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Italy and U.S. Take Top Spots at 2013 American Birkebeiner

02/23/2013, 5:45pm CST
By Susan Kendrick

The Italian team returned to the American Birkebeiner podium Saturday, February 23, 2013, as did U.S. skier Caitlin Gregg at the 40th annual American Birkebeiner. The overall champion--winner of the 50K Birkie Skate--after a photo finish with three of his teammates, was Italy's Sergio Bonaldi of Milan, Italy, with a time of 2:09:18.1. The women’s 50K Skate champion, also in a photo finish, was returning Birkie Champion Caitlin Gregg, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a time of 2:28:56.

Bonaldi hit the finish line with three of his teammates, including Fabio Santus, the Birkie 2010 champion, who had an identical time of 2:09:18.1. Review of the finish line video and timing graph of the skiers showed Bonaldi as the first to cross the line. Santus took second, and Alan Martinelli, from Valdidentro, Italy, finished third in 2:09:18.4. Bonaldi's win could give him the lead in the FIS Marathon Cup with 266 points.

In the women's 50K Birkie Skate, Gregg again crossed the finish line in a heated sprint as she had in 2012, this time again securing first place. Gregg took second in 2012 but was Champion in 2011. Her time of 2:18:56 was closely followed by Tatjanna Mannima of Estonia with a time of 2:18:57, enlarging her lead in the FIS Marathon Cup to 373 points. Birkie newcomer Caitlin Patterson of Maple Plain, MN, claimed a fast third place with a time of 2:21:46.

Bonaldi (ITA) and Mannima (EST) were both the current leaders in the FIS Marathon Cup going into the American Birkebeiner race today.

With his victory today, Sergio Bonaldi (ITA) could take over the lead of the overall FIS Marathon Cup.

- See more at: http://www.fiscrosscountry.com/news/fis-marathon-cup-update,3763.html#sthash.nVqMluSL.dpuf

Bonaldi (ITA) and Mannima (EST) the current leaders of the overall FIS Marathon Cup

With his victory today, Sergio Bonaldi (ITA) could take over the lead of the overall FIS Marathon Cup.

- See more at: http://www.fiscrosscountry.com/news/fis-marathon-cup-update,3763.html#sthash.nVqMluSL.dpuf

The Americans swept the 54K Birkie Classic race, presented by Becker Law. In first place, the overall classic winner was Doug Debold of Wayzata, Minnesota, with a time of 2:50:57. A rookie, this was not only Debold's first Birkie but also his first 50K ever. Taking second was Jacob Boyce of Duluth, Minnesota, with a time of 2:51:02. David Chamberlain, from Boulder, Colorado, returning 2012 Classic Champion, took the podium again in a close third, with a time of 2:51:05.

In the women’s 54K Birkie Classic race, first-time Birkie skier was college student Ingrid Saupstad of Oslo, Norway, with a time of 3:17:21. Claire Luby, of Saint Paul, Minnesota, took second in 3:18:06. Birkie veteran Kim Rudd took third in 3:22:06.

With continuous snowfall and accumulations of more than six inches by Friday evening, course groomers worked throughout the day preparing the course, with the winners reporting near-perfect trail conditions for Saturday's race. The new snow did, however, make for somewhat slower conditions and times for elite and citizen skiers alike, especially in the second half of the race. The temperature at 8:00 a.m. at the start was comfortable in the low 20s. Overcast skies throughout the day kept the snow conditions fairly consistent even as temperatures warmed up in the afternoon.

Again, skiers from 48 U.S. states and 21 countries hit the trail for this year's 40th annual American Birkebeiner celebration. It was the largest American Birkebeiner on record with more than 10,000 participants skiing in Saturday's American Birkebeiner 50K Skate and 54K Classic, the classic race presented by Becker Law; the 23K Kortelopet, presented by Marshfield Clinic Hayward Center; and the 12K Prince Haakon, presented by Timber Ford.

Present at the race start was none other than the winner of the first American Birkebeiner in 1973, Sam Ersson, who made the trip from Sweden to be part of all Birkie Race Week festivities and to ski the Birkie again himself. Ersson's wife, Helena, also skied the Birkie.

Other notable skiers includd the three Birkie Founders--John Kotar, Ernie St. Germaine, and Jacque Lindskoog (the first and only women to ski the Birkie in 1973)--the three individuals who also skied in the first Birkie and who have been skiing every Birkie since then. Both St. Germaine and Kotar share the distinction of not having missed a single Birkie in 40 years.

Also remembered at this year's 40th annual American Birkebeiner was Tony Wise, the man who started it all, creating a tradition that would become the largest ski race in North America and now nearly the third largest in the world. His vision, passion and drive were the fuel behind a small, first-time event with 35 intrepid skiers finding their way through rudimentary ski trails and logging roads from Hayward to Cable, Wisconsin, that what continues to be the challenge and adventure of a lifetime for skiers worldwide--veterans and newcomers alike.

Another special addition to the 40th annual celebration of the American Birkebeiner was the return of Peter Graves, "the voice of the Birkie" who announced the Birkie finish for more than a decade in the early years and brought his magic back to this year's Birkie Race Week events and Saturday's finish line.

This year's Birkie Warriors and Inga were Chris Lawn of Madison, Wisconsin, and Tom Lawn of Plymouth, Minnesota (Tom is Chris's father) and Lori House of Madison, Wisconsin. The role of the baby Prince Haakon for the final ski down Hayward's Main Street was played by Chris Lawn's Daughter--Tom Lawn's granddaughter--Kiersten Lawn. The two Warriors and Inga skied the entire 54K course on wooden skis, arriving in downtown Hayward at about 2:30 p.m. The group was enthusiastically greeted by hundreds of cowbells and cheers as they skied the final leg up Main Street to the finish.

The American Birkebeiner is modeled after the Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet, which in turn was inspired by the historic rescue of the infant who would become a celebrated king, Haakon Haakonsson IV. The race symbolically re-creates the flight of the prince, carried on skis by warriors called birkebeiners for their protective birch bark leggings.

“This was a very special day for the Birkie and another amazing year” said Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. “We were honored to be able to celebrate this milestone with so many great skiers, spectators, volunteers, sponsors, and the Hayward and Cable communities. We thank everyone who is involved for making the 40th annual American Birkebeiner such a success."

For race day results and photos, Click Here.

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