By Teemu Virtanen
Vasaloppet is now a memory of the past, but it still resonates with most of our Pro Team Athletes. For some the memory can be a painful one, and for some the race has become a pleasant experience that lingers on.
For Lina Korsgren, Team Ramudden, it was certainly a day to remember as she managed to get her second victory in the race and become the best female skier in the history of Vasaloppet when we think about the overall results, both genders included. She had only 56 male skiers in front of her, which is 15 places better than the previous record held by Justyna Kowalczyk from 2015 (71st). She had the same finish time as Ilya Chernousov, ED System Bauer Team, and beat many well-known Pro Team male athletes such as Alexis Jeannerod, ED System Bauer Team, and Anders Mølmen Høst, Team Serneke, to name a few.
Lina is now getting ready for the next event in the Pro Tour, and that is another classic race called Birkebeinnerrennet. Birken takes places on Saturday March 21 in Norway, and the course goes from Rena to Lillehammer with tough climbs. Let’s take a moment and talk to Lina about that race, and of course, Vasaloppet, which has really become her favorite race.
Can you describe this year's Vasaloppet from your perspective?
”I felt extremely calm the days before Vasaloppet, even at the start on Sunday. I felt that I was ready even before we started, and after the first hill my body reacted well. I figured that I just needed to take an advantage of that feeling. That sense continued throughout the race, and my service team had done an amazing job through the night before the race, and I had incredible skis for the whole 90 km.”
You also became the best woman in the Vasaloppet history in the overall results - what does that mean to you?
”I think it was a victory and a proof for all long distance female skiers who aim to take the next step in double-poling. I’m pretty sure that my record will be beaten in the years to come. We girls have become extremely strong in recent years, and it was fun to be able to show that on Sunday.”
Speaking of which, Vasaloppet is the only race where you start together with men. It seems to suit you well - you even skied together with your teammate Max Novak at some point. How did it feel to be among the best male skiers in a race like this?
”It was just fun to ski together with the guys. To have a chance to ski with the best male skiers of our sport was something that I will remember for a long time. A unique opportunity that I cherish forever.”
It seems that this is your best season. You performed extremely well at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf as well but got sick afterwards. How did you overcome that downfall and return to form before Vasaloppet?
”The victory at Kaiser gave me the confidence I needed. It showed me that I’m capable of winning races on hard courses as well. I’ve had that feeling ever since and carried it with me knowing that I can win those types of races if I do the right things. Since then, I’ve had a great balance, felt strong mentally and raised my own expectations. Additionally, I have to say that my team brings me the security I need, and it’s fun to be around them at the races.”
You’ve now won Vasaloppet twice – why does that race fit you so well?
“The longer, the better for me! I think the length, the track profile and my mental capacity are a very good match with Vasaloppet."
What makes Vasaloppet a special race comparted to other Visma Ski Classics events?
“Almost 16,000 skiers doing the same thing – trying to go from Sälen to Mora as fast as they personally can! That’s the magic!”
How are you preparing for the three remaining races, Birken in particular as it is the next one?
“This week has been quite easy. I will do Årefjällsloppet on my home turf on March 14. Then, I will put my focus on Birken and do my final preparations according to my plan.”
Speaking of Birken, Petter Eliassen described the difference between Vasaloppet and Birken in an article published yesterday. How would you differentiate these two events?
“There is one big difference that I’d like to mention. No female skier has ever managed to win Birken by double-poling yet. I hope that this trend gets broken and the first female double-poler wins the race.”
Finally, Team Ramudden has performed extremely well throughout the season. How can you guys keep the momentum going and even raise the bar for the next season?
“We must continue to do what we believe in. It is important that everyone feels safe and has their place in the team, that we dare to win together and that we are not afraid of breaking boundaries!”