Simen Oestenson is currently in first place after his amazing performance yesterday in Prague. We (Atomic) called Roman Toferer, director of the Thin Red Line, for an update of the Tour.
RICK HALLING: Congratulations on moving into first place. I watched some coverage of Simen and he looks pretty impressive. However, the field looks tough and I don’t think anyone has a clear advantage.
ROMAN TOFERER: You are right. Everyone has spent the summer, fall and early winter preparing just for the Tour de Ski. Everyone is racing at their highest level and it is too early to be cocky.
RICK HALLING: A Swedish coach pointed out that the World Championships usually happen at the end of February or early March. The athletes are usually a little fatigued going into the World’s after a season of traveling and racing on the World Cup. However, the Tour de Ski starts at the end of December and the athletes are fresher, stronger and faster for this event than they are for the World’s. Would you agree?
ROMAN TOFERER: Definitely, and I tell you this. At the World’s and the Olympics, you can see the athletes back off a bit when they know they are not going to have a podium finish. Here, at the Tour de Ski, they fight like angry dogs right to the finish. I have never seen racing this intense.
FIGHTING LIKE ANGRY DOGS
RICK HALLING: Part of that is probably because of the scoring. You can win the Tour de Ski without winning any of the individual stages. Each position really matters.
ROMAN TOFERER: Yes, but if you were here you would see it is more than that. There is an enthusiasm and energy here you do not find at other events. Part of it is the crowds, they are huge and screaming crazy. Part of it is the Tour itself; this is Nordic skiing’s main show, and we are not sharing the spot light like we do at the Olympics.
RICK HALLING: Both Simen Oestensen and Marcus Hellner were using skis with Red Cheetah technology that had old graphics when they were on the glacier last fall. Is that what they are using here? Hellner looked pretty thrilled with his podium finish.
ROMAN TOFERER: Yes, but I think it is still too early to talk about Red Cheetah. It is the big buzz here at the Tour.
RICK HALLING: The Tour de France has the Alpe d’Huez. The Tour de Ski has Val di Fiemme. It is unlike any other climb in Nordic racing. Do you think that will determine the outcome?
ROMAN TOFERER: The final stage at Val di Fiemme is in the back of the mind for every athlete during the entire Tour. I do not know how familiar you are with this climb. It is psychotic it is so steep and long. Skiers who are pretty far back can make a comeback at Val di Fiemme. The winner of the Tour is not decided until they survive this final climb.
RICK HALLING: Good luck and keep up the good work. How are you spending New Year’s eve?
ROMAN TOFERER: Four of us have over 130 pairs of skis to wax tonight.