Niko Koskela first Finn to win Tartu Maraton
Aftere melting spring weather over the last days the relief came tonight, when minus degrees ensured a frozen and very firm track for the 46th Tartu Maraton between Otepää and Elva. The conditions have been as good, that the big winner of today, Niko Koskela (FIN), even skied a new record time on the 63-km -track. Maria Gräfnings, dominating the ladie’s competition, increasing her lead in the overall FIS Worldloppet Cup ranking.
Almost 5000 skiers were signed up for today’s 46th Tartu Maraton & the 5th stage of the FIS Worldloppet Cup. The participants were coming from 36 countries all over the world, which is a new record for the Estonian Worldloppet race. The elite group was dominated by French and Swiss skiers – which is natural, for a FIS Worldloppet Cup stage – but also the local skiers showed, that slowly it’s time for an Estonian winner in the Tartu Maraton. But not this year. This year another nation celebrated the first victory in Elva in the men’s race and in the ladie’s competition we followed a very strong Swedish victory-defender.
Auger attacking but Koskela winning
Already in the dark morning hours everyone in the stadium of Otepää – start of the Tartu Maraton – knew, today is a perfect day for a new record time. Frozen tracks provided perfect conditions for a fast race. And indeed, as expected, the competition was a tough and fast one. After the first intermediate sprint after 12 km, a group of 20 skiers was formed to lead this race. Among them the e-liberty Skiteam members and also the skiers from Jobstation Rossignol. They got strong company from Estonia, Finland and Switzerland. After some tactical playing around and several minor attacks, it was last year’s winner Antoine Auger (FRA, e-liberty Skiteam) who made a major attack. Maybe 20 km to go he started to put pressure on the leading group and was breaking away. Suddenly he had created a gap of 30 seconds, so he decided to go on and grab the victory in the final intermediate sprint 15 kilometers before the finish. Only 6 km before Elva the chasing group was able to catch Antoine Auger, who was not willing to ski behind the group, but remaind working in front in the wind.
But then Auger had to pay tribute to his brave attack. The Finnish skier Niko Koskela, who made a lot of work in the chasing group, Mart Kevin Polluste (EST) and the French skiers Damien Tarantola & Loic Guigonnet started to fight for the victory on the last 2 kilometers, until finally, Damien Tarantola tried to make the final move just before the finish lane, but Koskela was able to counter-attack and he out-sprinted the French by 1,4 seconds. He now is the first Finnish to win the Tartu Maraton in history and also set up a new record time with 2:31:8,9! Tarantola finished 2nd, right before the Swiss Fabio Lechner, who claimed the 3rd podium place.
Niko Koskela, winner of 2019’s Tartu Maraton
“Yesterday we checked the hall of fame and realized, that no Finn has won the Tartu Maraton, so we decided, I am going to be the first one today! The great conditions made it possible to also set up this new record time!”
Agnellet Gerard (FRA, e-liberty Skiteam), who was skiing in the red bib, as FIS Worldloppet Cup overall leader had a very hard day today. It seems like he had to pay off for his good results in the first four FIS Worldloppet Cup stages. He always skied in the back of the leading group, but after the attack of Antoine Auger, he had to let them go. He finished 13th, with a 5:30 minutes gap, losing the red bib for now.
Tartu Maraton 2019 Results – men
- Niko Koskela, FIN
- Damien Tarantola, FRA
- Fabio Lechner, SUI
- Corsin Hoesli, SUI
- Bastien Poirrier, FRA
- Loic Guigonnet, FRA
Maria Gräfnings defending last year’s victory
Last year Maria Gräfnings (SAS Pro Team) celebrated her first vicotry at the Tartu Maraton, and eventhough she is the big dominator in this FIS Worldloppet Cup season, it was not clear that she is going to win also today. Last weekend, the Swedish pro marathon skier had to skip the La Transjurasienne, which was the 4th stage, because of sickness. But eventhough she is still not 100 percent recovered, as she mentioned after the race, she was able to defend her 2018 victory at Tartu Maraton and also this year she raised her hands for the win in Elva. The local hero and two times Tartu Maraton winner Tatjana Mannima was not able to follow Gräfnings, but finished on a solid second place. What made the difference? Maria Gräfnings was double poling the whole race and Mannima skied classic style. The 3rd place is going to Marie Kromer from France (e-liberty Skiteam).
“I am not 100 percent recoverd from beeing sick but today it was good enough. I really like this race and the organization and of course this great course combined with the beautiful weather.I really want to have this red bib in the end of the season! I am striving for the overall victory!”Maria Gräfnings, 2019’s winner of Tartu Maraton
Tartu Maraton 2019 Results – Ladies
- Maria Gräfnings, SWE
- Tatjana Mannima, EST
- Marie Kromer, FRA
- Klara Moravcova, CZE
- Tatjana Stiffler, SUI
- Terhi Pollari, FIN
Tarantola taking over red bib while Gräfnings is defending it
With his 2nd place today, worth 80 points in the overall ranking, Damien Tarantola is taking over the red bib from his teammate Agnellet Gerard. And even though it was not his goal to go for the overall victory in the FIS Worldloppet Cup – as he said at the press conference – from now on, he definitely is trying to defend the leading position at the last two races. But his advantage is not very comfortable: Only 7 points behind him, Agnellet Gerard is waiting for his counter.
In the ladie’s overall ranking Maria Gräfnings is continuing dominating after skipping one race, La Transju’ last weekend. With another 100 points to her account, she is increasing her lead up to 110 points, which means, already next week, at the 6th and previous last stage of the FIS Worldloppet Cup in Finland (Finlandia Hiihto), Gräfnings can secure her overall victory! Let’s see, what her first chaser, Tatjana Mannima can hold against that!
The FIS Worldloppet Cup is going to continue next weekend in Finland, Lahti, at the Finlandia Hiihto ( 24.02.2019) with 50 km of skating style.