The 90-kilometer Vasaloppet is one of the most prestigious non-World Cup ski races in the world—such a big deal in fact that Petter Northug made the race his primary focus in 2012 following the Tour de Ski.
Unfortunately for Northug, a stomach bug kept him from even reaching the starting line, and we can only guess at how he would have fared.
Of course safe money would have been on Northug if he had been able to hang with the lead group for the duration of the event. The men’s race came down to a four-man sprint, Northug’s forte.
But it was Joergen Brink of Sweden who took the top spot, edging out countryman Daniel Tynell, marathon specialist Stanislav Rezac (CZE) and World Cup stalwart Daniel Rickardsson (SWE) at the line.
Brink also won the Tartu Marathon in Estonia in February.
“Today was such a perfect day where I could be aggressive all the time and just go for it,” Tynell told Swedish ski website Längd.se. “It does not feel like I lost a gold, but like I won a silver medal.”
Brink’s winning time of 3:38:41 was the fastest ever in the Vassaloppet.
The top nine finishers were all within five seconds in the men’s race, in strong contrast to the women’s race, where Vibeke Skofterud, with much less fanfare than Northug’s aborted attempt, took time off from the World Cup to ski to a clear win.
Skofterud, a mainstay on the Norwegian relay team, and who, despite missing the Tour de Ski due to illness, is ranked ninth in the overall World Cup standings bested runner-up Laila Kveli (NOR) by just over three minutes.
Skofterud also set a new time record in the race, despite losing a pole when another skier stepped on it. The Norwegian had to go back and pick it up, allowing Hansson to take a temporary lead.
The 24-year-old Kveli is in her first season racing the marathon circuit, and reached the podium for the first time in the Vasaloppet, bettering her fourth place finish in the 70k Marcialonga in Italy.
Racing for the Norwegian Team Xtra Personnel, Kveli was nearly three minutes up on Team Exspirit’s Seraina Bonner (SUI) with veteran marathoner Hansson (SWE) in fourth.
The top American finisher was Andreas Halvorsen, who placed 245th in a time of 4:15:07.
Brian McKeever paced the Canadians in 83rd. McKeever was skiing in the top-20 before breaking a pole and dropping back.
Megan McTavish was the top Canadian woman in an impressive 52nd place.
Ruth Oppliger was the top American woman in 616th.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.