The 87th Vasaloppet took place Sunday, with over 14,000 skiers taking part in the historic 90 k race from Salen to Mora, Sweden.
Norway’s Torjus Borsheim took the early lead, winning three intermediate sprints, and holding at one point a two-minute lead over the rest of the field.
However, three members of Team Xtra Personnel, Norway’s premiere marathon racing team, Arne Post, Anders Aukland and Jerry Ahrlin, along with Czech Stanislav Rezac took the lead. Post quickly dropped from the pack, and was replaced by Jorgen Brink, who had suffered a broken pole earlier in the race.
Brink, skiing for Hudiksvalls IF and Team United Bakeries not only bounced back to make contact, but took the lead to the finish, and was closely challenged only by Rezac, who ended up second.
Ahrlin crossed the line third, five seconds behind Brink, while Aukland was fourth, 11 seconds back.
The victory is Brinks’ second consecutive at the prestigious event – in 2010 he won by a narrow margin over Norwegian Daniel Tynell. And at 37 years of age, Brink also becomes the oldest winner in event history.
“To win the Vasaloppet is something you dream about, and to do it twice is amazing,” said Brink to SVT, a Swedish news outlet after the race.
While Brink has emerged as an excellent marathon skier, he is perhaps best known for one race. At the 2003 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Brink, the anchor of the Swedish relay team, was given a massive lead and it was assumed he would ski for the win. Instead, he blacked out, was passed by both the Norwegian and German anchors, and barely crossed the line to give Sweden the bronze medal.
The deep men’s field featured some recognizable World Cup names, including Swedish sprinter Teodor Peterson, who finished ninth, just ahead of Norwegian Johann Kjoelstad, who crossed the line 10th. Norwegian Simen Oestensen, who recorded two top 10 finishes in the 2011 Tour de Ski finished 15th, and three-time sprint World Cup winner Boerre Naess finished 25th.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Jenny Hansson won the women’s race, and gained a certain amount of redemption after finishing third in the Vasaloppet in two previous attempts.
“I have been waiting for the perfect day and I did perfect skiing today,” Hansson said to SVT after having crossed the finish line.
“I was fighting all the way and it is long since I have been so tired. It feels so good and I am extremely happy inside.”
Susanne Nystrom, winner of the women’s race in 2010, and a fellow member of Team Xspirit finished second, 48 seconds back of Hansson. Sofia Bleckur of IFK Mora finished third, just over five minutes off Nystrom’s pace.