– This was a race very different than what I normally race. It was also very exiting and fun, says Anders Aukland a few hours after winning the trophy in the big Italian marathon race, Marcialonga.
For Aukland, the victory was prestigious.
– It is more fun winning the Marcialonga than a regular World Cup race. There are lots more people watching the Marcialonga, and much more excitement around the race itself, says Aukland over the phone from Italy.
The 70-km long race mianders through many small villages in the beautiful Italian valley, and creates celebrations and a “folk-fest” along the way. The race was however not just a party for Aukland – the victory came only after a very hard effort.
– This took a lot out of me, it was very tough. We skied hard for 70 km, in addition to a super fast start. I will be tired for several days after this, and am not sure when I’ll be recovered again. The Norwegian National Championship starts already this Thursday.
Teamwork with brother Jorgen
The first 15 km were fast, then the pace slowed down during some easier sections.
After the hard start, the pace slowed until the 40 – 45 km mark. Here Jorgen started double poling faster, and the lead group spread out. We were in a four-person group, and during this section Jorgen pulled the pace most of the way and created a gap to the rest of the field.
The two brothers skied a tactically smart race, and used each other to make problems for the competition. The cooperation wasn’t really predetermined.
– The cooperation worked real well for us. Similar to bicycling, we did not chase each others’ breakaways, and towards the end I slowed down to wait for Jorgen, thus making diCenta go in front. You can’t plan such things in advance, but react to the situation as it happens, Aukland explains.
– A day such as today also makes me want to ski the Swedish Vasaloppet, the most prestigious of all ski marathons. Today was a great test, but the Vasaloppet will be even tougher. Then all the best marathon and double-pole specialists will be in peak shape, and will be able to double-pole for another hour longer than we did today, says Aukland, that felt very strong during the double-pole sections of the Marcialonga course.
Towards the very end of the race, going up the steep 4 km uphill towards the finish, only Italian DiCenta was able to keep up the pace.
– I was ready to double-pole up the last long climb, but thought I would have a little better kick than I did. Double-poling up the whole hill got very tough.
At the start of the climb, Anders struggled a bit, but realized he needed to put the head down and double-pole all he could. Italian diCenta decided to stop and re-wax.
– He stopped pretty suddenly, and I decided to put the hammer down right then to create a good gap. I also hoped this would stress him out, and make him “botch” his wax job.
Aukland briefly considered re-waxing himself, but decided instead to use his arms and double pole. This proved to be successful. Although Aukland was nervously looking back for the approaching Italian, he held off and won by 20 seconds.