Following the inaugural Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski performance by Craft Sportswear, FIS Newsflash had an opportunity to ask the so-called â€˜Fathers of the Tour,’ Vegard Ulvang, Chairman of the FIS Cross-Country Committee, and JÃ¼rg Capol, FIS Race Director Cross-Country, about their initial impressions.
FIS Newsflash: Despite a lot of planning and preparation, the premiere edition of the Tour de Ski was a big question mark in many aspects. Are you pleased with how it turned out?
Vegard Ulvang: Overall, I am very satisfied with the first Tour de Ski. The basic idea of the Tour worked exactly as we had hoped. Our goal was to bring the different specialists together to compete in one and the same event. And, just like in the Tour de France, we saw all the best sprinters and distance specialists competing in all the six Tour Stages. For some time now, our sport has been developing into two separate directions and the Tour will help us reverse this trend.
Beforehand, we were a bit afraid of the mathematics, such as the amount of bonus seconds, but given the very exciting final Stage we experienced on Sunday we can now say that those, too, worked out quite well. Of course, there are many details we can still refine and develop further. The main point is, however, that the athletes, the teams, organizers and the media – in fact all the different stakeholders -support the idea of the Tour de Ski. This provides us with a great foundation for the coming years.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Official Tour Sponsors, Viessmann and Craft Sportswear, and the five organizing committees in the three Tour de Ski countries: Munich and Oberstdorf in Germany, Asiago and Val di Fiemme in Italy, as well as Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic. It would not have been possible to organize this event without their great commitment. We are especially grateful for the enormous, untiring work the organizers delivered to provide us with perfect racing conditions despite the very challenging snow situation this winter.
JÃ¼rg Capol: From a sports perspective, we can be very happy: The hunt for the golden jersey started on the first day and continued until the last day, in fact until the top of the Final Climb on Sunday — we could not have hoped for anything more.
From an organizational perspective, the Tour has been a two-and-a-half-year long process that has included some doubts, lots of discussions and much feedback. Our primary goal was to ensure a good starting point for this new event. A lot of cooperation was required since the different players included five different organizing committees, three national ski associations, five individual groups of rights holders and four host broadcasters, among others. Our great challenge was to make sure that all these actors were sitting in one boat and rowing in the same direction and I am pleased to say that it worked out quite well in the end.
FIS Newsflash: What are the next steps for the Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski?
Vegard Ulvang: Within the FIS Cross-Country Committee, we will undertake a detailed assessment over the course of the next months so that we are in the position to make decisions and confirm the calendar for the next Tour de Ski in our sprint meetings in Portoroz (SLO) in May.
JÃ¼rg Capol: I do not think we should change too much as the basic concept seems to work. Our rules seem to be fine the way we set them. All Tour venues surely have some improvements to make and we can always work on the details. This was the first Tour de Ski and we did not really know what to expect which is what we now know and can continue to improve upon from here on. Regardless, for the Tour Board, the next step will be a detailed analysis where we will seek feedback from all the different parties, including the teams, sponsors, organizers and the media. We will then provide this information to the Cross-Country Committee to aid its decision-making process this spring.