Maria Gräfnings & Antoine Auger triumph at 45th Tartu Maraton

After two years the traditional Tartu Maraton finally could return to the original course between Otepää & Elva. Around 3500 skiers today started at 09:00 at the well-known ski stadium of Otepää and skied their 63 km long way through Estonian woods, fields, hills & valleys. The conditions were quite hard, since a layer of fresh snow covered the tracks and slowed the skiers down. But after 03:08:16 the first athlete crossed the finish line in Elva and it was a surprising one. Also the ladies race finished with a small surprise. 

Antoine Auger celebrates first victory in the FISWLC
The biggest enemy of the skiers today was a layer of fresh snow covering the 63 km classic tracks between Otepää and Elva. This layer slowed the skiers down and made the race a tough one and nobody was happy to make the leading work. So in the beginning the pace was not the highest and many skiers were able to follow the leading group, only at the intermediate sprints the athletes increased the speed, but after them they started to ski in an observing mode again. Until aproximately half way. Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux started a short attack and brought some meters between him and the leading group, but nobody seemed to be willing to do the catch-up-work, so Ivan escaped more and more. For a few kilometers he was skiing alone, around 20 seconds in front of the chasers. Of course, they got him, but this attack let the leader’s group shrink to 15 skiers, who worked together until around 10 km before the finish. There the Team Haute Savoie Nordic decided to attack again. This time Gerard Agnellet, the red bib holder, tried his luck, but his team mates followed him. Specially Antoine Auger seemed to be very confident today. 
In the end it were 4 skiers from Team Haute Savoie Nordic coming to the final hill & the finish lane together & sprinting for the victory. Surprising everyone, including himself, Antoine Auger raised his hands as winner, right in front of Gerard Agnellet & Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux (all 3 France). 
“I mean, I felt very strong today, even though my skies have been bad in the beginning & I hoped to finish the race among the first 10. But that I will win, I never thought of. I am very happy. I didn’t expect that”, says the happy winner, Auger Antoine 
1st – Antoine Auger (FRA) – Haute Savoie Nordic
2nd – Gerard Agnellet  (FRA) – Haute Savoie Nordic
3rd – Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux (FRA) – Haute Savoie Nordic
4th – Loic Guigonnet (FRA) – Haute Savoie Nordic
5th – Martti Himma (EST) – Sparta Spordiselts
6th – Benoit Chauvet (FRA) – Jobstation Rossignol Team
1st – Gerard Agnellet (FRA, Nordic Team Haute-Savoie) – 285 points
2nd – Ivan Perrillat-Boiteux (FRA, Nordic Team Haute-Savoie) – 240 points
3rd – Loic Guigonnet (FRA, Nordic Team Haute-Savoie) – 169 points
Gräfnings raising her hands at Tartu Maraton
Now she got her revenge! After a 3rd place at Dolomitnelauf and two 2nd places at König Ludwig Lauf & Transjurasienne finally Maria Gräfnings, Swede from SAS pro team, managed to climb on top of the podium. But this was not obvious in the beginning of the race. The first half of the race it was Aurelie Dabudyk who was leading the ladie’s competition. After 30 km she was skiing only 1 minute behind the leading group around place 30, Gräfnings more than 2 minutes behind her!!! But then Dabudyk had to pay for her good position and she started to get tired. For Gräfnings it was the other way around, she became stronger and stronger, catched up with Dabudyk and overtook her. In the end Aurelie Dabudyk ended up 3rd, also overtaken by Seraina Boner from Switzerland who finished 2nd. And Maria Gräfnings performed astonishing strongly and arrived the finish as ladie’s victor & 27th overall (which is a new record at Tartu Maraton). 
It was tough out there. Double poled the whole course, a lot of new snow also. It was tough, but I was feeling stronger as the race went on. You always get a lot of energy when you see the leader and I just decided to go. Aurelie has been fantastic this season, but today she showed that she’s still human. Estonia is a little bit like my second home, because my bofriend is from Estonia, so it is a special victory for me”, says Gräfnings.
1st – Maria Graefnings (SWE) – SAS pro Team
2nd – Seraina Boner (SUI) – Rossignol
3rd – Aurelie Dabudyk (FRA) – Haute Savoie Nordic Team
4th – Rahel Imoberdorf (SUI) – SAS pro Team
5th – Marie Kromer (FRA) – Haute Savoie Nordic Team 
6th – Anette Kasemets (EST) – Sakala Suusaklubi
1st – Aurelie Dabudyk (FRA, Nordic Team Haute-Savoie) – 360 points
2nd – Maria Gräfnings (SWE, SAS Pro Team) – 320 points
3rd – Rahel Imoberdorf (SUI, SAS Pro Team) – 150 points
Now after the 4th stage of the FIS Worldloppet Cup only 3 race are left and the two overall leaders now defeaded their red bib for the second time. Gerard Agnellet increased his lead up to 45 points advantage while the gap between Aurelie Dabudyk and her chaser Maria Gräfnings melt down to 40 points. But the red bibs remain in France & the Team Haute Savoie Nordic for another start, next week in America, at the American Birkebeiner, 5th FIS Worldloppet Cup stage. 
fotos (c) Arno Säks & Tarmo Haud
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