Where in Europe one has to go high up or has to know the few special places which still have a lot of snow, the area between Cable and Hayward in Wisconsin (USA) looks like a winter dream after another snow storm right before the weekend brought another 40cm of new snow. Blue sky and temperatures around -17°C at the start but also a strong wind from the front awaited the over 7000 skiers who took the start of the 41st edition of the American Birkebeiner this morning in Cable. 50km later (for the skating racers, 54km later for all those who did the classic technique race), many spectators and the famous finish on Main Street Hayward awaited the racers. A perfect finish after a long stroll through the forest and along rolling hills. The women's skating technique race (which figuered as FIS MC) started 20minutes in front of the men's race, but the best woman came into the finish not long after the best men. A strong effort especially in the hard conditions as tdoay.
Still a group of 10, the best men were skiing together until only a couple of kilometres before the finish. Then half of them dropped whereas the other five continued to battle in the finish sprint for the three podium spots. Benoit Chauvet (FRA), who had hoped to be able to grab the lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup after this race, was one the ones who had to let go, whereas his fellow countryman Christoph Perrillat, who was leading the pack from time to time, went on. Hoping to get on the podium, he got into main street but figuered out fast that his legs wouldn't let him fight for the top three spots. In the end he finished fifth. Sergio Bonaldi (ITA), last year's winner, got into the finish as fourth, still hoping to be able to outsprint Tom Reichelt (GER), who was leading into Main Street. However, his team mate Simone Paredi and Reichelt wouldn't allow it so Bonaldi finished third this year. With his victory, Reichelt won his first FIS Marathon Cup in his first season on the long distance race circuit.
On the women's side, it was Caitlin Gregg (USA) who took her chance when the best men came and passed her and Antonalla Confortola (ITA). She pushed hard and gave everything to stay with the men. She succeeded and therefore got a pretty gap between her and Confortola. She brought her lead into the fnish and could celebrate her 3rd victory in the American Birkebeiner – a new record on the women's side for this race! The Italian Confortola ensured her second place while Rosie Brennan (USA) pushed hard to keep her followers apart and finished third.
The Birkie celebration won't stop for some more hours as more and more people will gather around Main Street and in the pubs and restaurants around to cheers those on who still have not crossed the finish line yet. The big podium ceremony will be held in the evening which will be followed by a big party in the Sealey Saw Mill – a tradition everyone gets to know who skis the American Birkebeiner!
Reichelt and Confortola (ITA) new leaders in the overall FIS Marathon Cup
After today's American Birkebeiner, the overall FIS Marathon Cup has new leaders on the men's as well as on the women's side. With his victory today, Tom Reichelt from Germany gained the lead in the men's ranking with 208 points in front of Martin Koukal (CZE, 197 points) and Benoit Chauvet (FRA,187 points).
Antonella Confortola (ITA), the second of todays's race, caught her chance and took over the overall FIS Marathon Cup ranking which she now leads with 209 points in front of Riita-Liisa Roponen (FIN, 200 points) and Julia Tikhonova (RUS, 180 points).
The complete result list from today's race & the actual overall FIS Marathon Cup standing:
For pictures of the 41st American Birkebeiner, please have a look at Worldloppet's Facebook page!