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Riege at the photo finish, cross country skiers and Heiskanen taking of at the airport

Men’s race in a sprint: Riege, same time as Nygaard, Ferrari 3rd. Among women 2nd place for Stefania Corradini in the Heiskanen’s race

A sunny Toblach, in South Tyrol, hosted the first day of races of the historic 47th Granfondo Toblach-Cortina. Due to unfavourable weather conditions, they had to turn around at the last minute by setting the race finish line in Toblach, thus not descending to Cortina, with the Nordic Arena that saw almost 1000 cross-country skiers cut the finish line. An authentic mix between professionals and amateurs. The “Challengers” events of the Ski Classics circuit, in fact, let everyone experience the dream of competing with the best long distance skiers, regardless of age or category.

Today the race on the distance of 42 km in classic technique was scheduled, while tomorrow it will be the time for the 35 km race in skating. The Toblach-Cortina took off, in the literal sense of the word given the start at the airport, from Toblach as per tradition. Among men, the group remained compact during the whole competition despite the initial attempt of escape of Heinrick Hau (GER). The top group at around 15 kilometres caught the latter, and from there no one was able to make the difference anymore, also due to the speed of the course, brilliantly prepared by the organizing committee led by Herbert Santer. It then continued in a group until the arrival at the Nordic Arena, where the two Norwegians Andreas Nygaard and Amund Riege went wild, approaching the sprint at full speed. The photo finish between the two ruled in favour of Riege (Team Ramudden) by a nose, with the compatriot Nygaard (Team Ragde Charge) resulting second. “I was in front before the last climb, I knew that approaching the straightaway in front was fundamental since it is quite short here. So I tried to select, the last ascent was fundamental as always here in Toblach. You have to come down fast and keep the leadership until the last curve and then push with all you got in the straightaway. I heard I arrived before Andreas in the photo finish and I am very happy!” these are the words of the winner. Third is a brilliant Francesco Ferrari. The Italian of the Internorm Alpenplus Trentino Team put together a first-class last kilometre, holding up Riege’s shock on the final climb and keeping the throttle wide open all the way to the finish. After the race, he said he was very satisfied to have arrived just few meters away from such a prestigious win. A positive 4th place also for the other Italian who stayed strong in the top group Lorenzo Busin, teammate of Ferrari. Only 6th place for one of today’s favourites, Thomas Bing (GER) who usually pays the price in sprint finishes.

Regarding the women’s race, Italy was once again a big protagonist. The success went to Heli Heiskanen (FIN) of the Internorm Alpenplus Trentino Team, who literally “killed” competition even before reaching the halfway point. At the tracking of the 22nd kilometre, the Finnish had, in fact, an advantage of 1’54” on the Italian Stefania Corradini. The latter keep up well until the end, cutting the finish line with the same gap she had at the halfway point and with around 1’30” on the third placed, Oda Nerdrum (NOR). “Today it was too fun! The atmospheric conditions and the course were perfect. Here it is always a pleasure to compete, not only because I won, but the conditions are always perfect.” Declared at the finish line the winner Heiskanen. Eighth place for the second Italian, Anna Giordan. At the end of the competition, under a sun that almost took away the regret for the cancellation of the ‘Veneto’ part of the race, the prize-giving ceremony took place. The athletes remarked how a great job had been done in putting on an event that just could not be skipped, given its history.