By Teemu Virtanen
Blink Festivalen, the legendary roller-ski event in Sandnes and Ålgård in Norway, started yesterday with the first race of the weekend, Blink Classics 60 km. The victories went to Andrew Musgrave from the UK in the men’s race and Astrid Øyre Slind from Norway in the women’s category.
In the men’s race, the Olympic gold medalist Iivo Niskanen from Finland tried to break away in the long uphill section halfway through the race, and he was followed by 10 elite skiers. In the downhill part of the course, the breakaway skiers were caught up and before the finish Sergei Ustjugov attacked and managed to get a 10 second lead, which he couldn’t hold.
The last kilometers took place on a special roller-ski track near Sandnes, and at that time about 20 skiers were in the lead group. Petter Eliassen pushed hard but was not able to get a gap, and in the sprint finish Musgrave was the fastest skier followed by Simen Hegstad Kruger and Morten Eide Pedersen.
Besides Eide Pedersen, two other Visma Ski Classics pro skiers, Anders Aukland and Anders Mølmen Høst, managed to be in the top 10 finishing 5th and 6th respectively. Other notable Visma Ski Classics performances came from Vetle Thyli, 13th, and Stian Hoelgaard, 18th, while four skiers finished back-to-back taking home places from 19 to 22; Magnus Vesterheim, Tore Bjørseth Berdal, Øystein Pettersen and Øyvind Moen Fjeld.
In the women’s race, Øyre Slind was in the league of her own by beating Thea Krokan Murud who was 1.16 minutes slower than the winner. Hedda Østberg Amundsen was third more than five minutes behind Øyre Slind while Visma Ski Classics pro skiers Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, 5th, and Britta Johansson Norgren, 11th, were far away from the top. The reigning Champion of the long distance skiing was more than 16 minutes behind her closest rival Øyre Slind. The Vasaloppet winner from 2018, Lina Korsgren was 25 minutes behind the lead.
The Blink Festivalen continues today with Lysebotn Opp, a 7.5 km uphill race both in skating and double-poling technique as separate events.