After 220 km through Arctic wilderness and almost 12 hours of cross-country skiing it again took an all-Norwegian sprint decision to crown the winner of Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet. Sprint gun Andreas Nygaard eventually was first over the finish line 11:45:07 here in Jokkmokk, just two seconds ahead of his team colleague Øyvind Moen Fjeld.
“It´s absurd to ski for that long, the craziest race I’ve ever done”, said winner Andreas Nygaard with a smile. “My strategy was to take it easy in the beginning and to just hang along while focusing on my energy intake to last all the way. I felt good even towards the end and had some forces left”, he continued.
Best female was Nina Lintzén (SWE) who took an overwhelming victory in just over 13 hours. Nina could easily claim the victory when Maria Rydqvist, who was closest female, decided to quit. ”I’ve aimed for the gold ever since last year when I finished third”.
Early bird start from Purkijaur
Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet started at 6 in the morning outside Jokkmokk in northern Sweden. A staggering 220 km long course through the vast landscapes above the Arctic Circle awaited the 240 participants from 15 nations.
A thin layer of fresh snow in the tracks made a tough race even tougher. As a result, the race was rather slow in the beginning. Only after 80 km, the elite started to increase the pace. “From the turning point in Årrenjarka and onwards speed went up to max”, 4th placed Erik Melin Söderström (SWE) told in the finish.
That was around when the leading group started to split up. First the group went from 18 to ten men, shortly after it was reduced to four: two Norwegians, one Swede and young Finnish skier Christoffer Lindvall. With 15 km left, Erik Melin Söderström had to quickly step out and could never catch up again.
Øyvind Moen Fjeld went up to pull hard in the lead and managed to split the group additionally. Nygaard and Lindvall fell behind 31 seconds at max. “That was just tactics”, Nygaard would later explain and added: “I wanted Lindvall to get tired, trying to hunt down my team colleague. Once he was worn out, I went in the lead myself and caught up with Øyvind again with about 2 km left. After thousands of training hours together, I knew that I could sprint him down. Now I’m happy to have won the world’s longest skiing race.”
Swedish female victory
After 2016, it was the 2nd defeat for Fjeld in a sprint at Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet. Last year, John Kristian Dahl (NOR) was stronger. Nina Lintzén from Luleå (SWE) on the other hand could improve her 3rd place from 2016 and took an overwhelming ladies victory. “It has been my goal for a year now to win here. It’s such a tough race that demands serious preparation. I trained hard, many sessions longer than a 100 km”, she said tired but happy.
Visually impaired Brian McKeever (CAN), one of the world’s most successful Paralympic athletes, came on 12th place and was happy about that. He was amongst those who fell behind when pace in the elite went up: “It was heck of an adventure. I fought a bit lonely for a while so I was happy to get some company towards the end”, he stated and did not exclude a return to Jokkmokk another year.
As the participants had 30 hours to cover the extreme distance, many amateurs skied on through the night.