Jennie Stenerhag

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Vasaloppet is a historical cross country skiing race in Sweden, it started 90 years ago following the route King Vasa took when he escaped from the Danes back in the days. A few years ago the organisation started CykelVasan (The biking vasa), it quickly grew to the biggest MTB race in the country and this year it was 12.000 people riding. This feels like the Swedish MTB version of the Argus in South Africa!


It is a prestigious race and since I was declared the winner of 2012 years race without standing on the top of the podium I really wanted to win this year (the winner got caught for doping). The day before the race did not start too well. Half way through breakfast I felt nauseas and soon after I was throwing up, I felt dizzy and weak for a bit but a few hours later I felt better, must have been something I ate! I went for my warm up ride but felt that my shock did not work, it had been for a service the day before, so I went back to the bike shop. They had to take it in and I had to call my dad to come and give me my road bike so that I could do my session. I could fetch the bike a bit later and it was all sorted out!


We drove to Sälen where the start is and attended a ceremony when a few of the podium contenders were given the numbers, it was also a few interviews and dinner with sponsors etc. Afterwards we parked the camper by the start, very handy!


It was pouring down with rain and the thermometer showed 8 degrees for the start! We started with the elite men and most of the good amateurs. It is a very easy race in terms of terrain, the speed says it all, the race is 94km and we averaged 32,1km/h at a mountainbike race! It is more of a road race with big bunches and for us girls it is not much else to do then try to stay with as strong guys as we possibly can! My competition for the day would be Borghild and Hildegunn from Norway, the same girls as I met at Grenserittet, and Hanna who I am fighting with at the national series races. Borghild got the best start and got up the first 2km hill ahead of me and Hanna who were together from start to finish. After about 20km on a fast piece of tar we past Borghild laying on the tar after a crash, her race was over… It was just me and Hanna in the bunch but after 50km I suddenly saw Hildegunn who had caught us. This was just as we were approaching the hill sprint, it was really difficult to pass with all the guys around us, I just just managed to sneak pass Hildegunn on the side to take the sprint.


With 43km to go it is easy riding so I understood that it was going to come down to a sprint, unfortunately we were in a very big bunch, it felt like at least 50 guys, from the 5km to go mark I was the first girl cause I wanted it that way to take the sprint from the front. I felt really strong at this stage and knew I could beat both Hanna and Hildegunn in a sprint. Coming around the last corner with 300 meters to go I was still first and with 100 meters to go I started the final sprint and felt like I was flying, I was leading but suddenly I caught a bunch of guys who blocked my way and I had to stop my sprint and freewheel even though we still had around 20-30 meters to go, at that moment I saw Hildegunn coming on the side and just just taking the win, it was so close that I almost thought I was still going to be first. I am 100% sure that I would have taken it if I had a free runway or if the line had been at the spot where I had to stop sprinting.


I was very very disappointed losing the biggest race in the country because there were people in the way. This is a repeating problem for us girls, it was the same story a few weeks ago at Grenserittet, it is the same story every year at Argus. WHY can we girls not get our own races! Would it really be so difficult to start us 30 minutes before the men? We train as much as them and our bikes costs as much as theirs but for us it is a gamble and luck to win a race that comes down to a sprint, it is not the best sprinter who wins it is the one with the best luck of the day!


It was a busy afternoon after the race with interviews, flower ceremony, doping control, press conference and prize giving. It was very well organized and each of us got a “person” to take us around making sure that we were at meeting in time!


Thank you Vasaloppet for a well-organized event, next year I hope to come back and see a ladies only start group!


We stayed in Mora to do a MTB orientering race, I tried it for the first time ever! It was lots of fun!!






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