RacingWorld CupCanmore Report #3

FasterSkier FasterSkierJanuary 24, 2008

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.

Monday Jan 21: Prepping for The Pursuit Race

Monday was the final day of preparation before the 15/30km Pursuit Tuesday. We woke up to -28C (-18F) and spent the day working with athletes to make the final ski selections for Tuesday’s race. The cold set us back a bit, but overall it was just another busy day of getting skis dialed in and waxes tested. We assigned athletes to coaches Sunday night based on who had the best knowledge of each skier’s fleet. Since the World Cup Team has been working together all year they continued using the same system they use at every World Cup. Most of the Nation’s Group athletes have their regular coaches on the trip, so they know how to work together and the coaches have very good knowledge about the athlete’s skis. The few orphaned athletes we had left were divided among the coaches who have worked with them the most.

Monday we had 10 coaches working with the 14 athletes who raced Tuesday. We helped the athletes wax skis for testing, choose skis and dial in the kick wax for the classic skis. Then each coach waxed his athlete’s skis for the race Tuesday. Pursuits are a lot of work because it means double the number of skis to figure out and wax. With 14 athletes racing, we faced 50-60 pairs of skis to get ready for race day, not including having to wax all of them for testing.

The athletes I’m helping are Zack Simons, Zach Violett, Marshall Greene and David Chamberlain. I know these guys well from racing with them and Zach, Zack and Dave were all teammates of mine at various times back in the good old days when I raced. Zach Caldwell had worked with Dave on many of his skis, so he was also assigned to Dave so we could share the load a bit.

I helped Zack Simons pick his skis from Rossignol this year and I also stone ground them, so we have a very thorough knowledge of his fleet. I sunk some hard glide wax into his classic skis yesterday since they felt a little draggy in the cold, and we re-tested to confirm the decision that we had basically made yesterday. With the rock solid tracks that were glazing slightly due to the high amount of traffic, his stiffer skis with a more aggressive grind were the clear choice.

As we were putting kick wax on, I hassled Zach Violett for putting on layers that were too thick and generally sloppy. Not quite sure whether his focus was on the attractive Australian ladies that share our wax cabin or just general attention deficit, but he sure wasn’t focusing on his kick wax. When we went out to test his skis, even though I weigh almost 20 pounds less than him, I was kicking like a champ on his skis and they did not feel particularly fast. We continued around the 3.75km loop and did manage to eliminate his softest pair from contention, so at least we accomplished something. As he put it: “at least I waxed them all consistently bad so we could tell the difference.”

As both Zack and Zach switched to their skate skis, I went back to the wax cabin, scraped off Violett’s kick wax and put in thinner, shorter layers of kick wax so we could figure out exactly how to wax them. After three more trials and adjustments, we figured it all out and the classic skis were ready to roll.

With the classic skis done, it was time to switch to skating. Violett borrowed a pair of skate skis from Colin Rodgers since Zach forgot to bring his best pair of cold skate skis (apparently his attention deficit is not limited to Canmore), and he just skied them to check that they were the right flex and still faster than all of his pairs he had the foresight to bring with him. Zack Simons and I took out his coldest pair with a ZR1 grind to compare against a pair of “magic” skis that he had received from Todd Lodwick, the Nordic Combined star. We ended up choosing 3 pairs of his skate skis to wax up for race morning. The athletes packed up and headed home to rest and I took another few laps on the skate loop to get a better feel for the temperature and snow variations and also test out Simons’ skis a bit more.

The sun was starting to go behind the mountains and the temperature cooled off a bit more, so I was not too bummed that I had to get back to the wax cabin. We cleaned up all of the classic skis, followed with a few glide base layers, then the racing layer and finally a top coat of fluorocarbon. We waxed until we had to race back to the hotel so we wouldn’t miss dinner. Dinner was not exactly ideal food for the day before a 30km World Cup, and one of the Canadian coaches got into a yelling match with the chef about how we need to be fed decent meals. As they were hurling insults at each other, I was imagining how much spit and dirty dishwater we would be consuming in our meals over the remainder of the trip.

After a team meeting at 8PM, we stopped for beer and snacks on the way back to the wax cabin. We arrived and began to unpack everything so we could finish waxing when we discovered that the race organization had turned off the power. We sat around by the glow of the emergency lights, cleaned up a little bit and got organized to wax in the morning. The moon was just setting over the giant crags that loom on the mountaintops above the Nordic center and so we all just sat around and watched the course being groomed. The cars parked next to the wax cabin drew the attention of Robert Hogg, the Race Director, who came in the cabin and chatted with us for a while. He even tried to get the power back on for us, but we urged him not to try too hard so we could just finish the skis in the morning. Back to the hotel, unpack and pack for the next day, check in with emails for work, then to bed at 1AM, ready to roll on race day at 6:30AM.

We had a great response to the call for questions. Here are some answers to a few of the questions we’ve received and the first winner of a Boulder Nordic Sport T-Shirt. Please continue to send in question, but try to keep them focused to something that can be answered in 5-minute exchange. I can track people down, but it is usually 5 minutes on the bus up to the venue or in between sprint heats…

The first winner of a BNS T-shirt, Mark Findeis:

What are the various components of the ''home court'' advantage at Canmore for the North American skiers and how will their “local” knowledge and experience help in the races?

The home field advantage is difficult to quantify, but it certainly exists. What exactly it is and how much of a difference it makes is debatable, but there is a consistent pattern of improved North American results at these races and depressed European results. There are a large number of factors including local knowledge which can range from snow conditions, familiarity with the courses, reduced travel relative to competitors, etc. While we Americans do not race often here in Canmore, the snow is much like the snow we see in the Rocky Mountain West, and it is pretty simple to travel here from the US, while it is a long haul from Europe with a large time change. The proximity also allows us to have a coaching staff of 16 here, providing our athletes with all of the resources they need to pop a great race.

Western High-Altitude venues have some of the coldest and driest snow in the world, and we have grind patterns and skis that are set up to specifically deal with this type of condition very well. Europe and Scandinavia have much more humid snow and generally grinds are much more aggressive over there relative to what works well here.

That said, it is the same game: very strong people slide over snow and whoever goes fastest wins. These are the best skiers in the world with support from people whose primary profession is making skis fast. The fundamental test is fitness and while traveling over here knocks the Euros down a notch in fitness, they tend to have a pretty sizeable advantage over many of our skiers.

Question #2 from “Cranberry Horn” who is either a phony name of someone who is trying to make fun of me, or a very serious person with a not-so-serious email address who will probably become a very angry person as soon as they read this.

How/why do the coaches and athletes decide that the best juniors should go to the Junior World Championships rather than try the real World Cup as early as possible?

The “real” World Cup is a very serious place where minor mistakes can result in crushing defeat. If a junior is completely dominating the juniors internationally and beating up on the senior skiers (i.e. Petter Northug), the World Cup might make sense. But if a junior has not completely outclassed his/her competition at the International level, then it makes sense to continue to develop and improve against peers instead of going to the World Cup and being 6 minutes out in a 10km. I think everyone agrees that exposure to races like this are a good eye-opening experience so someone can see how fast they need to become. However, the expense of sending someone to these races to be crushed would be better invested in developing the skier in other ways.

Thanks for trying for the t-shirt Cranberry, but the rules explicitly state that fruits, nuts and musical instruments are ineligible.

Questions #3 & 4 as well as an angry tirade from Jason Cork, Durango, CO

How come they can set the tracks so damned hard at a World Cup but can't anywhere at my Nordic center?

Well, Jason, it just so happens that we were in the wax cabin as they groomed the course for the race. Three of the largest grooming machines I have ever seen made at least 4 passes on the course. Each machine has three renovators in front to chew up the snow as well as a tiller in the back to further churn it up. They recently invested $26 million in the Nordic Center here and apparently at least two-thirds of that went to grooming equipment. Also, FYI, your local Nordic center received approximately 7000 inches of snow in the last two weeks. That tends to make the tracks a bit spongy.

I triple-ironed in CH4 on 30 pairs of junior's race skis and then scraped them all prior to Friday's sprint at SoHo … solo. Is that admirable or just a recipe for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Your dedication to coaching is admirable, but no t-shirt for you.

Stay tuned for updates. If you have any questions for any of the US Team staff or athletes who will be here at the World Cup, please send them by filling out the Information Request Form at:

www.bouldernordicsport.com/Contact/tabid/175/Default.aspx

I’ll do my best to track people down and get them to answer your questions. The best question we receive each day will receive a Boulder Nordic Sport T-Shirt.

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