The Visma Ski Classics season IX kicked off with a 15 km Pro Team Prologue race in Livigno, Italy, where each pro team’s male skiers started together with three minute intervals between based on the pro team ranking. The third best male skier’s time in each pro team was counted as the total time and their female skiers started their pursuit race according to the time difference gained in the men’s race.
Last year’s winning Pro Team Ragde Eiendom was last to go with high hopes, but the bright day quickly turned upside down as Tord Asle Gjerdalen could not keep up with his teammates and the entire team did not perform as expected. Lager 157 Ski Team, 2ndin the overall results last season, and Team Koteng, 3rdlast year, were able to outdo the number one pro team and finish in the top three after the men’s race.
The real surprise came in the form of the Norwegian Team Kaffebryggeriet, as it was the fastest of the male Pro Team Tempo. Unfortunately, their female skier was unable to race due a sudden illness.
Right after the men’s tempo, the women set out to finish the competition. Lager 157 Ski Team’s Britta Johansson Norgren got a head start of about seven seconds before Team Koteng’s Astrid Øyre Slind. These two skiers played cat and mouse throughout the race, but Britta was able to keep her opponent behind and take home the pro team victory. Behind the two was Kateriná Smutna, Ed Systems Bauer Ski Team, and Maria Gräfnings, Team ParkettPartner- another surprise pro team today. They had their own battle, and the former turned out to be stronger in the final sprint taking her team to the podium.
“It was a tough race even if the course was quite flat,” Johansson Norgren admitted. “The distance between Astrid and me remained the same, but I had no time to rest on my laurels. Hopefully, this was a great preparation for Sunday’s individual race. For our team, to win the pro team prologue again is important and the points much appreciated as the fight between the best pro teams will be harder than ever before.”
One of the highlights today was to see the two-time Champion of Visma Ski Classics and one of the undisputed heroes of the sport Petter Eliassen returning to action in Team BN Bank’s ranks after a year-long hiatus, but his team underperformed and did not even have a female skier.
“It was great to race again,” Eliassen said after the race. “But I was struggling in those steep tiny hills, but my heart monitor shows that I didn’t push myself too hard. So, everything seems to be quite ok. However, I’m not expecting much from Sunday’s race as Livigno is not really my favorite race location. I’ll keep up with the lead group, but I’m not optimistic about winning.”
Next event is the individual Prologue of 28 km which takes place this Sunday 2nd of December. Women start at 9:30 am and men at 11 am in Livigno.