It is always a bit exciting in the start of a season, speculating about which athletes has the best shape. Now they got some extra months of training due to the postponed season start. Will that affect what we can expect for tomorrows race?
Oskar Svärd is a Visma Ski Classics legend and nowadays the expert commentator of Visma Ski Classics on Discovery networks channel 9 in Sweden. Oskar got the question which athletes he thinks will be on the podium tomorrow and here is his guess.
"In the women's class there is a good guess that we will see the same athletes in the top as in recent years. I have put Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, as the main favorite to win tomorrow" says Svärd.
Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng, won La Diagonela in superior style last year and is, of course, also one of Svärd's favorites.
"But Astrid's form seems a bit uncertain. We will see what happens tomorrow".
Lina Korsgren and Ida Dahl from Team Ramudden is also on his favorite list. Emilie Fleten, Team Koteng and Linn Sömskar, Team Nordic Athlete, Oskar expect to be really strong opponents. The Swedish Sömskar makes her debut in Visma Ski Classics tomorrow.
"Sömskar has been a great World Cup sprinter. We have seen this before in athlete's like Johan Kjølstad and John Kristian Dahl that it can be a good background for Visma Ski Classics”, says Svärd.
On the men's side, Oskar point out Petter Eliassen as his top contender to win.
"Eliassen has the highest capacity of all skiers. Last year he raced La Diagonela with kick wax, but it will not happen this year. I talked to him yesterday, and he promised me to double pole the race”, says Svärd with a laugh.
In Season X, Chris André Jespersen from Team Koteng won Engadin La Diagonela. He does not start this year due to back problems.
The top contenders for the podium in addition to Eliassen, Svärd point out his teammate Andreas Nygaard. Nygaard is last year’s champion bib winner and has an excellent sprint finish. Tord Asle Gjerdalen is another strong name for the podium. Gjerdalen is the previous teammate with both Eliassen and Nygaard. He now started his own team, Team XPND Fuel of Norway.
"Nygaard is usually not in his best shape when the season starts, but this year when the start is later, he must perform right away."
"When it comes to Gjerdalen, it will be interesting to see how it works out for him in a smaller team, where he can decide everything for himself."
Svärd also want to put the Russian Winter Team skier Ermil Vokuev as a force to be recon.
"We saw what Ermil did at La Venosta last year where he outperformed everyone. He can be extremely strong."
Svärd lists four more athletes in the men's class to look out for a little bit extra tomorrow: Stian Hoelgaard, Team Koteng, Marcus Johansson, Lager 157 Ski Team, Vetle Thyli, Team Kaffebryggeriet, and Morten Eide Pedersen, Team Nordic Athlete.
"Of course, we must not forget Emil Persson (Lager 157 Ski Team) and Max Novak (Team Ramudden). They surprised during season X and tomorrow we´ll see if they developed further." Svärd concludes.
Did you forget to order the official Visma Ski Classics guide Pro XC Skiing? Don´t worry! A digital magazine is available in Visma Ski Classics shop, gives you all information and statistics about the athletes and previous seasons performances!
THE FACTS - ENGADIN LA DIAGONELA
LOCATION: Zuoz, Switzerland
DATE: Saturday, January 16th 2021
START TIME: Women CET 08:10, Men CET 08:40
DISTANCE: 60 km Classic Technique
VISMA SKI CLASSICS SPRINTS: Samedan: 16 km, St. Moritz: 22 km
VISMA SKI CLASSICS CLIMBS: 0 climbs
NO OF SERVICE STATIONS: 7
08:00 CET, light breeze from west, - 15 C
11:00 CET, light air from north west, - 11 C
Visma Ski Classics PLAY livestreaming:
Photo: Nordic focus/Björn Reichert.