By Teemu Virtanen
In Visma Ski Classics, we have great performing skiers, young rising stars and then we have legends whose aura never fades away. To become a legend in long distance skiing one needs to win five Visma Ski Classics stages, races before the birth of Visma Ski Classics count as well.
Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, became the number one legend last season when she passed Anders Aukland, Team Ragde Eiendom, with her 18th victory in the Pro Tour. This past weekend, she won again when the Livigno Prologue, 35 km, took place in Italy. She now has a total number of 19 wins and will certainly get more number one spots as the new season has just started. Seraina Boner is right behind these two great athletes with her 15 wins. Stanislav Řezáč, Slavia Pojistovna Sport Team, has 14 stage victories.
In Season X, Petter Eliassen, Team Ragde Eiendom, can easily increase his total number of wins, currently 12, as can ED System Bauer Team’s Katerina Smutná, 11 wins, and Team Ragde Eiendom’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen, 10 wins. Katerina was second right after Britta this Sunday in Livigno while Petter didn’t have his best fighting spirit and finished 11th, but only 11 seconds behind Emil Persson, Lager 157 Ski Team, the surprise winner of the event. In Pro Team Tempo, he managed to get the fastest male time and showed us that he is a strong candidate for more victories when we get to those longer races of the season. His teammate Tord Asle returned to form by finishing 6th, and it would be no wonder to see him on the highest place on the podium this season.
Then, Andreas Nygaard, the current Champion from Team Ragde Eiendom, has won 9 races in his career, and he will most likely get more sought-after wins this winter. He didn’t hit the right note this Sunday, but he was still 9th and only 8.5 seconds behind the winner. High altitude is tricky for him, and much like last year, he will be hard to beat when the January Madness is upon us. Justyna Kowalczyk has six victories and she will be able to win some more depending on her shape and racing schedule.
Most likely newcomers to the list this season, or soon after, are Morten Eide Pedersen, Team Kaffebryggeriet, who now has three victories at Jizerska 50, and Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng, who also has three stage wins. The 2018 Vasaloppet winner Lina Korsgren, Team Ramudden, has two stage wins under her belt, and she has a chance to get more this winter, but to reach the legend status, five wins, may take her a bit longer than just this season.
Morten was really strong in Livigno and finished second. He is aiming to win stages and get the Hertz Yellow big come the end of this anniversary season. Astrid, on the other hand, didn’t have her best day this Sunday as she finished 4th, but she is in great shape and keen on becoming a winning hero of the sport. Both of these athletes need two more wins this season, and their names can be added to the prestigious list of our eternal legends whose contribution to the sport shall never be forgotten.