Jennie Stenerhag

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Solo win at Birkebeinerittet!


After only 72 hours at home in Falun, after our trip to Switzerland, it was time to pack the car again, although this time it was "only" to Norway and the Birkebeinerittet. We slept in Rena, since my friend Kristin who we were supposed to stay with, unfortunately became ill and was admitted to hospital, get well soon Kristin! On Friday morning we went to Lillehammer to ride the last bit of the route, for the first time the ladies would have the same finish as the men and it was something one needed to see beforehand. It was a long day and 9 hours after we left our accommodation we were back, and a bit tired!

I was really nervous in the morning, even though I am starting to think that the more nervous I am, the better it will go. I went to the start area for the compulsory meeting at 8 am with the Commissioners and waited a while before I started to warm up. We started at 9.30. I was the only foreigner on the starting line this year and I did not know many of the other girls. I knew Elisabeth Sveum, who won the Cykelvasan a few weeks ago, she would be tough and she would probably go on the 4 intermediate sprints. Then it was Marit Sveen, and a roadie, Ingrid Lovik, that could be dangerous.

We started slowly up the first 13 kilometer start climb with the first sprint at the top. Ingrid attacked a few times and it was only Elisabeth and I who could follow, I noticed that Elisabeth was hanging on by a string so when we approached the sprint I went to the front and sat a high pace so that she would not have the power to sprint, it worked and I was able to take home the first sprint prize and Ingrid was the only one to follow, Elisabeth was already 13 seconds behind when we crossed that line. Ingrid and I worked together for 3 kilometres until we reached a longer downhill, halfway down I did not hear anyone behind me , she had dropped. From there on I was alone. I rode hard in the forest section and up to the next intermediate sprint which was after 26 kilometres. It felt good and I kept going as hard as I could, at the same time as I had to pace myself not to burn too much, I knew the biggest climbs were still to come. After 44 kilometres i was the 3rd intermediate sprint, it was 20 kilometres of mostly uphill, it was a difficult stretch as there was a crazy headwind and rain.I tried to focus and dig deep and just take meter by meter. At the top of the highest point of the race, the fourth and final sprint, I was told that I had 2 minutes to the second girl, even though I didn't know who it was. Now,it was just to ride as hard as I possibly could for the last 20 kilometres of downhill to the finish. I definitely think my weeks in Switzerland helped here, I felt much better than usual on the downhills and it was a great feeling to look back on a long straight road with 6 kilometres to go and not see anyone else! I could take it easy down the new section at the Lillehammer ski jumping area and down “Balettbacken” and just enjoy the way down to the finish.

I have always wanted to be able to ride solo at Birken and now,I could finally do it! It was a good feeling to cross the line and receive the flowers after the 70 kilometres solo ride! Obviously, also a nice revenge for Cykelvasan. I eventually won by 2.09 ahead of Ingrid and 8.05 ahead of Sine (3rd) and Elisabeth (4th) who came across the line at the same time.

A big thank you to the organisers for having a separate start for us ladies and also giving us the same finish as the elite men so that we do not get mixed up with the other men who had started ahead of us!

After the race we had a looooong 6 hour drive home to Falun…

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