The Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour has now reached the Czech Republic, and the legendary Jizerska Padesatka ends the five-weekend race period. The 50 km race is one of the most demanding on the Pro Tour with two hard Climb competition check points; at 11 km and 32 km. The women start their race at 8:50 am CET while the men get into action at 9:00 am CET.
There is a long 10 km climb at the beginning of the race followed by an extensive downhill section before another long climb that takes the skiers to the second climb point. Many Pro Team Athletes consider this course one of the hardest on the Pro Tour, and snow conditions are often quite challenging.
In the men’s race, a three-time race winner Morten Eide Pedersen from Team Kaffebryggeriet is one of the strongest favorites along with the podium skiers from Toblach-Cortina last weekend; Andreas Nygaard and Petter Eliassen from Team Ragde Eiendom and Marcus Johansson from Lager 157 Ski Team, respectively.
“On Toblach-Cortina, I missed a couple of critical points and didn’t get enough drinks and energy when I was in the breakaway with Petter Eliassen,” Eide Pedersen said a day before the race. “I need to be more careful this time, and I need to re-consider my tactic as well since attacking on the second climb is too predictable. I’m not afraid of a sprint finish like last year, but I rather have a small group of people approaching the finish area.”
Nygaard won the race last year, and his teammate Tord Asle Gjerdalen was second and Ari Luusua, Vltava Fund Ski Team, third. They can easily repeat the feat tomorrow as well. Other potential candidates for the podium are Emil Persson, Lager 157 Ski Team, Max Novak, Team Ramudden, and Vetle Thyli, Team Kafferbryggeriet.
The Team Koteng Pro athletes have been struggling with an on-going sickness after last weekend, and Chris Andre Jespersen is out while both Tore Bjørseth Berdal and Stian Hoelgaard are still feeling a bit under the weather. The only skier in their camp who has not been affected by sickness is Kari Vighagen Gjeitnes who finished 2nd at Toblach-Cortina and won Marcialonga. She is doing the race for the first time, but she is one of the strongest favorites. Astrid Øyre Slind has not completely recovered from her illness and may not be able to fight with her full capacity.
“I feel like I’m on a roll now,” Vikhagen Gjeitnes admitted when asked about her chances tomorrow. “Of course, I’m feeling the five-weekend race load, but so is everyone else. I was sick last year so I couldn’t do the race, and it seems to me that it is going to be a tough race. I’ve been lucky and haven’t got the flu as the others have, and I’m ready for another tough fight between myself, Britta, Lina and Katerina.”
Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, returned to form by winning last weekend, and she usually performs well in the Jizera Mountains. Katerina Smutná, ED System Bauer Team, is racing on her home turf, and she may be hard to beat tomorrow. So is last year’s winner Lina Korsgren, Team Ramudden.
“Last weekend gave me a confidence boost,” Johansson Norgren stated sounding very confident. “I’ve been able to stay healthy and maybe that’s due to my experience. I know how to avoid the usual traps of getting sick. This race is one of the biggest on the Pro Tour and it has a long history. It really has a great history behind it, and I think it’s one of my favorite events.”
The weather is expected to be quite sunny and the temperature around -2 C with moderate breeze from southeast, 5 m/s.