Birkebeinerrennet, the eleventh stage in the Visma Ski Classics, and the fourth Grand Classics event, Season XII, took place today in Norway. With superior performances, Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Charge, and Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen, won the 54km long-distance race.
With cloudy skies and temperatures around zero, the men started at 7:45 CET and the women at 8:00 CET. The action started early, and there was a thrilling race among both the men and women.
Birkebeinerrennet Men’s Race
Known for its hilly profile, Birkebeinerrennet started fast from the gun and already with a 20km climb to the first checkpoint.
At Skramstad, 8.6km into the race, 31 skiers passed after 9km within 11 seconds, with Karstein Johaug, Team Ragde Charge, leading the group.
At Raudfjellet, at the first Climb checkpoint of the day at the 19.5km mark, Amund Korsæth crossed first, followed by Magnus Vesterheim and Tord Asle Gjerdalen.
The second challenging uphill started at 28km into the race, culminating at Midtfjellet, the second Climb checkpoint of the day. Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Charge, crossed first, getting maximum points, followed by Johannes Eklöf in second, and Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team XPND Fuel, in third.
With 40km into the race and 14km to go, a big group of skiers reached Sjusjøen and started their descent to Lillehammer with a 400-meter drop in elevation.
In the fast sections after Sjusjøen, the pace started to pick up, and the field was still strong with about 20 strong skiers, with Team Ragde Charge on the offensive in front.
With about 5km to go, Andreas Nygaard was on the offensive with Max Novak, attacking the field and getting a couple of seconds in front of the chasing group, but no one could get a gap, and the race was to be decided on the final sprint.
At the last kilometer before the finish, Team Ragde Charge took the reins preparing the sprint finish for their team leader. In the end, the battle for the win was decided on the straight finish, with Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Charge, winning Birkebeinerrennet in his usual superb sprint.
Second place, after a tight fight to the line, went to Max Novak, Team Ramudden, 0.8 seconds back. Emil Persson, Lager 157 Ski Team, granted the third position on the podium, 1.2 seconds behind the winner.
Birkebeinerrennet Women’s Race
In the women’s race, which started at 8:00 CET, the speed was high right out from the start, with Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, setting the pace and stretching the field right away.
Soon, a small group of skiers was formed, and within 8.6km into the race at Skramstad, nine skiers passed within 4 seconds, with Heidi Weng leading the race.
With 40km to go, Therese Johaug, Team Ragde Charge, pushed the pace and reduced the group to only three more skiers, Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen, Emilie Fleten, Team XPND Fuel, and Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team. After a couple of kilometers, Johansson struggled to keep the pace, and soon we saw a leading trio heading to the first climb checkpoint.
At Raudfjellet, Astrid Øyre Slind crossed first, getting the maximum points, followed by Emilie Fleten and Therese Johaug.
After the climb and towards the base of the second hill, the leading trio worked well together and kept in check the chasers behind.
At Midtfjellet, the second Climb of the day, within 20km to go, Astrid Øyre Slind crossed first, followed by Therese Johaug in second, and Emilie Fleten in the third position. Britta Johansson Norgren chasing the leading trio, was more than 1 minute and 30 seconds behind in fourth place.
From there, the women’s race was about Øyre Slind, Fleten, and Johaug in the lead and the chasers behind. With about 5km to go, Øyre Slind and Johaug could get a gap from Fleten, and the race was to be decided by the duo leaders.
In the end, Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen, timed her sprint perfectly to win this year’s Birkebeinerrennet, becoming the first female skier to win the race using double-poling technique.
Second place went to Therese Johaug, Team Ragde Charge, 1 second back. Emilie Fleten, Team XPND Fuel, completed the podium in the third position, 26.6 seconds behind the winner.
Birkebeinerrennet results can be found here.
Next up in the Visma Ski Classics is Årefjällsloppet. The 100-kilometer classic long-distance race takes place in Vålådalen, Sweden, on March 26, 2022.
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