Årefjällsloppet is the last event in the 2016 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Årefjällsloppet is the last event in the 2016 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

The Ski Classics season finale on Saturday features tight fights for the overall titles.

Prior to the last race in the 2016 long-distance series John Kristian Dahl (NOR) is in third place overall, but made some giant steps toward the top after winning both Vasaloppet on March 6 and Birkebeinerrennet on March 19.

In doing so, Dahl made history: He is the first Norwegian to ever win both Vasaloppet and Birkebeinerrennet in the same season. The last and only other skier to do the same, was Sven-Åke Lundbäck (SWE) back in 1981. Dahl is in a position to advance on the overall podium and has a lot to race for in Åre (SWE) next weekend.

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John Kristian Dahl at the 2015 Årefjällsloppet. Photo: Ski Classics

John Kristian Dahl at the 2015 Årefjällsloppet. Photo: Ski Classics

But the race for the overall Youth bib is going to be a real thriller: Madshus racer Stian Hoelgaard (NOR) has a 41-point lead over Anders Høst (NOR).

“As skiers, we are quite similar, so it will ultimately come down to who has the best legs and the most juice that day,” Hoelgaard notes.

“My advantage in the fight for the pink bib is that I have a few points lead,” Hoelgaard says, explaining that the mental benefit of being on top and having been so for the most of the season cannot be underrated.

“I took a few days easy after the Birkebeiner on March 19, but put in a good amount of training between Wednesday and Sunday. I feel fit now, so I hope to defend the bib that I’ve had all winter,” he says.

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But Hoelgaard leaves nothing to chance.

“Årefjällsloppet is a pretty tough course. It is 65 kilometers and quite hilly, and they have changed the course slightly every year to include something new and different, so it will be interesting to see how it is this time,” says Hoeldgaard, adding that with so many of the Ski Classics events coming down to a sprint finish, equipment is a large factor.

But the 24-year-old is confident that his skis will be solid.

“It is the end of a long season, so I am on top of my quiver. I know all my skis very well by now, but I still often have to test 6-10 pairs depending on conditions,” he says.

“I do most of the rough testing the day before the race, and generally only have 2-3 pairs to test the morning of the race.”

In the youth women category, Madshus racer Emilia Lindstedt (SWE) has a lead of nearly 500 points, and can already celebrate the victory.

The 65-kilometer classic technique Årefjällsloppet is the final race in the 2016 Ski Classics, and takes place in Åre (SWE) on April 2.

Stian Hoelgaard is leading the Youth Competition by 41 points going into the final race of the 2016 Ski Classics. Photo: Lars Krogsveen

Stian Hoelgaard is leading the Youth Competition by 41 points going into the final race of the 2016 Ski Classics. Photo: Lars Krogsveen