(translated from a press release posted on December 13th)
The first FIS marathon on this season’s calendar, La Sgambeda, took place over the weekend. It is the 20th running of this 42km event which is held in Livigno, Italy. 1700 skiers completed the race, of which there were nine countries represented in the top eleven men finishers and twelve countries in the top twenty women finishers.
As has happened before in the men’s race of this event, the winner was decided on the last sprint.
The top thirty athletes raced together for the first 35 kilometers, at which point Norwegians Jens Svartedal and Ludvig Aasen, along with Russians Sergey Shiriaev** and Egor Sorin, shifted into a higher gear and were able to lead in a break-away pack.
Eleven racers arrived together at the finishing stretch, and it was ultimately Sergey Shiriaev (RUS) and Fabio Santus (ITA) who crossed the finish line in first and second. The distance between the two was so short – only 2 centimeters – that a photo finish was needed to decide that Shiriaev had won.
Santus described his close loss, “I thought I had nearly done it, when I took the last curve, 150 meters before the finish line – but the Russian was strong and he won over me. However I am satisfied. I have been here for two Sgambeda editions now and I got another second place. I will try and win next year. ”
At 26 years old, Shiriaev comes from Gorki but now lives in Novgorod. “Today everything was perfect,”said Shiriaev, “Good skis, perfect snow, great opponents, warm public… Well I am just happy for this victory”. Third place went to René Sommerfeldt (GER) who proved he is in great shape after just finishing 16th place at the World Cup distance race in Davos on Friday.
Italy’s National Team Captain, Marco Cattaneo, was disappointed to end at the back of the top group of racers. The 2008 FIS Marathon Cup winner said, “When they speeded up, 5 kilometres before the finish line, I didn’t succeed in doing the same. However I’m happy, as competition has been fierce”.
Two Scandinavians had an even worse result: Jerry Ahrlin, first place at La Sgambeda in 2006 and 2007, got 26th, but commented, “It has been the first race of the season, I couldn’t ask for too much.” Thomas Alsgaard (Norway, gold medalist in Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City) placed 29th and explained, “I suffered a lot today, it has been quite hard for me.”
The women’s race also saw a battle, but it was decided before the finishing stretch. After a head-to-head race between Antonella Confortola (ITA) and Valentina Shevchenko (UKR), the latter got the upper hand on the last kilometer.
“It has been a hard race and it was very cold. I could feel it in my arms,” Shevchenko said,” Antonella Confortola was really in good shape and we fought for the whole race. Only on the last kilometre did I realize that I could win.”
Confortola had hoped to win today, after yesterday’s good result in the 10 km race in Davos where Shevchenko (7th) was just 15 seconds quicker than Confortola (15th). “But today it was another race altogether” said Confortola. Nevertheless, she is happy to show she is in good shape, as she is preparing to race well in the last stage of this year’s Tour de Ski which is in her hometown of Val di Fiamme, Trentino.
Top Ten Men:
8.Aasen Ouren Geir LudvigNOR1:38.10,1
9.Svartedal Jens ArnaNOR1:38.10,6
Top Ten Women:
9.Groendahl Outi KatrinaFIN1:55.31,4
**FS Note: Sergey Shiriaev is just returning from a 2 year ban after being caught using EPO at the 2007 World Championships in Sapporo, Japan.