Norway's JÃ¶rgen Aukland finally won the Swedish Vasaloppet, considered the “Superbowl” of cross-country ski races. Three times a second place, three times a third place – but now, at last, it was JÃ¶rgen's turn to be the first to cross the world famous finish in Mora.
“I'm so happy, it's almost like it can't possibly be true! I've waited so very long for this,” said JÃ¶rgen, beaming with joy.
Three minutes and 29 seconds later his brother Anders crossed the finish in second man, and immediately went to find his brother. Anders won the race in 2004.
Worth noting – it is exactly 20 years since another pair of brothers were at the top of the Vasaloppet – 1988, when Anders and Ã–rjan Blomquist shared the victory.
Jerry Ahrlin of Sweden took third, Oskar Svard (SWE), overcame illness to finish fourth, and Norweigan star Thomas Aslgaard was fifth in his first year on the marathon circuit.
First class planning
This victory is the result of an intensive professional preparation which in many ways has led to improvements in and development of the sport of skiing. The brothers were part of Team xtra personell which allowed this concentration on the Vasaloppet. Apart from a great service structure and tactical expertise from the sport of cycling, the brothers also had support from “secret outriders” whose only task was to maintain a high tempo at appropriate points to crack the competition. This technique has long been a feature in cycling, but is more unusual in skiing, where individual are perhaps sometimes obstinately self reliant.
“Naturally the most crucial factor is that we ourselves are strong enough at the decisive moments. But the tactics around all this are capable of further development,” says JÃ¶rgen Aukland.
13,745 skiers started on Sunday morning at Bergaby, outside SÃ¤len. Fresh new snow and temperatures around zero centirgade made for tough waxing conditions and decisions. “We had to choose between waxing the skies or roughing the surface (creating hairies). We had to take a chance, and we made the right call with the latter,” said JÃ¶rgen and Anders, who admit that they were surprised when Jerry Ahrlin (SWE) arrived at the start with unwaxed freestyle skis. He planned to pole his way to Mora.
“There have been similar conditions over the last few years. And I've lost out in the last part because of bad glide. As I felt very fit, I took a chance on not using wax,” says Jerry.
And thus all was set for one of the most interesting Vasaloppets in many years.
Both JÃ¶rgen and Anders Aukland went into high gear from the start.
“We'd earlier decided earlier that we wanted to get the pace up right away,” says Anders.
But Jerry went with them and even answered with a further increase in the pace crossing the marshes.
Around Risberg the brothers Aukland, Ahrlin and Anders Myrland broke away. These four were together to the LundbÃ¤cksbacken just before Oxberg. And there the Aukland brothers put on a real burst of speed – Myrland let go, but not Ahrlin.
In the next climb, a few kilometers before Oxberg, just over 30 kilometers from the finish, JÃ¶rgen Aukland gave his all, broke away.
“I just gave it full gas, all I had – and it was a great feeling when I felt I was on my own out there in front,” says JÃ¶rgen.
And it was this burst which floored Jerry Ahrlin.
“I had nothing left when JÃ¶rgen pushed up the speed once again. Furthermore I had a great deal of pain when the blood blisters on my hands burst,” says Jerry.
Despite continuing to draw further away from Anders and Jerry, JÃ¶rgen didn't feel he had the victory wrapped up until he was only a couple of kilometers from the finish.
“It was an indescribable sensation. Think of being alone towards a victory – it was too good to be true,” says JÃ¶rgen, who admits that this Vasaloppet victory has meant a very great deal to him as a person.