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Vasaloppet China, the first Visma Ski Classics event of 2017 and the third of the Season VII took place in Changchun, China in sunny and perfect winter conditions. Almost 600 participants enjoyed some great Chinese hospitality in a setting with wonderful snow sculptures and thousands of spectators.

In men’s race, there were a group of 18 skiers together to the first and only sprint of the day, which was in the ski arena at the 25 km point. Then, the pace got picked up and nine skiers remained in the pack fighting for the victory. One skier had to drop out, but the rest stayed intact until the finish. Some minor breakaway attempts were made during the second lap, but all eight skiers approached the picturesque ski arena together. Team Santander’s Anders Nygaard was the strongest in the end while his teammate Jens Eriksson finished second. In the sprint, their positions were reversed as Jens found himself crossing the sprint line first. Team LeasePlan’s Stian Hoelgaard was third in the overall results only 0.3 seconds behind the winner.

“The first lap was really easy and everyone was just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” Anders Nygaard said with a happy smile on his face. “After the sprint, we increased the pace and the second lap was quite fast skiing until the last five kilometers when we started to prepare ourselves for the sprint. I was so tired in the end and expected others to pass me but they didn’t. I’m so happy to win this race. Now I will go back home and get some sleep.”

On women’s side, everyone was counting on Lager 157 Ski Team’s Britta Johansson Norgren to take home the winning trophy, but Russian Ski Team’s Olga Rocheva had a different plan in mind. She won the sprint in the halfway point while being followed by Britta. After passing the stadium area, Olga sped up leaving Britta no chance to catch up. In the end, Olga was 1.45 min faster than Britta who admitted being tired and out of sorts today. Team United Bakeries’ Masako Ishida was third more than four minutes behind the winner.

“Perfect race, wonderful track and I’m so pleased,” the overly happy winner Olga Rocheva proclaimed. “This was a great experience and a dream come true.”

All the skiers seemed to enjoy their time in China even if they had to fight against heavy jet lag. As Nygaard pointed out, they all will need some sleep and rest before the next race, which will be Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Seefeld, Austria on January 14. There are 10 more events left in the cup, and the final race will be in Finland when Ylläs-Levi takes place on April 8.