By Teemu Virtanen
All is well in the kingdom of Visma Ski Classics after Marcialonga as the King of the sport Petter Eliassen, Team BN Bank, showed everyone what it means to rule over his dominion, and the Queen Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, turned her Swiss defeat into a victory march in Italy.
However, last weekend’s Ragne Eiendom warriors proved that their podium dominance was not just the luck of the draw. Andreas Nygaard, Oskar Kardin, Tord Asle Gjerdalen and Anders Aukland took the places 2-5 respectively. The second fastest skier in Marcialonga, Nygaard, was feeling under the weather before the race and his participation was quite uncertain. However, he was able to beat the nasty bug and give a good fight on the tracks.
It was also great to see the Vasaloppet winner Lina Korsgren, Team Ramudden, in great shape after her somewhat disappointing start of the season. Her second place is a promising sign for more great things to come, and maybe the cheering audience in Mora, Sweden, will salute her again like they did last year.
Team BN Bank’s captain Øystein Pettersen told me after the race that he just gave one advice to his winning teammate; go fast and wear everyone out but don’t waste too much energy before Molina. But Petter only heard the first part of the advice and ignored the energy saving tip and increased his speed before the final climb. Perhaps, it’s time to call the powers that be at Marvel or DC Comics and suggest that they should include a new superhero in the Avengers gang or Justice League. And his name is Flying Bullet alias Petter Eliassen.
“This was a race where I did a lot of work in the front,” Eliassen commented after the race. “I wasn’t sure if that was the best tactic, but I still felt that I had to do something because the pace would have been too slow and too many fast skiers would have been together in the last climb. I tried to make them tired before the hill, and my tactic worked really well. I really expected Tord Asle Gjerdalen to pass me in the last hill, but I got the gap really early on and just felt that I’m stronger than the rest of the group. I just kept going and didn’t think about what could happen.”
If Petter now wears a superhero cape, it can easily be put on Britta’s shoulders as well. She became the Greatest Legend in Visma Ski Classics with her 17 total wins passing the forever-young Anders Aukland. You can read about that great achievement in an article coming out this week.
“It was an amazing race today,” Britta said at the flower ceremony. “My team prepared my skis really well and my energy intake worked perfectly. It was a hard race, and at the end I was really tired. But it was one of my best races, and I really enjoyed it today. There was some tactical play in place early on, and I knew that the pace would increase when the men started to pass us. It was just finding the perfect one to draft, a little bit of back and forth there. This time I didn’t have Katerina Smutná next to me in the final hill, but Lina Korsgren was really strong today.”
Toblach-Cortina is the next event in Visma Ski Classics, and we can certainly expect another thrilling race. The course is much shorter than in Marcialonga and there is a long downhill all the way to the finish (assuming that the weather conditions allow the organizers to have the full course).
Will it be Team Ragde Eiendom against Team BN Bank, is Britta going to take her 18th win, what surprises are waiting in the wings? These are the questions we all ponder, but let me give you a betting tip. Watch out for Tore Bjørseth Berdal, Team Koteng, as he could be on the podium this Saturday. He has been performing really well, sixth being his worst result this season except Kaiser Maximilian Lauf where he had really bad skis, and he is hungry for his much deserved glory.