Fredrik Aukland (26) played an important role in the Swedish Vasaloppet last season when he skied to support his two older brothers in their attempt to become the first Norwegians in more than three decades to win the World’s most prestigious marathon race. Fredrik’s job was to carry feed bottles and help them if they got behind or in trouble. He wasn’t doing this from the sidelines but by racing in front, next to them or right behind for as long as he could handle the grueling pace in the lead pack. He is now getting ready to focus on his own racing season.
I did a workout with Fredrik this week and met him for lunch and asked him some questions afterwards:
Can you describe you role in the Vasaloppet and how you experienced it?
(The Swedish Vasaloppet is the World’s largest marathon race and 90-kilometers long)
– Our Norwegian Team had five main racers and two support skiers. I was one of the support skiers. Our job was to help the main skiers with feed if they missed our feed stations, had poles break or were otherwise in trouble with the pace or something like that. We were also supposed to crank up the pace and break up the main field if possible around the halfway point. My brother Jorgen (ended up in third place) had a bad start due to slick skis. He had chosen pretty stiff skis since he wanted high speed and little wax drag when double poling. He could have needed another wax layer.
– At the 5 km mark, he was one minute behind the lead pack — a terrible start. I stopped and waited for him on top of a hill and skied as hard as I could in front of him for 4-5 km until we caught the 30-40 skier lead pack. Skiing in the big pack is like being behind a big truck when you bike. You get sucked along, however it can be tough being at the tail end when you get that â€œaccordion effectâ€ and the field stretches after uphills.
– My other brother Anders (who ended up winning the race) missed two important early feeds. We had feed stations every 10-kilometers. He did not carry a bottle so getting feed from us was very important. Because I had to feed him, I didn’t get a chance to drink anything for the first 35-kilometers myself. Both Anders and Jorgen were well positioned in the lead pack at 40-kilometers and the plan called for a move by me and the other helper at about the 45 kilometer mark at the start of a long uphill. We were to ski as hard as possible for 5 kilometers. I was too tired to do anything, but the other support skier Oystein Pettersen went in the lead with Anders on his tail. The all-out pace broke the pack in pieces and only Raoul Olle stayed with Oystein and Anders. Oystein was â€œdoneâ€ after two kilometers, but the gap was an amazing 20-30 seconds. It had worked and Jorgen was still in the front in the now smaller main pack.
– At the end of the race, Anders broke away from Olle to nail the win and Jorgen beat the main pack for third. We had succeeded! I was done after the halfway point and skied in to 52nd place. It was great to be a part of this team effort but I will race for myself this year with a goal of being with the leaders when there are 10-kilometers to go. That’s when anything can happen. Vasaloppet is my big goal for the season.