January 29, 2012 – The sun had just risen when nearly 7,000 competitors started their 70km classic long journey through the Fassa and Fiemme valleys for the 39th edition of the Marcialonga (ITA) . The best marathon skiers in the world stood in the front row, but most eyes where on Petter Northug Jr. (NOR). Everyone was very curious about how the Olympic champ would fare in the 70km Marcialonga, considering his biggest goal this season is to win the famous Vasaloppet.
However, it was not Northug who arrived in Cavalese first. Instead, it was Joergen Aukland from Norway, who managed a tremendous race, despite trailing the lead group not long from the start. He battled hard at the finish, especially with his older brother Anders, who took second place in the end. Both had already won the Marcialolnga: Joergen twice (2006 & 2003) and Anders once (2004). Third in this family affair was Stanislav Rezac (CZE) – winner of the first FIS Marathon Cup this season, the Jizerská Padesatka.
After 70 long kilometres and almost half an hour after the Auklands, it was time to celebrate the best women: Susanne Nyström (SWE) crossed the finish line first. At the start, Nyström wasn’t too sure what to expect, as many things can happen over 70 kilometres.
Her team mate Jenny Hansson (SWE) followed in second and Italy’s Stephanie Santer skied into third spot.
Blue sky and perfect conditions made this traditional long distance race in the Trentino Area a wonderful experience for all – racers and spectators alike. The last racers were expected around 7pm.
Rezac (ITA) is tied with Joergen Aukland in the FIS Marathon Cup. Both have one victory and one third place on their account – now they are tied on the first place in the FIS Marathon Cup ranking with 160 points, followed by Anders Aukland who has 125 points – as does Jimmie Johnsson of Sweden.
It’s clearer on the women’s side: Jenny Hansson leads with 172 points on front of Susanne Nyström (165 points) and Stephanie Santer (146 points).
Quotes from the top three
Joergen Aukland (NOR):
It’s fantastic to be the winner of the Marcialonga again! However, it didn’t seem to be that way in the beginning when I soon lost ocntact to the leading group. A fall on the way back down to Moena didn’t help either, but my team worked really well for me today. On the downhill part, I could catch some other racers and we went together while my skis got better and better and suddenly, when the leading group seemed to have made a full stop, we caught the remaining 30s and I was once again in the match. I saw that the others were already quite tired and I knew that I could still have a chance. I feared especially Rezac in the last steep uphill and was surprised that the others just let me go when I started my attack. However, I was only sure that I would win about 50m before the finish line! The last uphill is very special and you need to start training for it already in summer to get the right upper body strength. It’s my third victory now and I will certainly come back next year to fight for the famous fourth one.
Anders Aukland (NOR):
I am really satisfied with my second place today. The plan today was to start very hard as after the first 20km, not much happens until the last kilometres. So our team decided to attack right at the start to get a gap between us and the others. We worked really well together so that it was also possible for Joergen to join us again in the flat part. The Marcialonga is such a big cross country party and the atmosphere is amazing. For sur it’s also great to have so many Norwegians taking part in the race. But no, Petter Northug didn’t have too much influence in this race, even though we all put him together with about ten other people how could win today. Sure, it’s a great feeling to be an Olympic 50km Champion, but this is long distance racing! Petter really wanted to win today, but marathon skiing is different! And in the Marcialonga, it’s the strongest man who will be on the top! Petter just lost too much energy before arriving at the final climb. Surely he will be better at the Vasaloppet as the finish is different.
Stanislav Rezac (CZE):
I felt in good at the start this morning and I know that I am in good shape at the moment. However, I lost too much energy before the last climb, so I couldn’t attack as I had planned. I still caught Jerry Ahrlin, but that was it – I wasn’t able to fight for the victory. I stayed in Obertilliach after the Dolomitenlauf, but I will now get back home to my family before going to the König-Ludwig-Lauf. This is “my” race – I really like the finish, so I hope I can be in front again there!
Susanne Nyström (SWE):
It was an amazing feeling to pass the finish line as the first woman and to get the wreath. Jenny and me we worked together very well the whole way through – only at the last uphill, everyone was on her own. I felt good at the start, but I wasn’t sure what it would be worth as you never know what happens in such a long race. And the last climb is very special. Either you arrive in a good condition and you can win or not. When I arrived at the bottom today, I thought, I have a good chance to win so I went for it – and I got it! I am really happy!
Jenny Hansson (SWE):
I have a little problem with my eye, maybe because I looked too much to Susanne?! (laughs) However, the race was really good. It was perfect team work. Susanne and I skied together the whole time and helped each other. It was really fun to race and I really enjoyed skiing, even though it was a hard and tough race. Maybe this was also because we gave each other energy?! I am very happy for Susanne and for her victory and I am also very happy for my second place. To be the leader in the overall FIS Marathon Cup has been one of my goals this season, however, the season it not yet over, so let’s see how the other races go. I will definitely fight for the victory.
Stephanie Santer (ITA):
Right after the start I fell down and had huge problems to even get up again as people were standing on my skis and pushed from behind, but when I finally stood up and people were shouting at me “Stephi you are great, you can do it”, I thought, well I have to give it a try – if they believe in my, I won’t let them down. And throughout the race I recovered pretty fine. I pushed a lot outside the tracks as my skis seemed to be better outside them and I also did a lot of double polling. When I came to the final climb, I just gave everything I had left in me and it worked! I am so happy. I didn’t know the climb before, therefore I walked it up yesterday evening – but then it seemed to be longer than today somehow. But maybe that’s because people were encouraging you the whole way and were shouting your name – that really helped to give your last bit!