The classic Distance races in the cross-country skiing OPA Continental Cup Finals at Baqueira Beret have been won by Sara Pellegrini from Italy and Ueli Schnider from Switzerland
After Friday’s Sprint, on Saturday 17 March the Val d’Aran and Valls d’Àneu resort hosted the distance event featuring a spectacular mass start as the second of the three races in the OPA Continental Cup finals. Basque Imanol Rojo, a member of the Royal Spanish Winter Sports Federation (RFEDI) team, came 23rd in the men’s category.
From 16 to 18 March the Baqueira Beret resort is the venue for the finals of the OPA Cup (also known as the Alpen Cup) in which 140 elite European cross-country skiers, 12 of them Spanish, are taking part.
The Under-20 women did one lap of the 5-km route at Beret, the Under-20 men and senior women did two for a total of 10 km and the men in the top category skied it three times to cover a distance of 15 km. The circuit’s three steep upward slopes make it highly technical while the degree of difficulty was increased by el Pla de Beret’s altitude at 1,850 m above sea level.
In the women’s event the podium was entirely taken up by Italians with Sara Pellegrini the winner in a time of 28:54:7 followed by Ilenia Defrancesco in 28:55:2 and Anna Comarella in third spot with a time of 28:56:2. In the men’s event the French skiers who on Friday took the first places in the Sprint were outpaced by the Swiss Ueli Schnider who won in a time of 38:12:5 over the 15 km. Frenchmen Valentin Chauvin and Alexandre Pouye came second and third respectively with times of 38:13:5 and 38:15:0. That means Chauvin grabbed both the Sprint gold and the Distance silver.
Imanol Rojo, a Basque in the RFEDI team who on Friday achieved a very good 14th place in the Sprint, finished 23rd in the Distance event with a total time of 39:57.8. After the first lap he was in a promising 14th position before slipping back to 19th after the second, while on the third the initial effort to secure a berth in the top 15 caught up with him. Martí Vigo from Aragon who is also a RFEDI team member was unable to take part on Saturday due to tonsillitis.
In the women’s Under-20 the winner was Frenchwoman Laura Chamiot who did the 5 km in 14:21:0. In second place was Martina Bellini with a time of 14:22:8 and in third spot the German Anna-Maria Dietze who finished in 14:39:1. The quickest in the men’s Under-20 category over 10 km was the Italian Luca del Fabbro who crossed the line in 25:32:4 followed by his fellow countryman Davide Graz in 25:37:6, while third place was taken by Florian Graz from Germany who came in at 25:45:2. Del Fabbro has now picked up two gold medals as he won the Sprint on Friday.
The last competition, the pursuit, is scheduled for the 18th. In this exciting race the competitors’ departures are staggered by their times, so the sprint winner sets off first, the second starts after the leader and so on. Victory goes to the skier who crosses the finishing line first. Points will be worth double, so the winner of the event will take away this year’s OPA Cup.