By Johann Trygg
Britta Johansson Norgren has dominated long-distance skiing on the women's side in recent years and has lined up victories in Visma Ski Classics.On the men's side, however, it has been considerably tougher for the Swedes. Not since 2014 has any Swedish male won a Ski Classics race.Who will be the next Swedish male to step on the top of the podium?
Historically, Swedish male skiers have been a factor to count on in the long-distance skiing circus. In recent years, however, no one has been strong enough to climb to the top of the podium as the Norwegians have dominated the scene.
The last Swedish men's victory in Ski Classics came at the end of March in 2014 when Daniel Rickardsson went to a solo victory at Årefjällsloppet. Daniel, who both won Olympic gold in the relay and took bronze at 15 kilometers in Sochi, Russia, that winter, made a guest appearance in Helsinge Ski Team (current Lager 157 Ski Team) at the race and left the rest of the field behind and won with over one minute before the trio: Stanislav Rezac who finished second just ahead of Anders Aukland and Johan Kjølstad.
The same winter, Rikard Tynell, Team Tynell, was able to break away and hold his leading position to the end at the first edition of La Diagonela in Switzerland. Since then, no Swedish male skier has managed to repeat Rickardsson's and Tynell’s achievements.
Already the following season, however, everything was ready for a new Swedish triumph. Bill Impola, Team Expirit, went solo on his way to victory in La Diagonela. But a wrong turn mistake at the end of the course ruined Bill's day.
The one who was then close to a Swedish victory was actually Bill's brother Bob, who sensationally finished second at Vasaloppet in 2018. The Team Serneke skier Bob entered the final stretch in the first position and kept everyone behind except the winner Andreas Nygaard.
A sensational second place is also what Andreas Holmberg managed in Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in 2018. Holmberg, at the time a Team Serneke skier and now representing Lager 157 Ski Team, was alone at the head of Kaiser Maximilian Lauf but with three kilometers left Tord Asle Gjerdalen and Ilya Chernousov caught him up. Holmberg was second 15 seconds behind Gjerdalen at the finish.
Last winter, Oskar Kardin, Team Ragde Eiendom, was third at both Marcialonga and La Diagonela. At Marcialonga, he was 45 seconds behind the winner Petter Eliassen. At La Diagonela, he was just 1.9 seconds behind his teammate Andreas Nygaard who was only a toenail ahead of another teammate, Tord Asle Gjerdalen. Oskar also took a second place in Jizerska in 2018 when he finished 46 seconds after the winner Morten Eide Pedersen, Team BN Bank at the time.
It has been very close a couple of times, but when will we see the next Swedish men's victory? And who's taking it?
It feels like Oskar Kardin is the one closest to it. He is in a strong team, and if they choose to go for Oskar, he can make it. It feels like Oskar can win both in sprint and breakaway situations.
The number two on the list of possible Swedish winners is Andreas Holmberg. He has developed every year, and if there is a race where some skiers get a gap, it might go all the way for him. In a sprint finish scenario, however, he doesn’t seem to have the capacity to turn it into his favor.
The number three candidate is Holmberg's teammate Anton Karlsson. He is a sprint specialist, and he won the green sprint jersey last year. If he focuses on saving his energy to the end of a race instead of chasing down sprint prices, he can become a winner.
So, the second and third on the list are from Lager 157 Ski Team. Therefore, it makes sense to ask the team manager Anton Järnberg about his prediction for the next Swedish winner.
“The one closest to a win is Oskar Kardin after what he has shown in recent years. Then, of course, it depends on what role he gets in Ragde”, says Järnberg. “Of my skiers, I really think Anton Karlsson can win. He is one of the few that I think can beat Andreas Nygaard in a sprint.”
In addition to these two strong skiers, Anton also believes in young Emil Persson as a future winner.
“I don't think he will win a race this winter, but in the future, he is the one who will be able to stand on the top of the podium.”
And we should not count out Team Serneke skiers; the aforementioned Bob Impola, Ludwig Tärning and Pontus Nordström, and Max Novak from Team Ramudden. They all were quite active and visible at the Klarälvsloppet 90 km roller-ski race yesterday. They may not be heading for victory this coming season, but they will be able to break through and be close to the cream of the crop in some of the races.