Vasaloppet 2021: a “Vasa-anyway”
It seemed to everyone impossible to reconcile the health rules imposed by the Covid 19 and a popular race bringing together thousands and even tens of thousands of competitors.
Bet impossible and yet bet held and bet won!
The organizers of Vasa decided in spring 2020 not to give up and to adapt their event in such a way that it complies with the safety instructions required by the health situation facing our planet.
I am not talking about the Elites race, held on Sunday March 7: no big worries about launching 300 quasi-professional skiers on the 90 km of the Vasa.
But of all the other Vasa: the Oppet, Nattan, Halv, Tjej and other Kort, for the real public of the Vasaloppet. Whoever like me has only one goal: complete HIS Vasa, go to the end, enjoy the 30, 45 and above all 90 km, from Sälen to Mora.
The Vasa celebrates its 99th anniversary this winter: impossible to cancel! But how to do it?
The genius idea was to spread over 25 days, from February 12 to March 7, the competitors registered for the different versions of the Vasa 2021.
Easy to say, but what an organization! 25 days in a row to maintain buses to reach the start, 25 days to find volunteers to provide supplies, 25 days in a row to make and redo the track so that it remains of good quality, 25 days to provide photographers at key places of the race…
And every day, spread out the departures over several waves or more exactly over several hours, from 7 am to 8 am in Sälen (and later in Oxberg or Eldris for the Halv, Kort and 10 km).
Finally, set up refueling zones on single lines: thus, making it possible to have drinks or bread rolls without ever rubbing shoulders with another competitor.
Well, there were a few concessions: a staggered start on the other side of the road in Sälen, an arrival in front of the Zorn museum (500 m from the traditional finish), no showers or restaurant on arrival (but a lunch box) and a medal to collect yourself in front of the Vasa Hus. Details.
No marquees in Mora or Sälen, just a small building measuring 4 x 4 meters to collect your chip and your cloakroom bag, a mask required, by putting your arm through the window!
It was no longer a Vasa Loppet but a Vasa Aked: in other words, a Vasa course (Aked), out of competition. This is probably why we were not entitled to a bib. But I say it again, to a chip recording all our passage times from Sälen to Mora. And thus, ensuring the recognition of this edition in the years of Vasa.
As my friend Jean-Philippe Beaucher (who was playing his 28th year of Vasa this winter: more than two to become, too, a Veteran) so aptly summed it up: “It was a Vasa-anyway”.
So, as for Marcialonga, but with another philosophy, a big congratulations to Vasa: you have given us a wonderful, successful, and safe edition.
With, the icing on the cake, magnificent snow, impeccable tracks, and very pleasant weather at least on March 1, the day of my race: between +2 and +7 °.
To get to Mora (let’s say more exactly in Sweden) and especially to leave the next day and return home (in France concerning us) it was much more difficult, more distressing. Test in English of less than 48 hours to enter Sweden, PCR test of less than 72 hours to return to our country… No possibility of being tested in Mora, Orsa or in the surroundings. Obliged to choose Stockholm-Arlanda and to postpone as much on the day of our return.
Appointment to take… in Swedish: what does this Personal Identity Kod require?!? How to pay when you don’t have a swish code (a thing de facto reserved for Swedes or more exactly for owners of a Swedish bank account, which amounts to the same thing)? Etc. Etc.
Once again thank you to the organizers of Vasaloppet who did everything to help us in these countless bureaucratic procedures.
A detail: impossible to pay and therefore to book the 5 am bus between Mora and Sälen the morning of our race, for lack of swish. Especially since nothing (or almost) can be paid in cash today in Sweden. What to do? Take a cab? Hitchhiking… It was Erika from Vasa -and Niklas (from the bus company) who offered us the most beautiful and easiest solution: pass for free, with their blessing! Thanks to them.
In short, we had, my friend Jean-Philippe and I, decided despite all the announced difficulties to go there, and we went. And we really enjoyed ourselves. The most deserved, but also the most beautiful of the Vasa that I have raced since 1988!
No traffic jams (and for good reason : a start with 300 skiers, spread over more than an hour), frozen snow therefore very fast (but not always easy to wax, especially at the end of the day), competitors happy to be there : THAT OF HAPPINESS!
And for me, who was running this course from Sälen to Mora for the 33rd year, I completed my best time in 5:43 by far. The previous one dated from a magical year, icy snow and tailwinds, in 2004 with 6:12 hours.
Jean-Philippe achieves his goal of his 28th participation. I said: in 2 years he will join me in the cross-country skiers Graal, the Vasa Veterans Club. The second French.
Only regret: the sadness of Mora, almost deserted. Ghost town and construction town!
But all the same the rediscovered happiness (for us French people) of a restaurant or a café where to drink a good beer: for more than 7 months we have no longer had the right at home….
See you in 2022 to celebrate with splendor the 100 years of Vasaloppet in a redesigned city overflowing with movements, people and noise!
Boris Petroff, Veteran 999.