A predictor for the winter ski season ahead? Could be. Either way, Norway’s Blink Ski Festival, or as it’s called in Norway, Blinkfestivalen, remains the ultimate in rollerski racing and returned for the 12th year in a row on Wednesday.
The festival opened with elite men’s and women’s distance rollerski races, known as the Blink Classics. For the third-straight summer, the Blink Classics featured a 60-kilometer mass start for the men and a 50 k for the women.
Eighty-six men competed in Wednesday’s 60 k, which began in the city center of Ålgård and finished in the municipality of Sandnes. A complete course map, which deviated little from last year’s rendition, may be found by clicking here.
By the end of the men’s 60 k, it was Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov who finished first in 2:10:51.6 hours. The 22-year-old Bolshunov had a number of World Cup podiums last season and one win in the final 15 k of the year. He also earned three silver medals and one bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Finishing just 5.9 seconds behind him was another Russian, 19-year-old Sergey Ardashev, in second place. The third elite man across the line was Norway’s Anders Mølmen Høst, 27, of the Lyn Ski club, who finished 1.8 seconds out of second place and 7.7 seconds back from first.
Norwegians occupied the rest of the top 10, with Tord Asle Gjerdalen in fourth (+8.1), Øystein Petterson in fifth (+8.3), Hans Christer Holund in sixth (+8.3), Sjur Røthe in seventh (+8.7), Simen Hegstad Krüger in eighth (+8.7), Runar Skaug Mathisen in ninth (+10.3) and Martin Johnsrud Sundby — the winner of last year’s Blink Classics 60 k — in 10th (+10.8).
Nearly half of the men’s field came from nations from outside Norway, with athletes hailing from Russia, France, Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, Finland, Sweden, and Italy. Canadian World Cup skier Alex Harvey was the top North American in 14th (+1:19.0).
Also for Canada, Scott James Hill placed 53rd (+11:00.0) and Bob Thompson was 56th (+11:53.1). Ian Torchia was the lone American in the event, racing to 55th (+11:52.3). Canada’s Evan Palmer-Charrette did not start.
In the elite women’s 50 k, which had just nine finishers, Norway’s Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes finished first in 2:21:19.0. Second place went to Astrid Øyre Slind, who crossed 33.9 seconds after Gjeitnes, and the third and final podium spot went to Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk (+5:55.4).
Racing for Great Britain, Nichole Bathe placed sixth (+14:05.1). Originally from Wisconsin, Bathe is a dual citizen of Great Britain and the U.S., and is currently training with the British national team in Norway.
Following the Blink Classics on Wednesday, the Blink Ski Festival will turn to the Lysebotn Opp uphill rollerski race on Thursday.