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27 Anders Aukland 21,937,881
28 Joar Thele 21,847,272
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31 Amund Riege 21,545,798
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Top Female Skiers for Birkebeinerrennet

This Saturday’s edition of Birkebeinerrennet is the eleventh stage and the fourth Grand Classics event in the Visma Ski Classics Season XII. The 54km race will have several potential winners on the women’s side.

Photo: Magnus Östh/Visma Ski Classics

Who will win Birkebeinerrennet next Saturday?

Two weeks after the historic Vasaloppet in Sweden, who are the female skiers that are in the position to be the favorites for winning Birkebeinerrennet in Norway?

There are many top contenders, but all the favorites believe there is a leading name to win the race – Therese Johaug.

Therese Johaug is coming from another impressive season. But this time, it might be even more special for Therese; the Norwegian skier has announced retirement from professional skiing, and she wants to take the victory of the most prestigious Norwegian long-distance race on her last season as a professional athlete. Just like she did in the Holmenkollen World Cup stage.

This is not the first time at Birkebeinerrennet for Therese Johaug. She has won the 2015 edition, at that time racing with Team United Bakeries. This time, racing for Team Ragde Charge, Therese might be willing to try something new.

“Birken is a really fun race. I did it in 2015, with beautiful blue sky and perfect skiing conditions, but I was very tired after the race. I said to myself that I would not do it anymore,” says Johaug during the Visma Ski Classics Birkebeinerrennet press conference, laughing while she recalls her experience.

“Last weekend was my last World Cup race of the season, and I wanted to try Birken again. I am really impressed with the long-distance girls because they are very strong. I want to keep up with them. It will be fun next Saturday.”

Despite being in great shape, Therese has not focused her training on long-distance ski events. One of the most interesting aspects of the women’s race will be to see if Therese Johaug will challenge herself double poling against the long-distance specialists.

When asked if she had some specific training for this race, Therese replied that she wished she could have had more double-poling sessions.

“I have done one double-poling session last week and two sessions this week. It’s not that much, but I know I am in shape. It would be fun to double-pole the race, but I am not sure if it is the right way for me to fight for the podium positions,” says Therese, adding that “I don’t think I am a favorite. Long-distance skiers like Astrid Øyre Slind and Britta Johansson Norgren are very strong. I will try to keep up with them,” concludes Therese.

But other strong athletes can compete for the victory next Saturday.

Astrid Øyre Slind, Ida Dahl, Britta Johansson Norgren, and Marit Bjørgen can challenge Therese Johaug during the race due to their long-distance and double poling specialization.

Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen, comes from an impressive victory at Vasaloppet. Astrid has set a new course record, but she has been tired after it.

“I have been taking it easy most of the time, just trying to catch off. Last weekend I tried to train longer double-poling sessions to get ready for Birken. I did one interval session today (Wednesday), and I think I will be ready,” says Astrid during the press conference.

One of the questions that may appear when thinking about the women’s race is if Øyre Slind will use kick-wax to challenge Therese Johaug. But that depends on many factors, including the weather conditions. When asked if it is possible to win the race without kick-wax, Astrid replied:

“I think it will be possible. It depends on how the weather turns out for the day. If there is fresh snow, it will be tougher. But right now, skiing conditions are good, and maybe we can have a double-poling record next Saturday. But for me, the technique will be double-poling anyway. My strength is double poling so that I will use it,” says Astrid, concluding that the main rival is Therese Johaug, the world’s best traditional cross-country skier.

Ida Dahl, Team Ramudden, has shown to be consistent with her good shape all over the season. As a matter of fact, Ida has proved to perform well in mountain races, where she effectively used double poling during the climbs. One example of that was Prato Piazza Mountain Challenge.

“My shape is good; I have been training many hours. A lot of easy training, and I have been trying to do some uphill double-poling interval sessions to prepare myself for Birken. I feel good, and I think I can do well,” says Dahl, feeling confident but also stating that “Therese Johaug is the biggest rival.”

Finally, Team Ragde Charge’s Marit Bjørgen just won Holmenkollmarsjen last weekend, showing that her long-distance specialization is improving.

“Holmenkollmarsjen was better for me than Vasaloppet. I think my shape is a little bit better now. But it will be hard to keep up with the best girls at the front”, says Marit.

Marit Bjørgen feels that it will be a tough race due to the strength of the long-distance skiers and to the participation of some World Cup athletes. But her teammates, Therese Johaug and Anikken Gjerde Alnes, are such a strong duo, and team tactics may be decisive.

“We will try to do some team tactics, but Therese is so much better than us. We will see,” says Bjørgen before concluding that she aims to be among the top 6.

Birkebeiner will be a tough race, with hopefully fast and good skiing conditions. From World Cup to long-distance Pro Tour skiers, many athletes will be fighting for the podium.

A celebrated starting field is confirmed for Birkebeinerrennet

BIRKEBEINERRENNET 

  • Date: Saturday, March 19
  • Place: Rena-Lillehammer, Norway
  • Distance: 54km Classic Technique
  • Start Times: 7:45 CET Men / 8:00 CET Women

Next up in the Visma Ski Classics is Birkebeinerrennet. The 54-kilometer classic race takes place in Norway on March 19, 2022.

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