Nathan Schultz is working with the US Ski Team as a wax tech and athlete coordinator during the Canadian World Cups Jan 19-27. He will file reports throughout the week documenting his experiences in what will hopefully be a very successful week for the USST. Schultz is the owner of Boulder Nordic Sport, www.bouldernordicsport.com.
Sunday Jan 20th Canmore, Alberta.
The races do not begin until Tuesday, so while we had a lot to accomplish today, it was pretty calm. When we arrived at the venue today around 10:30AM, it was pretty cold and the snow was not very fast. The first race is the Pursuit on Tuesday and the courses were groomed impeccably for both skating and classic. It has been a while since I’ve been on World Cup tracks and it was a beautiful thing to drop the classic skis into those perfectly formed, rock-solid rails and kick around.
The classic course is a brutal trip around the new 3.75km â€œOlympicâ€ loop with the skate course meandering around the mellower Centennial Loop (see course profiles at http://www.albertaworldcup.com/dyn/pages_coll22.php).
With women going 2 loops each of classic/skate and men doing 4, as I panted up the hills, all I could think is that it sure seems likely that it will be a fitness race that would shatter early due to the severe hills. Kris Freeman pointed out that the downhills that follow the brutal climbs tend to bring groups back together and while certainly the toughest skiers can create gaps going up, those gaps are easily close down on the descent. The pack tends to yo-yo back and forth, but ultimately the race sticks together until the last lap when the gauntlet is thrown down. Whatever happens, it sure will be impressive to watch a full World Cup field attack those hills.
The skate course is 10 meters wide and steep all over.
The World Cup wax crew is doing their normal testing regimen which frees the six â€œNation’s Groupâ€ coaches to focus intensely on providing every athlete with the opportunity to excel. The normal situation for most of the coaches here is to have to manage every aspect of pre-race preparation for their team: wax testing, ski testing, logistics, medical, transport, etc, etc. Coaches are typically dealing with 5, 10 or even 15 athletes each at most races.
With the World Cup waxing crew doing comprehensive testing and the Ski Team taking on the majority of the logistical burden, we are working with one or two athletes each to help them select skis, get their classic skis perfectly waxed and then let them go home and put their feet up while we wax their skis for the race. The US Team has everything dialed as much as possible: a meteorologist to give us the best and most up-to-date information on the weather, medical staff to treat injuries and help athletes recover quickly with massage and physical therapy, and a sports psychologist to help focus our athletes’ minds on the task at hand.
I spent 3 hours today working with two skiers to get their classic skis figured out and dialed in perfectly for the difficult course. Later in the afternoon while the athletes were resting, I waxed their skis with 3 layers of cold wax to harden up the bases in preparation for what appears to be some cold weather on the way. That kind of attention is rarely available to any athlete in this country and it is amazing to see how much it accomplishes when we can put this kind of effort forward.