The Norwegian Birkie and World loppet race was held on Saturday. It turned into a waxing nightmare and a real challenge for the competitors due to falling snow, temperatures around 32F (O Celsius) and changing conditions from the start and higher up in the mountain.
Only classic skiing is allowed in this race and competitors have to wear a pack (Norwegian Vikings didn’t use Lycra or skate skis. They also had to carry Haakon, the baby prince).
Kick waxing for these conditions is among the toughest you can experience as a racer or wax technician. A little drop or increase in the temperature can suddenly make your wax choice good, better, worse or a full on disaster! You are dealing with icing of the tracks and in your kick wax choice, you wonder if you should wax with klister, hard wax, cover your klister with hard wax, use no-wax or “harries”.
(Torbjorn’s comments: You can argue that it would be a lot easier to skate, but think about all the stories you wouldn’t be able to tell if everything was skating: ” I hit the wax”. “I totally missed it and skied the entire race with 4 inches of ice covering my kick wax”. “I stopped and re-waxed and then passed 1000 skiers”. The bottom line is that the majority of the 8000 or so Norwegian’s that do the Birkie would not have it any other way!).
The skis and wax makes a huge difference on a day like this and both Norwegian National team skiers Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset and former (National) team member Erling Jevne skied on “harries” – the kick area is roughened with course sandpaper and no wax applied to this.
The snow made it tough to ski in the front (you are setting the track and working a lot harder) and Odd-Bjorn Hjelmset was thankful to Jevne for skiing in the front over the mountain.
The snowy conditions made it hard for anyone to ski away in the front of the pack and 12 skiers came into the finish together. Italian Giantonio Zanetel got the lead out of the last corner; Hjelmeset tried to make it by him but came up short. Hjelmset, Jevne and Raul Olle had been able to pull away and get a gap to the pack right after the start but they were caught after about 10 kilometer. Rune Torseth was in the chase group and skied on (a little too) soft kick wax. He ended up in 9th place.
He commented that he can feel that he has raced in both the Vasaloppet and the Engadin recently in addition to all the other long races earlier in the season.
Jorgen Aukland was 8th.
Havard Skorstad had wax problems with hard wax:
– It iced up so I stopped and re-waxed. I lost 4 minutes but was able to catch the lead group again, said Skorstad.
Eldar Ronning had waxed with klister:
– It iced up so I stopped and scraped off some of it. I lost some time to the lead group but joined Jorgen Aukland and was able to catch them in the double pole sections, said Ronning.
Top skiers Men’s race:
1. Gianantoni Zanetel (ITA) 2.48.55
2. Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset (NOR) 2.48.56
3. Silvio Fauner (ITA) 2.48.57
4. Ivan Margaroli (ITA) 2.48.59
5. Jens Arne Svartedal (NOR) 2.49.09
Top skiers Women’s race:
1. Annmari Viljanmaa (FIN) 3.03.47
2. Christina Paluselli (ITA) 3.05.15
3. Sofia Lind (SWE) 3.09.22
4. Marit Bjorgen (NOR) 3.11.25
5. Laura Peyrot (ITA) 3.14.01