By Johan Trygg
At the end of February, Oskar Kardin, Team Ragde Eiendom, fell on skis and had a concussion, and missed Vasaloppet. At the end of August, he fell when running in the mountains and hit his head on a rock.
Yesterday he stood on his feet and won Engadin La Diagonela with a close to four-minute margin of victory.
“It feels so great now. It has been a big goal that I have fought for many years. I have been close a few times, now I succeeded,” says the 29 years old Swede Oskar Kardin.
We had a chat with Oskar Kardin on Sunday morning, the day after the superior victory at Engadin La Diagonela. His margin of victory was three minutes and 54 seconds.
Kardin was back at Team Ragde Eiendom’s base in Livigno, where they prepared for the Season XI start.
“Winning a Visma Ski Classics race has been a big goal that I have fought for many years. Now I finally succeeded,” he says.
Early in the race yesterday, Team Ragde Eiendom’s, 49-year-old Anders Aukland, got a gap and went past the first sprint point in solitary majesty.
Was Anders breakaway a team plan?
“No, that was not the plan. It is always difficult before the start to know how to set up the race. It depends on the shape you have of the day and how the skis work. We said that we would be offensive if it felt good, and the skis worked fine.”
That was obviously the case. Anders Aukland took the first sprint, and only Emil Persson, Lager 157 Ski Team, passed Aukland at the second sprint point.
So far, Kardin remained in the peloton but had had a good feeling in the uphill parts ahead of St. Moritz.
“I felt that I was in control even though the pace was quite hard, and some skiers dropped off. The skis were great. The plan then was to push hard in the middle part of the course where it is hilly,” says Kardin.
Petter Eliassen went up in front after the sprint point in St. Moritz.
“I thought I would get up and help him. I came with pretty good speed on a downhill and went up in front. I told myself I would push for a minute. When I turned around, I saw that I had a gap,” Kardin says.
“I thought a lot about what I should do then. It was more than 30 km left to the finish. It’s tough to do the job by yourself for so long, but I decided to keep a high steady pace so that they would have to work quite hard behind me to catch up.
“At first, the gap was around ten seconds; when I got to Pontresina (39.4 km) it was over a minute. Then I said to myself, “go for it.”
“With 7-8 kilometers left of the race, I heard the gap was two minutes. When we passed the finish area, the gap was more than four minutes. Then I felt secure. I was able to really enjoy the last four kilometers. It felt very emotional.”
A happy Oskar Kardin cross the finish line. Photo: Björn Reichert/Nordic Focus.
Winning with a solo breakaway means something extra for Kardin.
“Most often, the long distance races are decided with a sprint between a few skiers or a big bunch. It’s massive to win like this,” says Kardin.
“I also have to thank my teammates (Anders Aukland, Petter Eliassen, Andreas Nygaard and Joar Thele) who helped me back in the peloton and saved themselves to sprint at the end.
Nygaard finished 2nd, Eliassen 3rd, Thele 6th and Aukland 12th.
At the start, it was minus 22-23 degrees Celsius, and at the coldest place along the course maybe 25 degrees. However, Kardin had no problems with the cold.
“Of course, you felt the cold, but we usually have cold weather at home in Östersund too, so I’m used to it. I raced with finger gloves. We have been in Livigno preparing for more than two weeks, and it has been 20-25 degrees for many days, so we got used to it. There we also could test out great waxing for these conditions,” says Kardin.
Kardin was second on the Jizerska in Season X and also has some third placements before yesterday’s victory.
Did you feel before the race that you were in shape to win your first Ski Classics event?
“I had a better and better feeling all autumn. November and December have been really good months. We were in Livigno and trained a lot volume at high altitude. Then I had a period with some training races and intervals at home in Östersund. I also had some easy days before the race. I knew I was in good shape.”
However, things have not gone as planned all the way since last season for Oskar. He fell on skis ahead of Vasaloppet and got a concussion (which we wrote about earlier).
“It took me two months before I was entirely back from that incident,” says Kardin.
After a good training period this summer, he had some bad luck again at the end of August.
“I was out in the mountains running and stumbled on a rock, fell and hit my head on another rock. The symptoms in my head came back. I was recommended three weeks of rest. So I had three weeks without training in September, but time for some moose hunting, says Kardin.
The victory yesterday and the fact that you now have the yellow Champion bib, does that change your Season XI goal?
“My goal has been to win races. I have the biggest left, Vasaloppet. Of course, I want to finish high up in the Champion competition as well, but winning it is really difficult. In races like Birken and Reistadlöpet, Petter (Eliassen) is so strong. But now that I have the yellow bib, I will fight to keep it as long as possible,” Kardin ends.
Top picture: Photo: Björn Reichert/Nordic Focus.