By Teemu Virtanen
Tomorrow at 12 pm CET, the new Season X kicks off in Livigno, Italy, with the 15 km Pro Team Tempo. 29 Pro Teams will start the race tomorrow, and their male skiers ski together in a three-minute interval followed by each team’s female skier in a pursuit race based on the time difference achieved from the men’s race where the finishing time is taken from the team’s third best male skier.
Traditionally, this Prologue event has proven to be a sign of things to come later in the season. Last year, Team Kaffebryggeriet’s male team managed to be the fastest team in the field, and now they also have a female skier in their ranks, which makes them one of the strongest candidates to do well. The team captain Vetle Thyli performed extremely well in Beitostølen last weekend, and his whole team is ready to repeat the feat from last year.
"It was really a big surprise for us to have the fastest time," Vetle says still sounding somewhat flabbergasted by the success from last year. "We now have a young and energetic team here in Livigno, and I hope that we can repeat last year's performance. I also wish that my team, myself included, can climb closer to the top this season, and maybe Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Seefeld could be the one for me to win as I always do well there."
Other powerful Pro Teams to win tomorrow’s race are Team Koteng, Team Ragde Eiendom and Lager 157 Ski Team. Team Koteng from Norway has two really strong women, Astrid Øyre Slind and Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, who can work together and turn the tables in the pursuit if need be. Their male skiers do not need to shy away from the spotlight of their female counterparts as they took home a triple victory at Vasaloppet last winter.
Team Ragde Eiendom, Norway, has probably the strongest male skiers in the Pro Tour, but their two female skiers are question marks. Thea Krokan Murud is their best bet to be able to follow the best women of the pursuit race. Lager 157 Ski Team has the undisputed Champion of Visma Ski Classics Britta Johansson Norgren, and her male teammates are capable of performing well enough so that the gap should not be too much for her to catch up.
"Traditionally, Pro Team Tempo has been difficult for us," the current Champion Anders Nygaard from Team Ragde Eiendom admits honestly. "I hope I can personally perform well even if it's high altitude. We have a strong team, which means that we should be able to win this for the first time. We'll see what happens tomorrow!"
There are always surprises and thrilling drama at Visma Ski Classics events, and tomorrow will not be an exception. All top Pro Teams have trained well and prepared very carefully for this weekend and the entire season. It can be expected that Pro Teams such as ED System Bauer Team, Team Ramudden, Team Serneke, Russian Winter and many more are willing to show that Season X is certainly going to be the most suspenseful in the history of the sport.