It'll be a double for Sweden in this year's Vasaloppet. At any rate, that's the opinion of the Swedish National Team Manager, from Norway. “Martin Larsson wins ahead of Oskar SvÃ¤rd,” tips Inge BrÃ¥ten in the latest number of VasalÃ¶paren.
Sweden will be taking part with several first team skiers in FIS World Cup Vasaloppet. The only question is – which ones?
Inge BrÃ¥ten has no answer to this, as yet. “I'm making no decisions as to which national team skiers will be at the Vasaloppet start until after the Turin Olympics 50 km on Sunday 26th February. Just now I can't promise that our best, Mathias Fredriksson and Anders SÃ¶dergren, will be there.” However, BrÃ¥ten is certain that there will be a Swedish winner. “It's between Martin Larsson and Oskar SvÃ¤rd and I think Martin will be the one that wins this year.”
Martin Larsson a World Cup winner?
“Yes, to take on Vasaloppet demands a certain type of preparation. It's not just to throw yourself away off over the marshes towards SmÃ¥gan, thinking that this is just one race among many. Vasaloppet is 90 km, flat and with some very special characteristics. It goes without saying that the long distance specialists are better prepared for this type of competition than the traditional World Cup skiers. Martin Larsson and Oskar SvÃ¤rd have shown that they have the staying power, poling capacity and tactical coolness necessary to win, consequently I go for them.”
But what about Teichmann, Angerer and all the Norwegians then?
“Like I said, Vasaloppet is something special. And the competition is in a tight slot between the Olympic 50 km and Holmenkollen's 50 km. I'm far from certain that the best skiers will make it to Vasaloppet”
Have you heard anything from national team manager colleagues?
“In general I'd say that Vasaloppet is not in the best of positions in an Olympic year, and I'm not alone in feeling this. But what happens in the end remains to be seen. Maybe Sweden can come with some surprise sprinters!
What do you mean?
“Thobias Fredriksson, Micke and Fredrik Ã–stberg are a sprint trio that I think would have a very good chance of holding their own in Vasaloppet.”
Is it good with a long-distance race in the World Cup?
“Yes, when it's not a championship year. I believe in alternating the long-distance races – first year Marcialonga, second Vasaloppet, third Birkebeinerrennet. Vasaloppet gives great media exposure, but this is not just to do with the quality of the skiers. The organisation is also exceptionally good at PR and marketing.
You're on the board in Birken?
“Right! A very good competition that, unlike Vasaloppet, has great difficulty in getting media attention.”
What's your relationship with Vasaloppet?
“Well, it's been long and very good. Over time, I'm probably the one amongst all who's delivered the most top skiers to Vasaloppet! BjÃ¶rn DÃ¤hlie, Vegard Ulvang and Sture Sivertsen, for example. That was while I was managing the Norwegian team. So depend on it, I'll also be doing what I can in my role as Swedish team manager.”
You'll be there leading the team?
“Yes, that's the plan. I'll be on the move six weeks running from the World Cup in Val di Fiemme 14-15 January. Vasaloppet is fixed in the schedule, as is all World Cup Dalarna.
Have you taken part in Vasaloppet?
“No, I haven't. But I have done the Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet seven times. I used to take the years when the start was in Lillehammer and the finish in Rena. This had its advantages. As I come from Rena, I got a lot of food towards the end of the race from people I knew, and I was close to the home bathtub!” says a laughing Inge BrÃ¥ten on a lightning visit to his Jessheim home this 2006 Olympic