Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team XPND Fuel of Norway, did what many Pro Team athletes dream of, went to a solo win in Vasaloppet.
When we talk to Tord a couple of days after the triumph, he feels the race throughout his body.
“Today, I feel like an old man”, says Gjerdalen.
“The race tore hard on the body, but I have the victory forever, and the track record will probably hold for a while. The pain in my body will pass”, 37-year-old Gjerdalen continues.
Gjerdalen has had a successful career since joining the Pro Tour in 2015. The victory at the Vasaloppet was his eleventh victory, which includes three wins in Marcialonga. However, the latest win came in 2018 when he won the Reistadløpet. In Vasaloppet, the best place is fourth, last year.
Now back to the race this Sunday.
It was in a somewhat unexpected place during the course you got away, you, Ermil (Vokuev), Anton (Karlsson), and Vetle (Thyli)?
“Yes, it was a fast pace up towards Evertsberg when Ermil passed the climb point just ahead of Anton. Ermil then continued to push hard, and Vetle and I were able to reach them. It was a good opportunity,” says Gjerdalen.
It was a strong quartet that went fast up Lundbäcksbackarna. The chasing group maybe thought they would close the gap later. However, that didn’t happen.
At Oxberg, with 28 km left of the race, the chasing group was 53 seconds behind, and then they never got closer. The gap was just over a minute in both Hökberg and Eldris. After Hökberg, Thyli had to give up and the game was between Gjerdalen, Karlsson and Vokuev.
What did you think when you were three athletes left?
“I have been beaten in the final sprint in two races in a row by Emil Person. Karlsson and Vokuev are also fast in a sprint. I wanted to keep a high speed to wear them out and hopefully get a gap before we reached Mora.”
It was obvious that the pace was fastest when Gjerdalen was in front. The first to let go was Vokuev, shortly after the passage of Eldris with nine kilometers left. Soon Karlsson also lost a few meters on Gjerdalen, and the margin grew after a few kilometers to about 15 seconds.
“I never felt sure it would last. In such a long race, you suddenly run out of energy. When I went out of Moraparken and up towards the final stretch, I realized that I would make it.
“On the last 100 meters, I was able to look back and then calmly cross the finish line. A wonderful feeling!”
As we have said before, Gjerdalen, in his new team, Team XPND Fuel of Norway, had limited service opportunities with waxing and during the races due to prevailing restrictions in Norway.
Ahead of Vasaloppet, however, it was better than at Jizerská 50, where he went all by himself.
“This time I had help with waxing, and we were on site from Wednesday and did lots testing on the racecourse,” says Gjerdalen and continues;
“Quality beats quantity. Some really good people are better than lots of medium-good people. Of course, lots of really good people in a service team are even better. For sure, I would have liked to have more people to help me. It becomes a bit more gambling when you have fewer resources.”
What does it look like ahead of Vålådalsrennet and Årefjällsloppet in Sweden?
“I’m working on it now, to solve it through some friends and friends of friends. It will be a challenge for all Norwegian teams at the events in Sweden to solve a good service team.”
A happy Tord after the victory in Vasaloppet.