Italian Sara Pellegrini and Frenchman Jean Tiberghien win the Pursuit events in the cross-country skiing OPA Continental Cup Finals at Baqueira Beret
On Sunday, the last of the three days of the FIS OPA Continental Cup Finals at Beret, Sara Pellegrini, who won yesterday’s Distance event, and Frenchman Jean Tiberghien have taken the winners’ spots on the podium for the Pursuit.
The Spanish team achieved two top 20 places with Imanol Rojo finishing 18th in the 15 km freestyle pursuit and the young María Iglesias coming 20th in the Under-20 10 km event.
From 16 to 18 March the Baqueira Beret resort was 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, took part.
The Under-20 women, women and Under-20 men did two laps of the 5-km route at Beret for a total of 10 km overall while 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 Pursuit event the participants’ departures are staggered by their total times in the Sprint and Distance races on the previous two days. That means the skier with the best time sets off first, the second starts after the leader and so on. Victory goes to the competitor who gets the fastest overall time for the three days.
First place in the women’s event was once again taken by the Italian Sara Pellegrini, who on Saturday had won the classic Distance, as she prevailed in the Pursuit with a time (adding the three races together) of 1:05:03, followed by the German Antonia Fraebel at 1:05:32 and in third place on the podium the Italian Anna Comarella at 1:05:28. In the men’s event the Frenchmen who had taken the top spots in Friday’s Sprint once again finished first and second with Jean Tiberghien crossing the line in 1:24:21 and Jules Lapierre in 1:24:26. The Italian Simone Dapra came third in 1:24:32.
The three top places in the women’s Under-20 were all taken by Frenchwomen with gold for Flora Dolci in a time of 50:39:0, Laura Chamiot the runner-up in 51:09:9 and Melissa Gal coming third with a time of 52:04:3. There was a photo finish in the men’s Under-20 between winner Hugo Lapalus in 57:27:3 and the Italian Luca del Fabbro who completed the event in 57:27:4. Third place on the podium was taken by another Italian, Davide Graz, in 57:34:7.
As for the Spaniards, Imanol Rojo and María Iglesias grabbed two top 20 places on Sunday. In the men’s event Rojo, from Tolosa, finished 18th in a time of 1:26:47 while Iglesias, from Aran, crossed the line in 57:38:9. Speaking at the end of the three days of the OPA finals, Rojo said he was especially happy with Friday’s Sprint in which he finished 14th and also with Sunday’s Pursuit when he had moved up a number of places after Sunday’s Distance race which he thought was the weakest of his performances.
“Baqueira is committed to hosting this type of high-level competition so we got FIS approval for the circuits a season ago,” pointed out Francis Coll, Baqueira’s CEO. “It means we can promote the resort as a sports venue and support cross-country skiers in the clubs and the Royal Spanish Winter Sports Federation (RFEDI) while also enhancing the resort’s international reputation and reach.” The RFEDI’s Chair, May Peus España, backed this approach: “The Baqueira team’s organisation has been flawless and the human resources for these events have been bolstered by the team of technical delegates sent by the federation.” Peus thanked the resort for its involvement and also the Val d’Aran clubs and institutions that have supported event. “It’s been a spectacular three days,” said Xavier Ubeira, Baqueira’s marketing director. “As the athletes taking part have said, Beret has shown that it is a great venue for hosting cross-country competitions at the highest level.”