By Teemu Virtanen
The host town of the upcoming FIS World Championships in Nordic skiing, Seefeld in Austria, has truly become a scene of winter magic and wonder. There is more snow than anyone could imagine, the idyllic village is oozing with wintery atmosphere, and the nature in the Olympic region is picturesque. This weekend, the weather kept changing every day from heavy snowfalls to beautiful sunshine.
The fourth edition of Kaiser Maximilian Lauf served as a perfect preparation for the Big Games next month, and a thumbs up for the organizers. Even if it snowed before both events, Saturday’s Visma Ski Classics classic race and Sunday’s skating race, the course was firmly groomed. So much so that Lager 157 Ski Team’s Andreas Holmberg scratched his head and wondered about the matter. He said that if this much snow had fallen down from the sky in Sweden, it would have been a disaster. But there were no signs of disaster in Seefeld.
On Saturday, Team BN Bank guys showed everybody that their success in Livigno was not just the luck of the draw. They dominated the men’s race, and the King, Petter Eliassen, returned to claim his throne as the winner of the race. Dominate they did, but there was one lone soldier who decided to fight against these superior athletes. That man was Vetle Thyli from Team Kaffebryggeriet. The coffee that the team brews in their waxing trailer must have something magical, and it tastes really good (I had a chance to sip it, and you will see what kind of a set-up both of the aforementioned teams have on our Video of the Week coming out on Wednesday).
“I’m really happy with my race,” Thyli said with a smile on his face. “I was really confident that I can do well here, and I was right. I tried to keep up with the Team BN Bank guys as long as I could, but they proved to be slightly stronger this time. This is my first 4th place, and I’m really proud of it.”
The happy race winner admitted that he and his team are in good shape, but it may not be the case much longer as he expected other teams to find their missing mojo and catch up. His teammates Simen Østensen and Morten Eide Pedersen revealed that their strategy worked perfectly, but Petter was simply too strong in the final climbs.
“We worked really well together,” Eliassen said after the race. “I sped up a bit at the end of the race so that Vetle couldn’t follow us. And it paid off. Tough races like this drains a lot of energy and recovery takes time. I’m pretty sure that the others will improve, which means I need to train harder.”
In the women’s race, Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, and Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng, played a cat and mouse game as expected. The latter chose to go with kick wax and she was really strong in climbs, but her glide wasn’t as good as Britta’s.
“Britta’s attack in the Leutasch valley took me by surprise,” Astrid admitted. “I wasn’t really prepared for it. I let her do all the work on flats as I pushed hard on hills. I was able to catch her in the first steep hill after the valley, but I couldn’t keep her behind me. I got close to winning this time around, but I just need to find a way to beat Britta. I’m ready for La Diagonela. It’ll be fun to do a double-poling race again.”
“Astrid was strong today,” Britta praised her opponent. “But I knew that my skis were fast, and even if the long climbs after the valley were extremely tough, I kept pushing myself and chased her until I was on her tail. Once I did that, I just focused on keeping my technique in tact in the last part of the course knowing that I’ll be faster in the final downhill section.”
Justyna Kowalczyk, Team Trentino Robinson Trainer, was extremely happy with her third place and said that double-poling with kick wax was very hard. She also had to ski by herself after Astrid and Britta broke away. She admitted that it was quite hard to be alone in the forest, but she kept her mind on the race and securing the last podium place.
Eventually, Saturday turned out to be a sunny day, but another snowstorm was looming in the distance. Once the night fell upon us, the clouds moved in and the weather changed again. It snowed about 50 cm by morning, and the organizers faced yet another challenge before the skating race. But they managed to conjure up another miracle, and the course was surprisingly firm even if it kept snowing throughout the day.
I had the pleasure of participating in the skating race, although the feeling of pleasure was the furthest thing in mind while cruising through the woods. In the beginning, I felt like there’s no point continuing the race, but my super-fast skis kept me going. And I’m happy that I didn’t pull out as I was able to improve towards the end and finished 15th (3rd in my age group).
While I was skiing, I realized how wonderful it is to have so many Visma Ski Classics events where skating is an additional option. If classic technique is not your cup of tea, you can still come and enjoy the unique atmosphere of our tour and do a skating race the day after, or sometimes even before. Besides Kaiser Maximilian Lauf, there are skating races at Toblach-Cortina, Vasaloppet (night race), Birkebeinerrennet and then of course Engadin Skimarathon where the technique is the main attraction.
Visma Ski Classics will continue next Saturday when La Diagonela, 65 km, takes place in the breathtaking Engadin valley in Switzerland. More about the event later this week!
In addition, you will have a chance to enjoy many videos such as our “Weekend Highlights” and the “Video of the Week”! And some more!