For the first time, the FIS Marathon Cup is going to America this weekend! With the American Birkebeiner being inscribed as a FIS Marathon Cup this year, new territories are covered and the elite cup is being brought over the big lake! However, the American Birkebeiner is not a new race as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year! To join the festivities, the winner of the very first “Birkie”, how the race is also called by all its friends, will come over from Sweden. Back in 1973 it was Sam “Erik” Ersson who crossed the finish line first and who could therefore inscribe his name as the very first in the now long list of Birkie winners.
Since 2007, the Birkie has a very special outline of a race track: Both races, the 50km skating technique one as well as the 54km classic race, start at the same time and in the same spot. The classic track weaves more through forested terrain, however, never far from the skating track before it rejoins it completely after 23km. Both wind through one of the most beautiful and challenging terrain for cross country skiing in the US. From km 23 on, both tracks are continuing together towards Hayward where the finish is in the middle of the town's main street! Not a usual finish for a cross country race even though we know it from some places like the Marcialonga.
Over 10.000 racers from 21 countries will participate in all races offered by the American Birkebeiner over the race weekend!
The weather forecast also looks good for the race day! Temperatures around -7 at the start and a cloudy sky which however won't bring any new snow will normally await the skiers on Saturday morning in Cable, from where all the races start. With a lot of snow having fallen in January and very cold temperatures in the last weeks, the tracks are now in perfect conditions for the races this weekend.
The racers – who is on the start list
Time again for the skating specialists to take the stage. Absolute favourite for the Birkie is Benoit Chauvet of France. He could already place second in the American Birkebeiner in 2011. With winning not only the 76km long La Transjurassienne two weekends ago, but also the classic race of the Gatineau Loppet in Canada last weekend, he already showed that he's in great shape! His biggest contestant will surely be Sergio Bonaldi. Having - like Chauvet - 166 points in the overall FIS Marathon Cup, Bonaldi is as Chauvet eager to take over the leadership and to claim the red bib his own still at the end of the season. Therefore we will see a hard fight between those two for the top spot of the podium. Someone who will certainly join in the fight will be Fabio Santus, Bonaldi's team mate from Italy. And not to forget is Martin Koukal (CZE) who will equally be present in the US as will Florian Kostner (ITA) and Petr Novak (CZE). But like in France where one should not underestimate the French skiers, one should not forget about the locals of the Birkie: Especially Leif Zimmermann, a member of the US National Cross Country Ski Team as well as Sylvan Elefsson, a young a promising athlete, will certainly be also in the mix for the podium spots.
On the women's side, Tatiana Mannima (EST) will fight hard to enlarge her lead in the overall FIS Marathon Cup. Her major contestants for the top spot of the podium will certainly be Ursina Badilatti (SUI) who could just celebrate her first FIS Marathon Cup podium since 2007 with her third place at the Tartu Maraton, and Antonella Confortola (ITA).
The actual start list for the elite skiers can be found here (always subject to change).
News from other Worldloppet races: The 33rd Sapporo International Ski Marathon and the 35th Gatineau Loppet successfully held
While the elite athletes were fighting for precious points for the overall in the FIS Marathon Cup races, many other passionate skiers were participating in other Worldloppet races. On March 2 and 3, the Sapporo International Ski Marathon was held in the host town of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships of 2007. Over 2000 participants from 18 countries took part in the different races offered by the OC during the weekend. On the men's side, the main race was won by three Japanese: 1st Yuki Nakajima, 2nd Hiroya Funamizo, 3rd Kenji Mijazawa. On the women's side, it was also almost a complete Japanese podium, only one Swiss “smuggled” herself onto the podium: 1st Kazumi Yoneda, 2nd Yuri Okumura, 3rd Christa Inauen.
For more information: http://www.shsf.jp/ski/index-e.html
At the Gatineau Loppet, held last Saturday, it was once again winning time for Benoit Chauvet (FRA). After having won La Transjurassienne the week before, he seemed to have started to get a liking in winning. The new linear courses were a great success even though the OC faced huge logistical challenges. A hard fight was fought between the first ones of the classic main race and in the end it was Chauvet, who put his foot first over the line in front of second placed Steffan Lloyd (CAN) and third placed Karl Saidla (CAN). On the women's side it was Megan McTavish who could win in front of Seila Kealey and Martina Stursova. Over 1000 skiers in total came to the different classic raced offered on Saturday and enjoyed splendid conditions.
For more information: http://www.gatineauloppet.com/
February 23: American Birkebeiner (USA) - 8th FIS Marathon Cup 2012-13 / 50km FT
08:00am: start of the 50km long American Birkebeiner in Cable
Finish: Mainstreet Hayward
Winners in 2012:
Men: 1st Tad Elliott (USA), 2nd Matthew Liebsch (USA), 3rd Brian Gregg (USA),
Women: 1st Holly Brooks (USA), 2nd Caitlin Gregg (USA), 3rd Jennie Bender (USA)
More information on the race:
In general: http://www.birkie.com
Next FIS Marathon Cup: March 10 – Engadin Skimarathon (SUI), 42km skating technique – FIS Marathon Cup FINAL
Worldloppet – The World of Marathon Skiing!!!