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Aiming for a New Double

John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won the Birkebeiner less than two weeks after winning Vasaloppet. Photo: Inge Scheve
John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won the Birkebeiner less than two weeks after winning Vasaloppet. Photo: Inge Scheve

John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won the 2016 Norwegian Birkebeiner, less than two weeks after winning the 90-kilometer Vasaloppet in Sweden. Photo: Inge Scheve

Defending Birkebeiner champion John Kristian Dahl (NOR) will double-pole the classic race on Saturday.

Hoping to repeat his double victory from last year when he won both the 90km Vasaloppet and the 54km Birkebeinerrennet back to back, the 35-year-old will take on two mountains without kick wax.

“I’m dreaming of a repeat of last year’s double win, although I think it will be harder to pull off this time, given the back injuries I have battled this season,” says Dahl.

“After Vasaloppet on March 5, I’ve had to cut back and go easier than I planned due to the back injury. But you never know, cutting back might be the perfect move to release peak performance on race day,” he says.

Just days before the Vasaloppet a week and a half ago, Dahl was in such pain that he feared he had to skip the 90-kilometer race in Sweden. But on race morning, he decided to give the race a shot, and made his move only 4 kilometers from the finish, winning by a fraction of a second. Read more: Dahl Defends Vasaloppet Title

Skate the Norwegian Birkebeiner in 2017!

Birkebeiner course. Photo: Birken AS
Birkebeiner course. Photo: Birken AS

The 54km Birkebeiner starts in Rena and finishes at the Birkebeiner stadium in Lillehammer. Photo: Geir Olsen

The Norwegian Birkebeiner introduces a skate event for the Friday race, starting with 2017.

It might just be the biggest Birkebeiner news since 1932. As a part of the anniversary celebration of the famous ski race between Rena and Lillehammer, which was first organized in 1932, Birken is launching a brand new event as a part of he Birkebeiner Ski Festival 2017: A free technique event on Friday, March 17, 2017.

This marks the very first time that skating will be allowed in the Norwegian Birkebeiner ski race, and the event is limited to 1,000 skiers. Online event registration opens on Tuesday, November 1.

The course is the same at the regular event, with the skate lane running parallel to the classic track. However, skaters are not allowed to ski on the classic tracks, and classic skiers may not ski in the skate lane.

The event is 54 kilometers, starting at Rena and finishing at the Birkebeiner stadium in Lillehammer.

From Rena at 280 meters above sea level, the course climbs steadily for more than 13 kilometer to the summit of Dølfjellet at 820 meters. From there, the course drops down to Kvarstad before climbing up to Midtfjellet, the high point of the course at 910 meters and 34 kilometers from the start. Having crested Midtfjellet, the course continues down and flat to Sjusjøen, then drops down through downhill and gently rolling terrain to the finish at Birkeneiner stadium at 490 meters.

Madshus is the official ski partner of the Birkebeiner Ski Festival. No matter what your goals and ambitions, skate of classic, Madshus has the perfect ski for your Birkebeiner adventure. Check out the selection of skis, boots, poles and accessories!

It’s a wrap!

Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) and Heidi Weng at the FIS world cup relay in Nove Mesto (CZE). Photo: Nordic Focus
Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) and Heidi Weng at the FIS world cup relay in Nove Mesto (CZE). Photo: Nordic Focus

Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) and Heidi Weng at the FIS world cup relay in Nove Mesto (CZE). Photo: Nordic Focus

The elite skiers have already started the 2017 training season, making this a great time to look back at the 2016 achievements. And what a season it was for the Madshus racers!

Taking a look at some of the major highlights from the season, there is a lot to celebrate in the 2015-16 season. Just take a look at a random week in February: Dominating four sports 

The king of Biathlon, Ole Einar Bjørndalen, opened the IBU World Cup season with a podium at the first possible opportunity, in Östersund (SWE) the first week of December. But he reigned the grounds at the 2016 Holmenkollen World Championships, earning no less than four medals on home turf: gold in the relay, silver in the sprint and the pursuit and bronze in the mass start. At 42 years old. He now has over 40 World Championship medals, and he is not retiring any time soon, said the father to be, who is expecting a daughter in October.

Read more: The King Continues 

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) won four medals during the 2016 IBU World Championships on home turf in Oslo. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) won four medals during the 2016 IBU World Championships on home turf in Oslo. Photo: Nordic Focus

Also at the 2016 Holmenkollen World Championships, Marte Olsbu (NOR) stepped up and earned her first World Championship medal as she anchored Norway to gold in the women’s 4x6km relay.

“This is the biggest I have ever experienced. I can’t believe it’s true,” Olsbu said after the relay.

Anaïs Bescond (FRA) took home two silver medals from Holmenkollen: the 15km normal competition and the relay.

Read the full recap of the Madshus podium party at the 2016 World Championships in Holmenkollen 

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Marte Olsbu anchored Norway to gold in the relay. Photo: Nordic Focus

Marte Olsbu anchored Norway to gold in the relay. Photo: Nordic Focus

In the Ski Classics, Madshus Marathon racer John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won both the 90-kilometer Vasaloppet in Sweden on March 6, and the 54-kilometer Birkebeinerrennet in Norway on March 19. In doing so, he made history: He was the first Norwegian and only the second racer to ever do so in the 93-year-long legacy of the Vasaloppet. The last to win both races back to back in the same season was Sven-Åke Lundbäck back in 1981.

Read more: Nailing the Double 

Two weeks later, Dahl was second in Årefjällsloppet on April 2, which was the Ski Classic Final. The Dahl capped the long-distance season with winning the world’s longest cross-country race: The 200-kilometer Nordenskiöldsloppet in Sweden, the longest ski marathon in the world, in 8 hours 35 minutes and 17 seconds.

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John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won Vasaloppet on March 6, then he won the Birkebeinerrennet on March 21, and is one of only 2 racers to win both in the same season. Photo: Ulf Palm

John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won Vasaloppet on March 6, then he won the Birkebeinerrennet on March 21, and is one of only 2 racers to win both in the same season. Photo: Ulf Palm

Also, Madshus Marathon racers Stian Hoelgaard (NOR) and Emilia Lindstedt (SWE) won the Ski Classic Youth bibs, awarded to the best racers age 26 and under.

Even in a year without any major championships for the FIS cross-country and Nordic Combined, Madshus racers, still brought home an impressive number of podium finishes. The highlights were many and bright, but Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) and Heidi Weng (NOR) really dominated the FIS World Cup this season. The duo brought in podium finishes and victories both in the Tour de Ski in January and the brand new Ski Tour Canada as well as the regular World Cup schedule, in sprints as well as distance races.

Read more: Tour de Podium 

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Heidi Weng (left) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg after the final stage of Ski Tour Canada. Photo: Nordic Focus 

Heidi Weng (left) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg after the final stage of Ski Tour Canada. Photo: Nordic Focus

In Nordic Combined, World Cup rookie Jarl Riiber (NOR) showed no respect for the established elite. He cleaned up the hardware at the 2015 FIS Junior World Championships in Kazakhstan taking home two individual gold medals and bronze in the team competition, and became a permanent member of the Norwegian World Cup team for the 2015-16 season. The 18-year-old stepped up to the challenge. He opened the season by winning the Norwegian national championships in November, and delivered podium finishes on the World Cup throughout the season.

 

My Best Race This Season

John Krisitan Dahl was third at Birkebeinerrennet on Saturday. Photo: Kent Murdoch
John Kristian Dahl was third at Birkebeinerrennet on Saturday. Photo: Kent Murdoch

John Krisitan Dahl was third at Birkebeinerrennet on Saturday. Photo: Kent Murdoch

“I think this was my very best performance this season,” John Kristian Dahl (NOR) said after his third place finish at Birkebeinerrennet on Saturday.

“It was a fantastic trip across the mountains. It was hard, but really fun,” said the Madshus marathon team racer.

Dahl, who won the 2014 Vasaloppet as a rookie to the long-distance racing circuit, had looked forward to race his first Birkebeiner last year. But his dream was sidelined by a windstorm that forced race organizers to cancel the 2014 Birkebeiner. Accordingly, Dahl was double stoked to race the legendary 54-kilometer event from Rena to Lillehammer this year, even though he suspects his fitness was better last year.

“I am not quite at the same level I was last year, but I‘m really happy with the race overall,” Dahl said.

The former national team sprint specialist chose to race without grip wax, given the firm tracks and icy conditions. But Dahl admits that the hilly course was a challenge, especially in the first half of the race.

“It was definitely tough, particularly the first part up to Skramstad, where my main competitors had a huge advantage being able to stride where I had to double-pole,” said Dahl, who still doesn’t regret going without.

“I had amazing skis,” he said with a grin.

In addition to Dahl’s podium finish, the Madshus marathon team had three other racers among the top nine. Stanislav Rezac (CZE), who was third in the Vasaloppet two weeks ago, was fifth in the Birkebeiner. Oyestein Pettersen (NOR) was eighth and Tore Bjoerseth Berdal (NOR) was ninth.

Pettersen also earned back the green Ski Classics sprint jersey, and hopes to defend that jersey in the 2015 Ski Classics final next weekend. That race takes place in Aare (SWE) on Saturday, March 29.

Oeystein Pettersen snagged back the green sprint jersey for the 2015 Ski Classics at Birkebeinerrennet on Saturday. Photo: Kent Murdoch

Oeystein Pettersen snagged back the green sprint jersey for the 2015 Ski Classics at Birkebeinerrennet on Saturday. Photo: Kent Murdoch

 

Never Underestimate a Rested Crew

Team United Bakeries with Johan Kjoelstad, Øystein Pettersen, John Kristian Dahl and Tore Berdal have a lot to revenge on Saturday. Photo: Madshus

 

Team United Bakeries with Johan Kjoelstad, Øystein Pettersen, John Kristian Dahl and Tore Berdal have a lot to revenge on Saturday. Photo: Madshus

Team United Bakeries with Johan Kjoelstad, Øystein Pettersen, John Kristian Dahl and Tore Berdal have a lot to revenge on Saturday. Photo: Madshus

Tore Bjoerseth Berdahl and his United Bakeries buddies are reloading for Birkebeinerrennet (NOR) with a lot to revenge after Vasaloppet.

While the Madshus marathon racers claimed three of the top five spots and put four racers among the top 10, including one podium finish for Stanislav Rezac (CZE) of the Silvini Madshus Team, the crew is more than ready for 54 kilometers of sweet revenge in the mountains between Rena and Lillehammer (NOR) on Saturday, March 21.

“Of course we had hoped to completely plaster the podium at Vasaloppet. The team spirit among us on United Bakeries is great, as always. We will be back,” Tore Bjoerseth Berdal says.

“Vasaloppet was a very tough effort. Everyone skied really hard from the get-go all the way to the finish line,” Berdal says of the 90 sloppy-wet kilometers from Sälen to Mora on March 8, admitting he had higher ambitions than 10th place.

Berdal, who earned his first Ski Classics victory in February when he won Koenig Ludwiglauf in Germany and posted a strong fifth place in Marcialonga in January, feels like he has taken a giant step forward this season.

“I’m just medium content with my race at Vasaloppet. I had hoped to stay with the lead pack all the way to the finish and fight for the victory,” he says.

Never underestimate rest
Berdal has spent the time to Birkebeinerrennet wisely.

“First, I took a few days to recover from the Vasa, and after that, I have simply been focusing on dialing in my peak for the race on Saturday,” Berdal says, pointing out that being well rested and charged is the most important part of his Birkebeiner prep.

“There isn’t really a ton you can do about your fitness at this point. But I’m certain that stepping onto the start line feeling tired is the worst strategy,” Berdal says.

“Never underestimate the power of a rested racer looking for revenge.”

“We wanted to fight for the overall in Vasaloppet, but we’ll be back for the victory in Lillehammer. As for Vasaloppet, I just need to train even harder and come back stronger next season,” he adds with a grin.

A lot at stake
Team United Bakeries is in second place in the overall Ski Classics team competition. Berdal is in sixth place overall in the 2015 Ski Classics, and his teammate Oeystein Pettersen is in third overall. Pettersen is also in second place in the sprint competition, only five points behind first place. There are two preems in Birkebeinerrennet: At Skramstad (9km) and at Kvarstad (27km).

Birkebeinerrennet is the eighth event in the 2015 Ski Classics. The elite women start at 0745 (Central European Time) and the elite men start at 0800.

Watch the live streaming of the event

The final event is Aarefjaellsloppet (SWE) on March 29. Follow Birkebeinerrennet live

 

 

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