The 5th edition of Årefjällsloppet and the 11th race of Visma Ski Classics Season VII had a surprising finish in the men’s race as Anders Aukland of Team Santander won the race in a photo finish. Britta Johansson Norgren of Lager 157 was the strongest woman in the end, fighting in the last uphill with Kateringa Smutna one step behind.
The men’s race got an exciting start as Morten Eide Pedersen of Team BN Bank managed a large breakaway that lasted all the way to the steep climb after Ottsjö. The lead group caught up with about 20 km to go, after which Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan made his move and led four men into another breakaway. Besides Eliassen, this group had Oskar Kardin of Team Serneke, Anders Aukland and Anders Malmen Høst of Team LeasePlan, and about three kilometers before the finish the yellow bib holder Tord Asle Gjerdalen of Team Santander managed to join the four.
There was a very tight battle between the Santander team mates in the final steep hill leading to the finish line in Edsåsdalen. Aukland and Gjerdalen crossed that line neck and neck, but the camera deemed the former as the winner of the race. This was the soon-to-be-45-year-old skier’s first victory since La Sgambeda in 2015. Oskar Kardin from Team Serneke was third, making him the second Swedish male skier on the podium this season (Jens Eriksson of Team Santander was second in Vasaloppet China). Eliassen came in fourth about 8 seconds behind Aukland.
“It feels really good to win again,” Aukland said,. “I’ve been in great shape throughout the season and this race suits me well. I knew that I could be strong here and the slow sprint in the end worked for me. Still, I wasn’t sure if I could beat Gjerdalen in that final climb, but I did but only by a hair.”
In the women’s race, the diagonal striders Masako Ishida of Team United Bakeries and Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes of Team Telemark used their kick wax advantage over their opponents in the uphill sections of the course, but strong double-polers Britta Johansson Norgren and Katerina Smutná of Team Santander did not give up and were able to close the gap on downhills and flats. Johansson Norgren was the strongest in the tough finish while Smutna was second and Gjeitnes third. The Birkebeinerrennet winner Justyna Kowalczyk of Team Santander was fourth 33 seconds behind the winner.
“It was a bit up and down for me today,” the smiling Johansson Norgren admitted. “Masako was really strong when we climbed up, and the weather kept changing, making the race extremely difficult. When we reached the final hill towards the finish, I pushed as hard as I could to keep Katerina and Kari behind me. That worked and what a finish this is! This is really a hard course because there are so many steep hills here. I guess I need to work on my herring boning for next year.”
Complete article is available HERE.
1. NORGREN Britta 1983 SWE 2:40:20.6
2. SMUTNA Katerina 1983 CZE +2.1
3. GJEITNES Kari Vikhagen 1985 NOR +5.0
4. KOWALCZYK Justyna 1983 POL +33.2
5. KORSGREN Lina 1988 SWE +1:10.4
1. AUKLAND Anders 1972 NOR 2:14:16.3 (photo finish)
2. GJERDALEN Tord Asle 1983 NOR 2:14:16.3 (photo finish)
3. KARDIN Oskar 1992 SWE +5.3
4. ELIASSEN Petter 1985 NOR +8.0
5. HOEST Anders Moelmen 1991 NOR +14.7