Visma Ski Classics continues this Saturday when one of the most legendary ski races of the tour, and in the world, Birkebeinerrennet takes place. Birken is the 10thevent in the Season IX, and the second one in this year’s Visma Nordic Trophy. This 54-kilometer race leaves from Rena and goes to Lillehammer, the 1994 Olympic city, and the course takes the skiers up to the mountains with exhilarating scenery and views. There are no sprint points in the race, but Raudfjellet at 20 km serves as the climb competition checkpoint.
The elite women start at 7:45 am CET, and the elite men follow the suit at 8:00 am CET. The weather forecast promises great winter conditions for the race, and the organizers are ready once again for the annual ski festival. The origin of the race goes back to the 13thcentury when two soldiers (Birkebeiners) rescued a baby prince Haakon, who later became the king of Norway. The first actual race was organized n 1932 to honor this incredible rescue mission, and the event has grown into an institution in Norway.
“Birken is an important race for our team and for all Norwegians,” Vasaloppet’s winner Tore Bjørseth Berdal says. “Our sponsors are Norwegian, and it means a lot to them if we do well here. It’s just a historic race with a huge legacy here in my home country, and I hope I can be in good shape this Saturday. There are only three skiers who have managed to get a double-victory within the same year; to win both Vasaloppet and Birkebeinerrennet. I hope I can join John Kristian Dahl, Petter Eliassen and Andreas Nygaard in this exclusive club.”
To predict the race winners is always a guessing game, but the aforementioned Vasaloppet winner Berdal is a strong candidate to repeat this Vasaloppet feat. But he will face a tough fight against his countrymen Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Eiendom, who won last year, and Petter Eliassen, Team BN Bank, who is the current course record holder (2:19:28). Nygaard’s teammates Tord Asle Gjerdalen, 2ndin 2018, two-time podium skier of the season Oskar Kardin and the forever-young Anders Aukland are also seriously aiming at the podium. Morten Eide Pedersen, Team BN Bank, leads the climb competition, and the Birken course has great climbs that should suit him well. Naturally, there are many potential podium skiers from other teams, and there is always room for surprises in Visma Ski Classics.
In the women’s race, Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, will go against her Norwegian rivals Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng, and Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, Team Ragde Eiendom. Justyna Kowalczyk, Team Trentino Robinson Trainer, will return to the game after being at the FIS Nordic World Championships in Seefeld as the assistant coach for the Polish National Team. She is the last year’s winner, but to win the race she needs to outperform her previous races as Johansson Norgren and Øyre Slind are in great shape at the moment. And we should not count out Katerina Smutná, ED System Bauer Team, who has been very consistent this season with her top 5 places in every event except last Sunday’s skating race Engadin Skimarathon. And what will Team Koteng’s Masako Ishida do? She really likes the course profile and her World Cup racing has most likely prepared her well for a high tempo race that is to be expected.
LOCATION: Rena-Lillehammer Norway
DATE: Saturday March 16th 2019
START TIME: Women CET 07.45, Men CET 08.00
DISTANCE: 54 km Classic Technique
ACTIVE YEARS: 81
RECORD NO. OF PARTICIPANTS: 17,163
VISMA SKI CLASSICS CLIMB: Raudfjellet – 20 km
SERVICE STATIONS: 7