1. Andreas Nygaard – Team Ragde Eiendom
The Norwegian Andreas Nygaard was last season not in a hurry to get in shape before Christmas. But in January he advanced in the field. With two event victories he won the yellow bib for the second year in a row. Nygaard’s strongest weapon has always been the sprint in the end of long races, but last winter he got beaten by Emil Persson in Kaiser Maximilian Lauf. Another threat for Nygaard is races where skiers such as Petter Eliassen keep a high pace throughout the race.
2. Petter Eliassen – Team Ragde Eiendom
The two-time champion has been in second place overall the last two years. Eliassen has historically won races by wearing down his competitors. Last season he was “only” victorious in one race, when he surprisingly outsprinted Stian Hoelgaard in Vasaloppet. In September, Eliassen won an 11,5 km long uphill race on rollerskis a minute ahead of the 50 km World Champion Hans Christer Holund. We are sure Eliassen will be in good shape when season XI starts.
3. Tord Asle Gjerdalen – Team XPND Fuel of Norway
He is a two-time champion and we will avoid the word unlucky, but some things didn’t bounce Gjerdalen’s way last season. Maybe he could have passed Nygaard in the last three races that were cancelled due to the pandemic? After spending his entire Visma Ski Classics career with the Aukland’s, he now has a new Pro Team. This time, he doesn’t have to sit calm in the pack if Eliassen or Nygaard is in a breakaway. We think that might bring him back to the top.
4. Morten Eide Pedersen – Team Nordic Athlete
He raced Visma Ski Classics already in the opening year of 2011 and is certainly one of the most experienced skiers in the peloton. Pedersen is not afraid of breakaways or keeping a high pace. Last year he was fifth overall (his best result is third, 2018) and he won the climb competition for the third year in a row. He has transferred to Team Nordic Athlete, where he will be the captain. Is it time for Pedersen to get the yellow bib?
5. Marcus Johansson – Lager 157 Ski Team
Finally the Swede Marcus Johansson reached the podium last season. Twice. He ended up sixth in the champion competition, which is by far the best he has done. Rumour says that he has been stronger during the dryland season compared to previous years, so if everything goes perfect he might reach the podium.
WOMEN - CHAMPION BIB FAVORITES
1. Britta Johansson Norgren – Lager 157 Ski Team
With 21 event victories, the Swede Britta Johansson Norgren is the most successful long distance skier of all times. After some shaky results early in last season, she bounced back and won two races back to back, captured the yellow, green and lumberjack bib, as well as the Visma Alp Trophy. We believe she can win the yellow bib for the sixth consecutive time.
2. Astrid Øyre Slind – Team Koteng
On her best day, Astrid Øyre Slind is unbeatable. The Norwegian that always rolls up the sleeves on her race suit is getting better every year. When she won La Venosta by over three minutes in the beginning of the season, we expected her to be able to win the yellow bib. But just like many other seasons before, physical challenges stopped Øyre Slind to win the most prestigious jersey. Now she is back on track and she is ready to win both races and bibs.
3. Lina Korsgren – Team Ramudden
We have considered Lina Korsgren as given top three girl in the overall standings for a few years, but as several times earlier illness impeded her last season as well. Before she got a bug in January, the Swede outperformed her oppo- nents by over three minutes in Kaiser Maximilian Lauf. After her mid-season down period she won Vasaloppet by over six minutes. We can almost promise that Korsgren will take her fifth event win this season and become a Visma Ski Classics legend.
4. Kateřina Smutná – eD System Bauer Team
You should never neglect Kateřina Smutná. The Austrian (former Czech) skier won the overall title in 2016, finished second in 2017 and 2018 and finished third in 2019 and 2020. She is still a great skier, but she doesn’t seem to have the strength, speed and endurance to win races anymore. We believe Smutná will have a hard time making top three in the overall standings, but on that point we were wrong last season. She has a high level on her worst days, which is beneficial for the champion competition.
5. Emilie Fleten – Team Koteng
The first season in Visma Ski Classics was a success for Emilie Fleten, now transferred from Team Ragde Eiendom to Team Koteng. She was sixth overall after finishing top ten in all races. She visited the podium in Jizerska where she beat all the stars except Johansson Norgren. With one more year of experience from long distance skiing, we believe she has a chance to reach the podium in the final standings.