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. All photos courtesy of Phil Bowen, Competitive Image – http://www.competitiveimage.us unless otherwise noted
Tuesday Jan 22: Pursuit: 15km Women, 30km Men
Today started off early as we had to get in and finish up waxing since the power in the wax cabins was shut off before we were finished last night. The Nation’s Group crew of Chris Mallory (Sun Valley), Brian Fish (CXC), Erik Flora (APU) and Frode Lillefjell (APU) set to work waxing what seemed to be endless pairs of race skis. We had to finish putting on our glide powders on classic skis and skate skis, then binders and kick wax on the classic skis. Needless to say, it was chaotic.
Luckily, conditions were stable and the World Cup wax testing crew fed us good information. It was a little hard for all of us who are used to testing wax on our own to relinquish that responsibility and completely trust that someone else would get it right. We all helped each other when needed and somehow managed to get all athletes on their race skis with very little panic.
World Cup Team applies powders.
Zack Simons came back in wanting to cut back the kick wax substantially, so we did a last-minute hack job on his kick wax. We tried to speed it up with a top coat that was a little colder than the race wax. Violett came back wanting just a little more kick, so I put in two more layers under his foot. All seemed good and so I finished brushing the skis and then I ran to the start to help them if they needed anything.
It is quite a sight to see a World Cup venue set up for a pursuit. The athletes have to have their skis marked and transponders strapped around their ankles. There is a 10-minute window where they are allowed to put their skate equipment in the transition zone, so they all run out there, set up their skate skis in the transition zone, then run back to remove their warm-up clothes and get their classic gear together. 2 minutes before the start, they are allowed to enter the start grid and put their skis on. And swirling all around this are wax techs making last-minute adjustments, coaches running out on course with extra poles and feeds, and spectators crowding in on the whole scene.
The gun went off and I sprinted back to the wax cabin, grabbed my poles and ran back up on course in case one of our racers broke a pole. The men’s field looked surprisingly calm and orderly as they skied up the ridiculously steep first kilometer. There were a lot of tired faces and I think the Tour de Ski followed by huge travel really wiped a lot of the field out. The Norwegians, who are generally really strong classic skiers, were struggling a bit to hold their positions. Everyone, including the leaders, wore pain and suffering on their faces.
The World Cup Men’s Field rolls at the start of the 30km Pursuit. (Nathan Schultz photo)
After the danger of broken poles had lessened, I moved over to help out in the feed zone. They have new regulations where coaches are required to remain in a small 1m x 1m box to hand bottles to their athletes. The German coaches were entertaining to watch. They would stand in their corrals talking like they were at a cocktail party and taking sips out of the feeding bottles they were holding for their athletes. When the athletes skied by, the coaches handed them the bottles the coaches had just been drinking. As soon as the athletes passed, the coaches filled up their drinks and resumed the party.
The main group formed after 3 of 4 classic laps when a few skiers took some digs at the front. The group yo-yoed back and forth but roughly 25 skiers were together coming into the exchange. After the transition to skate, many of our skiers started to pull back some places and looked to be moving forward. Kris Freeman was fighting at the front to stick with the lead group and was obviously putting in a gritty effort. Leif Zimmerman was holding solid somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd groups and Mike Sinnott charged forward and started picking up places. Simons was way back, but looked so relieved to be on his skate skis that he was charging forward and making up time.