Vasaloppet 2018 offered exciting upheavals in both the men's and women's class. Norwegian Andreas Nygaard spurted his way to victory ahead of Swedish surprise Bob Impola in the men's class, and Lina Korsgren ended up winning the women's class almost five minutes ahead of Astrid Öyre Slind.
"This win means everything to me," Korsgren said after her victory.
"I had immense energy when we got into Moraparken," said Nygaard.
This year Vasaloppet held excitement and many reversals from start to finish in the men's class. But the score was not settled until the final stretch in Mora.
19 skiers were in the running from Moraparken to the finish line. Last year's second Andreas Nygaard turned out to be strongest. Bob Impola held the lead onto the final stretch but no one could match Nygaard's energetic spurt.
"I had immense energy when we got into Moraparken," said Nygaard, who has been vexed over his second place photo finish against John Kristian Dahl last year.
"I have thought of this 10–20 times a day, since last year. This has been constantly on my mind," said Nygaard, who hails from the north of Norway.
"Last year I wasn't strong enough. I didn't have a single calorie in me when I passed the finish line."
Things went differently this year and he had plenty of energy left to spend. The big group was far behind, for a long time, which bothered Nygaard somewhat but he kept his cool.
"I was a bit worried but I'd decided to put all my eggs in one basket this year. To have as much strength as possible towards the end."
For a long time Nygaard was ready to spurt for second place but everything changed when the group, with barely three kilometres to go, caught up to Tore Björseth Berdal.
"All of a sudden I saw him up ahead and knew we'd be spurting for the win."
What was your strategy on the final stretch?
"To be as patient as possible. When I saw the finish line I would give it everything I had, and not look back."
Nygaard took the win three seconds ahead of surprise Bob Impola. Bob, who came 13th in Vasaloppet last year, held the lead up onto the final stretch.
What was on your mind when you led the way on the final stretch?
"I just tried to take one pole stroke at a time and see how far I could hold it," Impola said. "I had a small downturn before Evertsberg where it was pretty tough going. After that slump it felt good all the way though."
What does this achievement mean to yo?
"This is the race you train for all year, and everything worked well today. I'm so satisfied."
Another man in the spurt was threefold Vasaloppet-victor Jörgen Brink, 44. Brink came fourth, five seconds behind Nygaard.
"It felt good today. I would have needed a little extra that I didn't quite have today, but of course it felt good," Brink said.
"Ottosson (Markus) and Aukland (Anders) deserve all the credit for catching up with Berdal. Then we were "warring" over positions and I got a good place behind Aukland towards the bridge, but then Impola stepped out ahead of me and I lost a bit there."
The men's race started with Norwegian Joar Andreas Thele and Czech Jan Srail breaking ahead at once in the slopes at the start. For a while the duo held a lead of over six minutes.
In the Lundbäck slopes before Oxberg, Srail fell behind Thele who held the lead on his own up until Hökberg where the group caught up, after which Berdal sped ahead. Berdal had, right before Eldris, a lead of over a minute and looked to be heading for a solo victory.
With five kilometres to go the Norwegian lost his steam and the group closed in fast.
"This was one of the heaviest things I've done. I went all in, and bet everything on one card. But I simply wasn't strong enough. With five kilometres to go I was so worn that I couldn't even hold the track," a tired and shivering Berdal said after crossing the finish line in 21st place, almost three minutes behind the victor.
The women's class developed as follows:
Five ladies were within 43 seconds of each other when passing Mångsbodarna: Astrid Öyre Slind, Britta Johansson Norgren, Katerina Smutná, Lina Korsgren and Laila Kveli.
In Risberg, Slind had a slight lead ahead of Korsgren and Smutná, and Johansson Norgren looked to be having problems, 21 seconds behind the leading Norwegian. In Evertsberg, Slind, who skied with grip wax, had increased her lead to 35 seconds ahead of Korsgren and Smutná.
Slightly before Hökberg there was a change as Korsgren passed and pulled ahead of Slind.
"I hadn't planned to pull ahead. It just worked out that way. I'd planned on saving my energy for the spurt," said Korsgren, a Dalarna woman residing in Åre.
Lina then increased her lead all the way to Mora and won by 4.41 ahead of the Norwegian.
How were you feeling during the race? Strong?
"No, I thought the first slope was terrible. At that point it seemed like this would be a really rough day," Lina said, continuing:
"But then I could gather myself again when we were in that big group."
What were you thinking when you were alone in the lead during the last ten kilometres?
"I didn't want to take anything for granted even if I heard they were three minutes behind."
What does this victory mean?
"Everything! Everything! It means everything!"
Katerina Smutná came third about a minute after Slind and favourite Britta Johansson Norgren ended up fourth, a whole 10 minutes after Korsgren.
"It felt like a drudge the whole way. I tried to hold onto the race for as long as possible but it wasn't all there today," Johansson Norgren said.
- Andreas Nygaard's win was Norway's sixth men's class win in a row and Norway's ninth men's class win in Vasaloppet history.
- Andreas Nygaard's placements since his Vasaloppet debut in 2013 are: 55, 6, 15, 18, 2, 1.
- This was the first time since 1999 that last year's second won the Vasaloppet men's class. That time Staffan Larsson was the winner.
- Andreas Nygaard passed Evertsberg in 75th place.
- This was the slowest men's class winning time in Vasaloppet since 2007.
- Bob Niemi Impola's second place is Sweden's best men's class placement in Vasaloppet since Daniel Tynell came second in 2013.
- Stian Hoelgaard, who came third, has now been in the top 3 three years in a row. (Second in 2016 and third in 2017.)
- Jörgen Brink, who came fourth, has now been in the Vasaloppet top 4 seven times.
- Stanislav Rezác, aged 44, came seventh, skiing Vasaloppet for the twentieth time and hitting the top 10 for the 14th time!
- The women's class winner Lina Korsgren has, since 2014, placed: 12, 5, 3, 5, 1.
- Lina Korsgren's winning margin of four minutes and 41 seconds is the largest in the Vasaloppet women's class since 2003.
- Astrid Öyre Slind, who came second, skied Vasaloppet for the third time. In 2016 she came fifth and in 2017 she was second. Norway's latest women's class victory was in 2014.
- The preliminary count of 15,043 starting participants is the highest since 2010.
RESULTS Vasaloppet 2018, Men
1 Andreas Nygaard, NOR, 4.24.36
2 Bob Niemi Impola, SWE, 4.24.39
3 Stian Hoelgaard, NOR, 4.24.40
4 Jörgen Brink, SWE, 4.24.41
5 Öystein Pettersen, NOR, 4.24.41
6 Magnus Vesterheim, NOR, 4.24.41
7 Stanislav Rezác, CZE, 4.24.42
8 Anders Aukland, NOR, 4.24.42
9 Tord Asle Gjerdalen, NOR, 4.24.42
10 Thomas Gifstad, NOR, 4.24.42
RESULTS Vasaloppet 2018, Women
1 Lina Korsgren, SWE, 4.41.50
2 Astrid Öyre Slind, NOR, 4.46.31
3 Katerina Smutná, CZE, 4.47.48
4 Britta Johansson Norgren, SWE, 4.51.51
5 Sara Lindborg, SWE, 4.56.02
6 Heli Annika Heiskanen, FIN, 5.00.56
7 Laila Kveli, NOR, 5.03.37
8 Roxana Lacroix, FRA, 5.12.18
9 Marit Engeseth, NOR, 5.12.47
10 Evelina Bångman, SWE, 5.14.34
Spurt Prize Winners 2018, Men
Smågan: Jan Srail, Czech Republic, 33.39
Mångsbodarna: Jan Srail, Czech Republic, 1.10.29
Risberg: Joar Andreas Thele, Norway, 1.40.51
Evertsberg: Jan Srail, Czech Republic, 2.20.01 (Hill Prize)
Oxberg: Joar Andreas Thele, Norway, 3.01.10
Hökberg: Joar Andreas Thele, Norway, 3.30.15
Eldris: Tore Björseth Berdal, Norway, 3.58.37
Spurt Prize Winners 2018, Women
Smågan: Britta Johansson Norgren, Sollefteå Skidor IF, 37.12
Mångsbodarna: Astrid Öyre Slind, Norway, 1.16.42
Risberg: Astrid Öyre Slind, Norway, 1.48.16
Evertsberg: Astrid Öyre Slind, Norway, 2.28.23 (Hill Prize)
Oxberg: Astrid Öyre Slind, Norway, 3.11.24
Hökberg: Lina Korsgren, Åre Längdskidklubb, 3.42.22
Eldris: Lina Korsgren, Åre Längdskidklubb, 4.13.54