Skiers had to battle knee-deep snow drifts as a snowstorm hampered the running of the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Seefeld, Austria. Andreas Nygaard of Team Santander overcame the conditions to win a thrilling sprint finish to wrap up the second consecutive win and take the yellow jersey. Kick wax was the order of the day helping Katerina Smutná take the victory.
The organizers of the 60 km event were met with a heavy snowfall when they woke up in the morning. The pro skiers were up against some unexpected conditions as they pulled their way through soft snow and almost zero visibility. Elite women started 15 minutes before men and paved the way for all skiers. After about 20 km of skiing, men caught up with the lead group of women offering them some relief in terms of keeping the track open.
Until the last 10 km, 43 male skiers stayed together when Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Tore Berdal, Ilya Chernousov and Anders Aukland tried to break away in the final uphill but with no success. The inevitable sprint finish took place and the Vasaloppet China winner Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, was the strongest in the finish beating his teammate Gjerdalen. The third place went to Stian Hoelgaard, Team LeasePlan, who got a stranglehold on the pink jersey (youth category). With his victory today, Nygaard is now the current leader of Visma Ski Classics tour while Gjerdalen is chasing him with only 26 points separating these two.
”It was a tough race because there was so much snow on the course,” the happy winner Nygaard commented after the race. ”At some point, we were knee-deep in soft snow. The pace was slow, but you get tired after a while because you have to work hard when it’s snowing like this. I just kept telling myself that I need to keep up with the guys and win the race in the end. This is something that I didn’t expect to happen when the season started. Let’s see how long I can keep the yellow bib.”
In the women’s race, Katerina Smutná, Team Santander, and Astrid Slind decided to have some kick wax on their skis, which turned out to be the right move. Smutná won the race by 10 seconds while Slind took home the second place. Britta Johansson Norgren finished third and admitted that double poling on a course like the one in Seefeld was really challenging but she was happy to be on the podium. She is currently leading in the overall standings while Smutná is 135 points behind.
”It was the right decision to go with kick was today,” Smutná admitted with a smile on her face. ”It was hard for us to be in the lead and open the tracks for men. We waited for them to catch up and do the work on our behalf. I noticed it was tough for Britta because she was double poling. So, Astrid and I decided to work together in the final section of the course, and it worked perfectly.”