The second Visma Ski Classics event this weekend took place today in Italy. The 32-kilometer Prato Piazza Mountain Challenge saw Johannes Eklöf and Ida Dahl, both from Team Ramudden, as the winners after a tough final climb.
The men’s race started at 9:00 CET with a 1km neutral start, and there was no decisive action until before the only Sprint of the day, at Lago di Dobbiaco, just after 9.4km from the start, where Ermil Vokuev, Russian Winter Team, was the fastest to cross the sprint checkpoint, followed by Stian Berg, Team Kaffebryggeriet, and Runar Skaug Mathisen, Lager 157 Ski Team.
At Carbonin, the peloton increased the pace, and the real action began. From the bottom of the final climb, with 6.6km to go and 580meters of altitude to gain (8.7% gradient), only nine skiers were left on the front group.
With 4.5km to go, Alexey Shemiakin, Russian Winter Team increased the pace again, and only Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team XPND Fuel, Stian Hoelgaard, Team Curira, Max Novak and Johannes Eklöf, Team Ramudeen, were able to follow, and all of them double-poling up the hill.
Close to the mountain plateau, Johannes Eklöf, Team Ramudden, attacked the group and got a maximum gap of 13 seconds in a couple of hundred meters.
In the end, Johannes Eklöf, Team Ramudden, was the strongest in the final part of the climb at almost 2000 meters above sea level, winning the race and leaving Stian Hoelgaard, Team Curira, nearly 8 seconds behind. Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team XPND Fuel, managed to take the last place on the podium.
The women’s race, which started at 9:35 CET, followed the same script as the men’s, with no decisive action until the Sprint point, besides one short breakaway attempt by Lina Korsgren, Team Ramudden.
Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, crossed the Sprint line first, followed by Emilie Fleten, Team XPND Fuel, and Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen. After that, Johansson Norgren, Øyre Slind, Dahl, and Korsgren formed a leading group, and the women’s action began.
With 18km left, a new lead group was formed, with only Emilie Fleten, Team XPND Fuel, Ida Dahl, Team Ramudden, and Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen. With Øyre Slind, the only diagonal strider from the trio.
Close to the top of the climb, Ida Dahl, Team Ramudden, increased the pace, and just Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen, could follow. Emilie Fleten, Team XPND Fuel, tried to catch the duo in front but closed the gap just before the finish line.
In the end, Ida Dahl, Team Ramudden won the race, double-poling all the way to the top, finishing more than 2 seconds in front of Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen. Emilie Fleten, Team XPND Fuel, completed the podium in 3rd position, more than 18 seconds behind.
Prato Piazza Mountain Challenge results can be found here.