By Teemu Virtanen
Yesterday’s La Venosta, the third stage in Season X, proved to be a thrilling and action-packed race both on the men and women’s side. Russian Winter Team’s Ermil Vokuev made history by taking home the first victory for a Russian Pro Team. Ilya Chernousov has won two races in the past; Marcialonga in 2018 and La Diagonela in 2017, but he represented a non-Russian Pro Team; ED System Bauer Team that hails from the Czech Republic.
Ermil wasn’t the only re-writing our history books as Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng, dominated the women’s field and beat Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, to it by over three minutes. Her finishing time, 1:37:09,9, would place her in the top 50 in the men’s race as well, 49th to be exact. That place is the record in Visma Ski Classics history since Justyna Kowalczyk’s 71st place at Vasaloppet in 2015 was the unofficially best female performance including both genders. Britta managed to be 81st in Vasaloppet’s total results last winter.
Percentage wise when compared to men, Astrid’s performance yesterday was also quite amazing. Her winning time was about 6% more than Ermil’s time, which is much less than normally. It is not necessarily a record as there have been certain conditions where women were very close to men (e.g. snowfall). Naturally, we have to take into account the fact that the men’s race started earlier than the women’s one, and it was snowing at the time of their start. However, the snowfall didn’t last very long and towards the end, the track was quite equal to both competitions.
Finally, it’s good to point out that in today’s La Venosta 34 km skating race, where the course was exactly the same as yesterday, Katerina Smutná’s winning time was 1:38:02,4, almost a minute slower than Astrid. The weather conditions were perfect today, possibly even better than yesterday.
It will be interesting to see what Astrid can do at the next event, Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Seefeld, Austria, as the course should suit her perfectly. She seems to race in high altitude much better than Britta, but the fight between these two great athletes will be severe come the “January Madness”.