Saab Salomon Factory Team
The Saab Salomon Factory Team has plenty of experiences with the American Birkie. It has been the focal point for our team for the past 15 years. With a new sponsor and new flashy black suit [they] have Birkie veterans and rookies coming to throw down on Saturday. Here is an inside look at what’s on the mind of Saab Salomon Factory Team members in the days leading up to the race.
Andy Gerlach- What is your all time favorite Birkie moment on and off the race course?
My favorite moment is every year when the race is over and I can say “The skis ran well, the feeds went as planned, no poles were broken and we won!”
Chad Giese- You grew up in the heart of Birkie country and raced the course numerous times. What is the key part of the course to execute perfectly on Saturday?
The start. If you miss the break, you are stuck in the group you are with for the rest of the race. Be in position to make the break. That is the key to a good Birke.
Evelyn Dong- Do we refer to you as the Birkie King or Queen? What did it mean to win the Birkie last year and your thoughts on a repeat?
I don’t think I’m referred to as the Birkie Queen. I hope not. Winning the Birkie was a huge boost for me last year. I’ve been known as a distance specialist and winning the Birkie legitimized everything. I’d love to repeat this year but I’m definitely up against tougher competition. Plus I’ve been injured and sick more than usual this year.
Kristina Standberg- For being a dominant classic skier, would you like to see the Birkie Elite Wave be classic? After watching you win the last five Supertours, will your skate demons be put to rest come Saturday by winning the ultimate North American Skate Race?
I would love to race a classic Birkie! Not only because it would be better for me personally, but also since the “original Birkie” (the Norwegian Birkiebeiner) is a classic race. Some of the marathons in Europe are raced classic and skate on alternating years and I think that’s a pretty good system. I’ve been working hard with my skate technique and I think I’m finally starting to see some results. It would be a fantastic feeling to be the first lady across the finish line on Main Street in Hayward!
Fabien “The Wax Tech” After participating in the Birkie for the first time last year, what is the most important part of the course to wax for? Is it key for the wax team to eat the Blondeau’s family Fondu the night before the Birkie? I here it brings good luck to the team.
To me, it’s important to wax for the second half of the race! In February, the days are getting warmer by 10:00am, it’s important to have good skis for the second half with a lot of flat and downhill! So I would advise to wax for the second half with something colder and harder underneath.
I think it is important to feed well before a long and hard 50k like the Birkie. So a fondue with good French cheese is one of the best way to get energy for a full race! Of course, it is always nice to have a nice dinner together and hopefully this will give us a good luck to have great results on Saturday.
Tad Elliot- Following in the footsteps of Carl Swenson as a pro mtn biker and skier, how does your background prepare you for your first Birkie and who is your pick for the Tour of California win?
My mountain bike back ground will hopefully help me with my fist Birkie because I will be more comfortable at racing for around two hours and in a pack. I don’t have too much experience at long distance racing on skis so I am going to prepare for the Birkie just like a Mountain Bike Race…hopefully it works.
My pick for the tour of California race is, Durango Home Boy, Now Boulder Home Boy, Thomas Danielson. I will also be watching Christian Vande Velde! Hopefully Garmin Chipotle will take home the win.
Mike Sinnott- As a first time Birkie entrant, what are your thoughts going into the biggest race in America? Have you ever tried a pickled turkey gizards and are you thinking of breaking the record? I mean total pickled turkey gizs post birkie night?
I’m pretty excited, and surprisingly not very nervous- although that will no doubt build as the people begin to show up. I’ve been slowly attending larger and larger events, and each time it’s cool to see the enthusiasm of the Nordic Community. So, shockingly, I’m looking forward to the chaos and whatever other whirlwind that comes. It should be fun. I think someday I’d like to comeback and ski from the middle of the 10th wave, just to experience the swarms of humanity. But, that’s before I have seen it in action, so… What? Gizzard is my favorite dish!! Even though wild turkey gizzard is a little gamy, I can still put back my fare share.
I was lying before. Don’t make me eat one of those.
Laura McCabe- Describe your first experience or memory with the Birkie?
My first Birkie was in 1991 or 92, I was in in awe from the start, with the excitement of the big crowds, the singing of the National anthem and the energy surrounding me. I remember being astonished with all the spectators and the funny costumes you skied by on Bitch hill. I remember the struggle in passing trains of men, but also the positive reactions that always came from their mouths. The lake was grueling and there was a big head wind though the pain was quickly diminished as you turned down Main Street to the roar of the crowd. I cannot remember what my place I was that year but it was an experience that will not be forgotten.
Rebecca Dussault- Here is a simple bet. If you win the Birkie you will make a comeback for the 2010 Olympics? Will you take it?
Bet? You Bet. I already have the wheels all moving in that direction regardless of what goes down at the Birkie. We’ve been praying about it as a family and trying to search our hearts and see if this is where God wants us to be. Right now, considering that Sharbel is totally healthy it seems more likely than not. If I don’t hit any unforeseen roadblocks then I’ll be there, will you?
See you on Saturday.
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Lars Flora is a two-time Olympian, racing in both the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and in Torino in 2006. He currently races for the Saab Salomon Factory Team and the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center (APUNSC)