When the gun goes off at 8am on Sunday, 15,800 racers embark on the 90 kilometer journey from Sälen to Mora. Photo: Vasaloppet
Sunday’s 90km classic event from Sälen to Mora is the 92nd edition of the legendary ski race, named after Swedish king Gustav Vasa who ventured into the area 495 years ago.
On Sunday, 15,800 skiers will participate in the 92nd Vasaloppet, and the 20th edition with a ladies’ competition class. This year, the elite ladies will have two to three tracks to themselves on the final stretch so that no men can get in the way of their final sprint for the finish line.
The first Vasaloppet was on Sunday March 19, 1922. Only three races have been cancelled: in 1932, 1934 and 1990. Since 1948, the race has always been run on the first Sunday of March, except for 2015 when it was moved due to the World Ski Championships in Falun.
Madshus marathon racer Jörgen Brink holds the current course record for the men, 3 hours, 38 minutes and 41 seconds, posted in 2012. Brink is the only athlete to post a true hat trick in the Vasaloppet since wooden skis went out of style in the 1970s. Brink won Vasaloppet in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In 2013 Brink was on track for four straight victories, but racing the 90-kilometer course with a fever, Brink was narrowly beat on the final stretch and ended up fourth.
Fellow Madshus marathon team racer Stanislav Rezác (CZE) is participating in Vasaloppet for the 18th time. He’s been in the top ten twelve times, the top three six times, but no win. He has been among the top 6 these past six years, and came 3rd in 2015.
John Kristian Dahl won Vasaloppet 2014 – in his first season on the marathon circuit. Photo: Madshus
This year, it is 50 years since Vasaloppet was first broadcasted. Starting in 1966, the race has been televised live on Swedish television (starting in 1966). However, 2016 marks the 39th time that Vasaloppet (in parts or in its entirety) is live transmitted, and the 34th time that the Vasaloppet start is broadcasted live on television. 1973 was the first year with a live broadcast in color!
Last year an average 1,826,000 viewers watched SVT’s five-hour-long Vasaloppet broadcast. In total 3,445,000 viewers tuned in to see some part of the live broadcast – more than a third of Sweden’s population. 751,000 viewers got up as early as 07:30 to watch the initial half hour before the start.
Vasaloppet 2015 was fully booked in 83 seconds when registration opened in March, 2015. This means 15.800 registered participants. The record number is 16,462 from 2010, but the event is now limited to 15,800. 2016 is the third year in a row when over 66,500 participants have registered for the various races in Vasaloppet’s Winter Week.
For the third year in a row, over 2000 ladies have registered for Vasaloppet, which means almost 14 percent female participants out on the course this Sunday. (In the whole of Vasaloppet’s Winter Week 2016, with all nine races included, 61 percent are gents and 39 percent are ladies.)
Vasaloppet 2016 has participants from 46 different nations, counting Sweden. About 3,800 of the registered participants come from other nations than Sweden, most from Norway (1,272). Then come Denmark (630), Finland (562), Germany (253), Czech Republic (207), Estonia (182), Switzerland (156), Austria (117), Italy (113), the Netherlands (69), Russia (66) and France (48). In total the Vasaloppet Winter Week 2016 has over 6,000 international participants from a record 55 nations.
Since 1922 a total of 534,639 Vasaloppet skiers have completed the 90-kilometre Vasaloppet; put together they have covered a distance equivalent to 1,202 round the world trips or 62 journeys to the moon and back.
Vasaloppet is most of all for the masses, those who take the time to savour the soup and the scenery. Photo: Mikael Forslund