Birkebeinerrennet 2011

by Boris Petroff

Vasa or Birkie ? 16000 skiers in Norway, the same number that were in the Vasaloppet ! Which one is the biggest? It doesn’t matter: I don’t understand why people want to decree that a race is bigger than another one because it has more participants.
It’s a good thing that J50, Marcialonga, Tartu, Vasa, Engadin or Birkebeiner have every year more participants. And it’s not necessary to order them by number.

16000 skiers at the Birkebeiner and no bottleneck! That is fantastic. Of course the start is ideal in Rena. But… it’s possible because the race is “only” 54 kilometers long. The first wave leaves at 7.00 and the last à 10.20. If the Birkie were as long the Vasa (90 km) it would be impossible for the slow skiers (those who need twelve hours to do the race) to finish in time (before 8 at night) !

This year, the tracks in the Birkebeiner where very good and easy to wax. The landscape is wild and hard. And hard … is the run with more than 1000 meters to climb with a rucksack and a little front-wind. But there are so many spectators and the atmosphere is particularly nice.

The Birkebeiner is very important for the Norwegians and a lot of firms support employees to do the race. In this race you are never too old!! Except if you are more than hundred years old! 218 older than 70 finished the race and 12 women. The oldest was Tollef Sverdrup : he was 92 and did the race in 8h49m : just one minute after my wife Isabelle ! And Marty Lund-Johanson (she is older than 80) finished in only 7h14m! Fantastic Norwegians.

Birkebeiner could be the best way to finish the Worldloppet season. But is not because ….

  • there is no tent in Rena to wait before the start (I waited from 6h30 to 9h00 on the snow…)
  • I was waiting half on hour to buy the bus ticket in Lillehammer
  • the start fees are really to expensive and don’t include the bus shuttle from finish to start
  • I could not found the shuttle between Olympiapark and railway station (where we took the bus in the morning) and nobody inform me
  • there is no bag to put our clothes (from start to finish)
  • the bags where mixed on each line at the finish place
  • and it’s difficult to register : not to late not to early !

As Thomas Huber says : “Birkebeiner and Vasaloppet have the luck to be absolute traditional races, thats the reason for so much request of participants. Both are a hugh businesses, advertising, television and so on are more important then the demand from the skiers. The relation of start fee and what they offer is for many not acceptable.”

And for the next year I suggest to the Birkebeiner organization to change the name of the race : Volkswagenrennet would be more convenient !

Some results:

Marg Hayes AUS 5h44m
Robert Palliser CAN 4h24m
Grant McLeod CAN 5h43m
Corrado Ampezzan ITA 6h54m
Hannes Larsson FRA 6h04m
Isabelle Petroff FRA 6h48m
Boris Petroff FRA 4h58m
André Viry FRA 7h16m
Svein Harald Karlson NOR 4h20m
Steiman Kvaale NOR 4h31m
Odd Arve Rakstad NOR 4h06m
Ola Svenneby NOR 4h20m
Sergeï  Ivanov RUS 3h13m
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