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Interview with Tore Berdan & Britta Norgren about their Vasa-Victory

Vasaloppet 2019 offered solo victories in both the men’s and women’s class. Norwegian Tore Bjørset Berdal broke away with barely five kilometres left and could hold his ground for a victory in the men’s class and Britta Johansson Norgren won the ladies’ class after having been alone in the lead for almost the whole race.

Preliminary figures show that 14,711 participants started yesterday in the 95th Vasaoppet in Sälen. The 2019 Vasaloppet offered continuous steady snowfall and really slow tracks. For the most part it seemed as though the men’s class would be decided in a spurt on the finishing stretch but the Norwegian Team Koteng had other ideas.

Tore Bjørset Berdal about his victory

Last year the same Tore Bjørset Berdal was alone in the lead over the final 10 kilometres but he was caught up to at about the same place that he today made his breakaway push.

I’ve thought a great deal about what happened last year. It’s been chewing away in the back of my head. It was a tactic that almost worked. But this year I made a breakaway from that place instead of being caught up,

Tore Bjørseth Berdal, 31 years old Norwegian.

This time the tactic worked one hundred percent for the yellow clad Norwegian team. Berdal quickly got a gap of about ten seconds and Team Koteng had all the rest of the following group behind them.

It was planned that we should push before the finish but not exactly where.

How did you plan your break away?

The victory organizer was the team captain and threefold Vasaloppet winner John Kristian Dahl who gathered his men together out on the course and shared out his directives.

He got us skiers together and told us where we should be, “you should be in this track and you should be in that”, then he said to me “Tore, go now”.
– So it was just to make for the finish!

Berdal about his team leader Dahl.

The rival competitors were impressed that Berdal managed to get such a big gap so quickly.

I just went all in. It was all or nothing! I didn’t know how near they were towards the end because I didn’t dare to turn and look. The first time I turned and looked was when I saw the Kranskulla. I was uncertain whether I could take the wreath or not.

There’s a World Championship in Seefeld right now which is the biggest for World Cup skiers. Vasaloppet is the biggest you can win when you’re a cross-country skier. It feels totally wonderful!

What does a victory like this mean?

In the group spurt behind Berdal it was Berdal’s team mates, Stian Hoelgaard and Torleif Syrstad, who were strongest and made sure there was a completely yellow Norwegian prize podium. Fourth was last year’s winner, Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Eiendom.

46 year old veteran in Nygaard’s team, Anders Aukland together with Öyvind Moen Fjeld from the same team, attempted to close the gap when Berdal broke away, but without success.

Best Swede in the men’s class was Oskar Kardin in ninth place, 14 seconds after the victor, but only 3 seconds from the second place.

I was a little further back in the group when Berdal broke away. I thought it would be a big group spurt, and so did most of us. It was impressive teamwork by Koteng. They were quite simply better than us.

Oskar Kardin, best Swede on 9th place.

Men’s Vasaloppet 2019 result

  1. Tore Björset Berdal, (NOR), 4.39.15
  2. Stian Hoelgaard, (NOR), 4.39.26
  3. Torleif Syrstad, (NOR), 4.39.27
  4. Andreas Nygaard, (NOR), 4.39.28
  5. Tord Asle Gjerdalen, (NOR), 4.39.28
  6. Stanislav Rezác, (CZE), 4.39.28
  7. Anders Aukland, (NOR), 4.39.29
  8. Öyvind Moen Fjeld, (NOR), 4.39.29
  9. Oskar Kardin, (SWE), Östersunds SK, 4.39.29
  10. Chris André Jespersen, (NOR), 4.39.29

Britta Johansson Norgren about her 2nd Vasaloppet victory

At Mångsbodarna after 23 kilometres Britta Johansson Norgren had a lead of 20 seconds from her biggest rivals Lina Korsgren, Katerina Smutná and Kari Öyre Slind.

After perhaps 18 kilometres I noticed that the best lads began to move forward a bit. Many of the good names began to search their way up so I also pushed myself hard. That probably made it for me today. When it was a long line after Risberg I had a very good position.

Britta Johansson Norgren, Vasaloppet winner 2019.
Sälen-Mora 190303 Vasaloppet Britta Norgren Johannsson, och Viktor Stickå Foto Nisse Schmidt

And the distance just grew. Not so much in Risberg but in Evertsberg Britta had fixed herself a lead of two minutes from Korsgren and Smutná. This grew even more up to Oxberg in spite of Britta having to fight her way, in solitary majesty, up the Lundbäcksbackarna slopes. At the checkpoint her lead was 3.40.

It was unbelievably tough today. I have been extremely tired right since Evertsberg. It was a real struggle, but it’s even more fun when things go the right way. I don’t usually feel I’m facing a wall but today I felt that there was a risk that I’d be parked there with 20 kilometres remaining! But when one is in good form it’s possible to keep on the right side of the line.

Norgren about the snowy slow conditions.

At Hökberg the Smutná and Korsgren duo had caught up a bit and were less than three minutes behind Britta Johansson Norgren. But she held on all the way to the finish and the victory margin to the second place, Lina Korsgren, was in the end, 3.47. Smutná was two seconds later over the finish line as third. Four Swedes were among the eight best. 

Ladies Vasaloppet 2019 results

  1. Britta Johansson Norgren, (SWE), Sollefteå Skidor IF, 4.54.24
  2. Lina Korsgren, (SWE), Åre Längdskidklubb, 4.58.11
  3. Katerina Smutná, (CZE), 4.58.13
  4. Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, (NOR), 5.02.14
  5. Maria Gräfnings, (SWE), Falun Borlänge SK, 5.03.36
  6. Astrid Öyre Slind, (NOR), 5.06.00
  7. Marie Kromer, (FRA), 5.11.41
  8. Sofie Elebro, (SWE), Östersunds SK, 5.11.52
  9. Heli Heiskanen, (FIN), 5.12.26
  10. Laila Kveli, (NOR), 5.15.39

Fotos (c) Vasaloppet

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