The 42nd annual American Birkebeiner will be held today in Northern Wisconsin. Over 11,000 nordic skiers will make their way from Cable to downtown Hayward in one of the longest cross-country ski races held in North America.
When it comes to cross-country skiing, you don’t want too much snow, and you don’t want too little snow. Last year, skiers in the Birkebeiner dealt with almost too much snow as a late February storm dumped almost a foot of powder on the course the day before the race. Fortunately, 2015 hasn’t brought a deluge of snow at once, but rather a little bit at a time. That, combined with the very cold week before today’s race, could lead to extremely fast conditions on the Birkebeiner course. American Birkebeiner executive director Ben Popp explained.
“We haven’t had any real measurable snowfall for like 94 or 95 days, anything more than three inches, but all these one and two-inch snowfalls have added up. The course is almost in pristine condition. We’re excited. We think it’s going to be a real fast course, a good course. It should be great.”
As far as who might actually win the Birkebeiner today? On the men’s side, Matt Liebsch, who came in 12th last year, has some thoughts on that.
“The Elite Wave has 200 guys, but of that, only about 10 have a realistic shot at winning it. It all depends who is feeling good, who has a good body that day, and who has the right skis for the conditions. I feel I can compete with the top guys out there.”
Some of the other top contenders for the 2015 Birkebeiner include Petr Novak of the Czech Republic, Simone Peredi and Sergio Bonaldi from Italy, and Christopher Perrillat and Benoit Chauvet from France. Sergio Bonaldi won the Birkebeiner in 2013 and came in third last year behind fellow Italian skier Simone Peredi. Some of the top American men in the Birkebeiner are Tad Elliott and Brian Gregg.
For the women, Holly Brooks, a two-time Olympian from Anchorage, Alaska, is a serious contender. Brooks won the Birkebeiner for the women in 2012. Tatjana Mannima from Estonia is another top female skier to watch for.
Speaking of which, where can you watch all he excitement as the 11,000 skiers make their way over a 51-kilometer course through the snow? The Birkie website has streaming footage from cameras linked up throughout the course for the entire day. In addition to that, WOJB, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe radio station, will have live coverage of the all the events surrounding the Birkebeiner.
[Image via Wisconsin Journal Sentinel]