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Argues that W.Ch. title will go to Kristensen or Karlsson

March 15, 2023 | 3:47 pm

At the time of writing, Steinar Kristensen is first on the train in the FL-1200 race. We have asked expert commentator Trond Ørslien about his analysis of the lead pack when 800 out of 1200 kilometers are covered.

Steinar Kristensen on trail. Can he win his first FL-1200 victory?
(Photo: Ottavio Tomasi)

– It has been a long time since the FL-1200 race competition was as open as it is now, 400 kilometers before the finish line. Unless anything particular happens, this will be a race between Steinar Kristensen, Petter Karlsson and Thomas Wærner, argues the iFinnmark expert commentator Trond Ørslien.

His personal opinion is that the Alta man Steinar Kristensen and the Swede Petter Karlsson, will be the final competitors. Ørsline is not sure what Wærner choses to do at the next checkpoint, and argues that Kristensen and Karlson currently hold the best cards.

Will Petter Karlsson take his third Finnmark Race victory?
(Photo: Ottavio Tomasi)

Who of the two do you believe will be the World Champion?

– I think it is wide open between these two.

– Thomas Wærner should be considered an outsider, given that he has had to drop a high number of dogs. On the distance from Neiden to Varangerbotn, he races with four dogs less than Kristensen.

– Conditions are heavier now, with lots of fresh snow in parts of the trail. Wærner has a sore knee after his accident earlier this winter, and thus he cannot work as hard on the sled as Kristensen and Karlsson are able to do.

– Wærner’s hope is for Kristensen and Karlsson to race each other until they’re empty. That may well happen, and that would open the door for Wærner. However, given the current situation, I believe it will be challenging for Wærner.

Is there no-one who can come up from behind and sneak into the top of the pack?

– There are some very strong teams coming from behind, such as Niklas Rogne, Daniel Haagensen and Trine Lyrek. They are a few hours behind, but are all within gunshot should the top three teams run into problems, Ørslien says in closing.

– It currently seems the winner will arrive early Firday, though this may quickly change. Follow our Facebook, GPS tracking and home page, says Finnmarksløpet Head of Communications Trond A. Andersen.

At checkpoint Varangerbotn, 336 kilometers remain before the finish line in Alta. Before that, the musher have to cover these legs of the race:

Varangerbotn – Levajok II – 121 km.

The trail goes directly back to Levajok without entering Sirbma as a checkpoint. This means that the trial will head for the mountains at Båteng and run into the same trail as en route to Kirkenes, which is to be followed to Levajok 2. Large parts of the trail here runs through high mountain terrain and is very much exposed to the weather. The first part out from Varangerbotn is small-hill birch wood landscape, and then the Tana River up to Hillagurra/Båteng.

Levajok 2 – Karasjok – 83 km.

The same trail on the Tana River up to Karasjok River and up until under the bridge, where the trail takes off to pass through the town center and up to Scandic Hotel, where one finds the checkpoint and the final mandatory rest.

Karasjok – Jotka / Joatkka – 83 km.

Out from the checkpoint and up the Karasjok River for approximately 12 km up to Assebakte. Under a bridge up to the public snowmobile trail, which is to be followed almost all the way to Alta. The trail mostly runs through high mountain terrain, and it is perhaps the exposed Hundevidda (Dog Plains) that can be tricky in this area. Two mountain cabins are to be passed, Ravnastua and Mollisjok. Both cabins are open and offer services, but they do not constitute a check point or dog drop point. Jotka mountain cabin is the final checkpoint.

Jotka – Finish line in Alta / Áltá – 49 km.

Public snowmobile trail for most of this leg, all the way down to Detsika at about 30 km. The first section is in open mountain terrain, further down there is birch wood, then pine tree forest. The hill from Detsika down to the river is steep. The trail hits the river at Sorrisniva and follows the river to downtown Alta and the finish line approximately 16 km.

No-mans land is from the bridge in Øvre Alta, and the entry point towards the finish line is the same place and trail as where the mushers left the starting line some days ago, i.e. the opposite direction from previous years.