-Fredrik has taught us that it is possible to win, even if one comes from Switzerland, says TOur leader Dario Cologna…
–This is a big deal in every way!
Fredrik Aukland has a smile that goes almost all the way around. He has been congratulated by every other person at the ski stadium in Oberhof, he runs to TV interviews speaking German, and for once an astonished Petter Northug can go right past the Norwegian press corps without being stopped. Everyone is focused on Anders and Jørgen Aukland’s little brother, who took over training responsibility for the Swiss men’s national team in April this year. There he was the coach for the boy who stopped Axel Teichmann on the German’s home course, and who stands at the start with the red Tour de Ski leader suit in Prague today: 22 year old Dario Cologna.
Aftenposten followed Aukland through his biggest day as the Swiss team coach.
According to plan
13.2 seconds after Axel Teichmann, Dario Cologna sets out on his 15 kilometer pursuit in Oberhof – his presumed weakest distance in the Tour de Ski. After one lap, three kilometers, he had gained back the entire lead.
–Sensational! shouts announcer Kjell Erik Kristiansen in the stadium. At a spot 1.3 kilometers into the course, coach Fredrik Aukland is not so certain in his speech.
–This was the plan. It will be at the finish that it gets exciting, he says. Without using too much strength Cologna was to reel in the German, who is normally a little slower at the start. The key lies in the last of the five laps. There Teichmann is incredibly strong.
–Before a race like today we discuss tactics. We discuss different scenarios. But its not good to plan too much either, because then you get stuck if it doesn’t go like you think, explains Aukland.
Meanwhile, the plan functions perfectly up until now. After 10.3 kilometers Cologna goes by the German. First in the group following 19 seconds behind, lies teammate Curdin Perl. And right after that comes Tony Livers.
–We’re trying to get them up, so that they can help Dario if he takes in the two in front, explains Aukland.
To build a team is one of the biggest challenges he has met in the Swiss camp.
–One of the first things I said when I came, was that we must work as a team and use each others’ resources. There is a completely different mindset here than in Norway. To teach them to wish each other success, even on the bad days, has been a challenge, he says.
–Has it surprised you that the mindset is different?
–Yes, a little. But not in a negative way. It has been something else to take into account, says Aukland.
Out on the course the skiers go by for the third time. Cologna looks sharp – very sharp. We check out the situation with coach Aukland.
–Now it is going quickly, in any case. But there are still two laps, he says soberly. When the two leaders come into the stadium for the fourth time , the coach’s pulse begins to pound.
–Now… I am excited!
And one kilometer before the finish line in the second stage of this year’s Tour de Ski Aukland understands that this is going as planned. In a classic race distance that the Swiss have trained the most for with their new coach, 22 year old Dario Cologna goes right by– and right away from – Saturday’s dominant winner, Axel Teichmann. At the finish he is 5.6 seconds in front of the German.
–I was a little uncertain when he skied away, admits Aukland.
–Teichmann was so dominant in the prologue, and it surprised me that Dario would be better here. But when I saw the spark he had, I understood that he could go.
–How do you see it?
–One learns the signs after a while. Dario grits his teeth, bends his back and crouches a bit. When I saw him look backwards over the last bridge, I knew he had control.
The victory yesterday was almost as big for the trainer as for the Cologna himself.
–This means unbelievably much. It gives so much back to those one works with, who can see that it is possible, he says.
He himself has learned an incredible amount from the first months in Switzerland. Among other things that not everything needs to be as specialized as it is at home in Norway.
And that it is possible to do things simply. When it all comes down to it, there is only one thing that matters; to go as fast as possible on skis. Or as today’s winner, and now one of the big favorites of the 2009 Tour de Ski puts it,
-Fredrik has taught us that it is possible to win, even if one comes from Switzerland.