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FIS Marathon Cup News: Finlandia Hiihto 50k Classic – Koukal and Shevchenko Win

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March 01, 2012 – (Lahti, Finland) – Normally, the skating technique is his favourite one and he would never declare himself a classic specialist, however, it was in a classic style race, that he won his first FIS Marathon Cup: Martin Koukal (CZE), World Champion from 2003 over 50km skating, crowned himself winner of the Finlandia Hiihto which is also 50km long but is skied in classic technique. The two Italians Sergio Bonaldi, who had already been second in the skating race La Transjurassienne two weeks ago, and Marco Cattaneo, placed second and third, battling had in order to leave their team mate Florian Kostner on the fourth spot.

The big favourite of today’s race, the leader of the FIS Marathon Cup, Stanislav Rezac, like Koukal from the Czech Republic, couldn’t place better than fifth. Like at the Dolomitenlauf or at La Transjurassienne, Team Skinfit Racing took its chances in the absence of the Norwegian and Swedish classic specialists and secured the top podium place in both races: With Koukal on the men’s side and with Valentina Shevchenko (UKR) on the women’s one! The Ukrainian once again knew only one thing: that she was skiing lightning-quick! She left Tatiana Manimaa (EST) and Stephanie Santer (ITA) to get second and third. Once again, the very hilly terrain of the Finlandia Hiihto helped Shevchenko to play her card, pushing hard on the uphills but enjoying racing at the same time.

With temperatures hovering around -3°C during the race, only a light breeze and no snowfall, made for perfect conditions. Over 3,000 racers took to the start in Lahti this morning, ready to explore the track to Hollola and back to Lahti.

Rezac Continues to Lead overall FIS Marathon Cup, Santer is New Women’s Leader
No changes in the men’s ranking of the overall FIS Marathon Cup: Stanislav Rezac (CZE) leads now with 345 points in front of Joergen Aukland (NOR, 256 points) and Jimmie Johnsson (SWE, 235 points). On the women’s side the leader bib goes back to Stephanie Santer (ITA) who leads now with 381 points in front of Susanne Nyström (SWE, 365 points) and Jenny Hansson (SWE, 332 points).

Elite Results HERE.
Full results HERE.

The next FIS Marathon Cup race will be the Vasaloppet (SWE), 90km classic, on March 4.

Comments from the top three:

Martin Koukal (CZE):
It’s amazing! My first FIS Marathon Cup victory and it’s in classic technique! In the beginning of the season, I had a lot of self confidence but I got back to earth right after the first couple of races and changed my goals for the season. So I am more than satisfied now with this result. I had great skis throughout the whole race, but especially in the end.

We spent almost a week here after the Tartu Maraton and I got to know almost the whole track of the Finlandia, therefore I knew that it would be possible to go without wax and do just double polling. The last kilometres were a fight, the last steep uphills were very painful, but I knew that I had to survive these kilometres if I wanted to be in front for the finish. It worked all fine and I could even choose the line for the finish when we came to down into the stadium. I will now rest a bit at home and prepare the Engadin Marathon. It doesn’t look too bad for me now in the overall FIS Marathon Cup, so that’s the focus now for me for the rest of the season!

Sergio Bonaldi (ITA):
I am very happy with my second place! A top 6 position today would have been great so I am even more satisfied with this podium! I didn’t have any wax so I was double polling the whole way which was a good decision I think. We were five guys in the last kilometres but suddenly there was a Finnish athlete coming to us, so we were six for three podium places. I tried to get in front before we came into the stadium in order to fight for the first spots. This worked out fine and I could finish second!

Marco Cattaneo (ITA):
I had hoped for the podium today, that’s for sure! I didn’t have a great season so far and this podium is really a satisfaction for me! We were five guys who went together but were caught by the following ones for several times before we could really go during the last kilometres. I hoped for the finish sprint and I am really happy that I could secure the third place.

Valentina Shevchenko (UKR):
I am really satisfied and happy. I had perfect skis – a big thank you to my service man!!! I only had one tactic and that was “just go”! I didn’t see any other of the girls but I got the info from our service crew how much of a gap it was between me and them so I could control the race very well. I really liked the track…it’s pretty hilly and that’s what’s good for me. Mostly I went with some other men, but also alone some time. This victory and my place in the overall FIS Marathon Cup is very important for me and the team this year. I won’t go to the Vasaloppet but will prepare the Engadin Marathon and hope to play a role again there.

Tatiana Manimaa (EST):
I knew from the beginning, that Valentina will be the winner today. However, I tried to give my best and I am very happy that I could finish second! I had great skis and I really enjoyed racing today. I will now go back home to ski a 38km race tomorrow in Estonia. It was my first time to race the Finlandia today and I really liked it so I think it won’t have been the last!

Stephanie Santer (ITA):
I am satisfied with the third place – but even more, to have the leader bib of the overall FIS Marathon Cup back! Valentina just took off right away and I only saw her once again at around 10km. I didn’t see Tatiana so I was just focusing on myself, skiing along with elderly Finnish men, which was pretty funny as the were really racing for some two kilometres, but were then suddenly “stopping” before taking off again. So I went kind of from group to group until the finish. I am happy to have been able to secure the podium.

Let’s see which race is next… but normally I plan to skip the Vasaloppet and race again in the Engadin

Photos from the race HERE.

More information on the race HERE.