By Teemu Virtanen
La Diagonela in Switzerland continues the “January Madness” as the second race in a row and the fifth stage in the Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour, and the length and high altitude make the race quite challenging.
In the women’s competition, it seems that we now have three potential winners, and they all are good candidates for the Hertz Champion title. Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, won the first individual race of the season in Livigno, and she is the reigning Champion. Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng, showed her extreme capacity at La Venosta in mid-December and beat everyone by a large margin. Then, last Saturday at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf, Lina Korsgren, Team Ramudden, made a bold move and attacked after the second sprint and left both Britta and Astrid behind and won the race.
In addition to these three athletes, Ida Dahl from Team Ramudden is a rising star of the sport, and her 4th place last week was a proof that she is made for long distance skiing. But there are more eager athletes gazing at the podium such Katerina Smutná, ED System Bauer Team and Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, Team Koteng, both of them on the podium last year. Thea Krokan Murud, Team Ragde Eiendom, Jenny Larsson, Team Ramudden, Emilie Fleten, Team Ragde Eiendom and Sofie Elebro, Team ParkettPartner Sjusjøen, are all potential skiers to be close to the podium.
In the men’s race, the field is completely open. Petter Eliassen will return after skipping Kaiser Maximilian Lauf due to sickness. He is naturally expected to be the “pacemaker” of the race, but Tord Asle Gjerdalen, 6th in every race, may want to share that duty with his teammate.
This season’s sensation Emil Persson, Lager 157 Ski Team, proved that he is a serious contender for the yellow bib, but last weekend’s second Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Eiendom, strives for another victory in the Engadin valley. Emil’s teammate Marcus Johansson has had an amazing start of the season, and his 3rd place last Saturday was a dream come true for him, and he aims to keep that dream alive this weekend.
Team Kaffebryggeriet athletes Vetle Thyli and Morten Eide Pedersen are both among the strongest favorites of the race. The former has been in the top 5 in every race but no podium for him so far while the latter underperformed in Seefeld and finished 9th after being on the podium in the previous races. Stian Hoelgaard, Team Koteng, has been in great shape this season, and he can finally get the victory he so desires.
The Russians have performed extremely well, and Ermil Vokuev’s unfortunate fall at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf prevented him from fighting for the podium places. He is not racing this Saturday, but his Russian Winter teammates Alexandr Grebenko and Alexey Shemiakin are present, and they are now joined by Maxim Vylegzanin. They can certainly surprise.
Finally, what will Anders Aukland, Team Ragde Eiendom, Max Novak, Team Ramudden, Oskar Kardin, Team Ragde Eiendom, last year’s third, Ari Luusua, Vltava Fund Team, Øyvind Moen Fjeld, Lager 157 Ski Team, Ilya Chernousov, ED System Bauer Team, who has won the race in the past, and Team Serneke skiers Bob Impola, Ludwig Tärning and Anders Mølmen Høst do if their stars align this weekend? Only time will tell, and we are ready for all kinds of surprises as that often seems to be the case in Visma Ski Classics.