January 30, 2011- While the Marcialonga cannot claim the prestige and tradition as large as the Birkebeinerrennet in Norway, it does pretty well on its own.
Originally founded in 1969 in honor of skier Franco Nones and his victory in the men’s 30k at the Grenoble Olympic Games the previous year, the “Long March” grown to be one of the largest Worldloppet races on the circuit. This year, over 5600 men and 1400 women toed the line in the town of Moena to race 70k to Cavalese.
The day belonged to Jerry Ahrlin of Sweden, whom decided to push the pace five kilometers in with countryman Oskar Svaerd and they never looked back. The race continued this way all the way until the Cascata climb: a 400 meter gain in elevation. It was at this point Svaerd had no choice but let Ahrlin go.
“I was in great shape today,” Ahrlin said of the day’s race. “and I have to thank the skimen and service who did a fantastic job. It’s been a pretty good day.”
Not only did Ahrlin win the Marcialonga in dominating fashion, but he also set a new course record with a time of 2:49:10. This makes the third victory for the Swede, also winning in 2007 and 2009. Svaerd was second, and Rezac Stanislav from the Czech Republic was third.
The women’s race saw similarly dominating racing from Switzerland’s Seraine Boner. Boner took to the front of the women’s pack straight from the get-go and skied ahead on her own to win her first ever Maricalonga. She is the first Swiss to win the Italian marathon, and set a new course record of 3:15:07.
The rest of the women’s podium was rounded out by Sandra Hansson from Sweden, competing for the Norwegian long-distance Team Mekonomen, and Susanne Nyström of Sweden.
Other notable skiers that raced include the brothers Jorgen (4th) and Anders (7th) Auckland, Fabio Santus (25th) of Italy, whom won the American Birkebeiner last year. The Worldloppet continues next weekend in Oberammergau, Germany for the König Ludwig Lauf 50k race.
Ben Theyerl was born into a family now three-generations into nordic ski racing in the US. He grew up skiing for Chippewa Valley Nordic in his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before spending four years racing for Colby College in Maine. He currently mixes writing and skiing while based out of Crested Butte, CO, where he coaches the best group of high schoolers one could hope to find.