Several strong traditional cross-country skiers choose to compete at the Birkebeinerrennet this weekend. Will any of them be able to match the Pro Tour athletes?
“I think many athletes want to try new things and will compete every weekend if possible. Now there is World Cup in Falun and no other traditional races. I think Birken is a big race for many Norwegian athletes,” says Eirik Sverdrup Augdal at Wednesday’s interview ahead of Birkebeinerrennet.
Sverdrup Augdal has raced several Ski Classics events this season and has performed well. So far this season, his best result is a sixth and seventh place in Grönklitt Criterium and Grönklitt ITT. In Marcialonga, the Team Eksjöhus athlete was 39th, and in Jizerská50, placed 18th.
Birkebeinerrennet is now waiting for the 27-year-old who got on the podium last weekend at the Norwegian Cup.
“Since I came sixth and seventh in Orsa, the goal in Birken is to manage a top five,” admits Sverdrup Augdal.
However, he will be challenged by the entire Pro Tour field and several strong contenders. Here is a list of some solid athletes who have signed up for Birkebeinerrennet.
Thomas Bucher-Johannessen: Started in the Holmenkollen 50km last weekend and finished 8th. Started Birkebeinerrennet the previous year and was in 37th place.
Mattis Stenshagen: Have both victory and podium places in the Norwegian Cup this season. Started in the Holmenkollen 50km last weekend, finishing in the 20th position.
Amund Korsæth: Was part of the team for the Junior and U23 World Championships in Canada. He also has a podium place in the Norwegian Cup this season.
Håvard Moseby: Is part of the national recruiting team from Norway. He was number 8 at the Holmenkollen 50km last weekend, proving that he has mastered long distances. Has several podiums from the Scandinavian Cup and the Norwegian Cup this season.
Edvard Sandvik: Was part of the team for the Junior & U23 World Championships in Canada, where he took a silver medal in the 20km classic race.
Thomas Maloney Westgård and Andrew Musgrave for Team Næringsbanken Stora Enso: The Irishman and the Briton will start for the Norwegian team. Both raced the 50km in the World Championships in Planica and the Holmenkollen 50km last weekend. Musgrave has raced several Ski Classics events, while Westgård will be the first Irishman to join a Pro Tour Team.
Daniel Stock and Pål Trøan Aune are starting for Team Northug Crucible: The two athletes will race from Rena to Lillehammer in Petter Northug’s team suits. Stock took a podium place during the Norwegian Cup last weekend. Trøan Aune was part of the World Cup team for the sprint in Drammen this week.
Iver Tildheim Andersen for Team Front Rustad IL: With fourth place in the Holmenkollen 50km and victory in the 10km freestyle in the Norwegian Cup last weekend. Tildheim Andersen showed that his form is excellent. For the man who is the best at skating, there are better options than Birken, but it will be exciting to see if he can challenge the competition.
Johannes Lønnestad Flåten: Became junior world sprint champion last season. It will be exciting to see what the 20-year-old achieves over the long distance.
Mika Vermeulen: The Austrian World Cup skier will start on Saturday for Ski-Willy Marathon Team Austria. He comes straight from the Holmenkollen 50km, where he was 29th at the finish. The weekend before, he was in 19th place in the World Championships in the same distance. Like Musgrave and Maloney Westgård, it will be the Austrian’s third 50km race in three weekends.
Gaute Kvåle and Jon Rolf Skamo Hope for Team XPND FUEL: Tord Asle Gjerdalen has secured two strong traditional cross-country skiers for Saturday’s Birkebeinerrennet. Both have started at the Scandinavian and Norwegian Cup in the last weeks.
Synne Arnesen: The recruit national team skier made it onto the podium last weekend in the Norwegian Cup. The 25-year-old is in good shape, and seeing what she can achieve over the long distance will be exciting.
Runa Ulvang and Anna Heggen for Team Aker Dæhlie: The two young women usually on the traditional cross-country skiing team for Team Aker Dæhlie will start this year’s Birken.
Johanne Hauge Harviken for Team Kaffebryggeriet: This week, the news came that Johanne Hauge Harviken will start Birken for Team Kaffebryggeriet. The 25-year-old has performed consistently throughout the season and has many top-ten finishes in the Norwegian and Scandinavian Cup.
Maren Wangensteen: Started the Holmenkollen 50km last weekend. There she finished in the 29th position. Wangensteen also started Birken last year and was 30th.
Julie Bjervig Drivenes for Team Ragde Charge: Team Ragde Charge has reinforced the team from Birkebeinerrennet with the Team Elon skier. Bjervig Drivenes recently finished in second place during the Norwegian Cup last weekend.
Nora Sanness and Sigrid Leseth Føyen for Team XPND Fuel: Nora Sanness made a big impression last weekend during the Holmenkollen 50km with fifth place. Seeing how she tackles the distance in classic technique will be exciting. Leseth Føyen also has several podiums this season from the Norwegian Cup.
Kristin Austgulen Fosnæs for Team Eksjöhus: The recruit national team skier will start Birkebeinerrennet for the Swedish Pro Tour Team. Fosnæs won gold during the Junior & U23 World Championships in Canada this season and will be a solid name for the weekend.
The Season XIV of Ski Classics Pro Tour consists of 14 events on 10 event weekends in 6 different countries.
Ski Classics Pro Tour Season XIV (2022/2023)
- Event 1: December 10, 2022 – Bad Gastein PTT, Bad Gastein, Austria, 15km
- Event 2: December 11, 2022 – Bad Gastein Criterium, Bad Gastein, Austria, 35km
- Event 3: December 17, 2022 – La Venosta Criterium, Val Venosta, Italy, 36km
- Event 4: January 14, 2023 – Pustertaler Ski Marathon, Sexten, Italy, 62km
- Event 5: January 15, 2023 – Prato Piazza Mountain Challenge, Niederdorf, Italy, 32km
- Event 6: January 21, 2023 – Engadin La Diagonela, Engadin Valley, Switzerland, 48km
- Event 7: January 29, 2023 – Marcialonga, Trentino, Italy, 70km
- Event 8: February 12, 2023 – Jizerská50, Bedrichov, Czech Republic, 50km
- Event 9: February 18, 2023 – Grönklitt Criterium, Orsa Grönklitt, Sweden, 50km
- Event 10: February 19, 2023 – Grönklitt ITT, Orsa Grönklitt, Sweden, 12km
- Event 11: March 5, 2023 – Vasaloppet, Sälen-Mora, Sweden, 90km
- Event 12: March 18, 2023 – Birkebeinerrennet, Rena-Lillehammer, Norway, 54km
- Event 13: April 1, 2023 – Reistadløpet, Setermoen-Bardufoss, Norway, 40km
- Event 14: April 2, 2023 – Summit 2 Senja, Bardufoss- Finnsnes, Norway, 67km
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Top Photo: Thibaut/NordicFocus