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American Birkebeiner

Posted at: 02/27/2013 11:26 PM
By: Laura Kennedy

The skis were waxed and the conditions were near perfect as thousands of skiers took off from the Birkebeiner starting line in Cable, Wisconsin.

But, only one of them could be the first across the finish line. That honor belonged to Sergio Bonaldi of Italy after a neck and neck battle with his teammates.

"He saw that he had some energy so he was pushing and pushing. It was really a big surprise when they said he was won because he was thinking to be second," said Sergio Bondaldi through his interpreter.

A big change for the Birkie this year as the women's skate skiers took off from the finish line first. That made for an exciting finish in Hayward, Wisconsin.

"There were times we were out there on course and the field was thinning and it was maybe one line long. We were just out there in this pristine wilderness. It was quiet, and I think that's everyone's dream," says Caitlin Compton Gregg, who won the Women's Skate.

Some have raced in more than 30 Birkies, but Doug Debold of Minneapolis was a rookie.

"I didn't really have a plan. This is my first 50k so I just tried to feel out how hard I could ski to the finish," says Doug Debold, who won the Birkie Classic.

Ingrid Saupstad trains in her home country of Norway, but even she got some butterflies in the beginning.

"I started way too fast. That was so stupid in the beginning but I was just so eager. I was just wanting to go all the way. I was waiting to crash but I never did, so i'm happy," says Ingrid Saupstad, who won the Women's Classic.