OSLO, NORWAY – The International Ski Federation (FIS) wants to introduce yet another race format on the cross-country World Cup. In February 2012, racers might face a 10K event in Szklarska Poreba (POL) where the first part of the race is a pure uphill climb while the second half of the race is a descent down an alpine run.
“We think this race format can be an exciting addition during a season with no major international events in cross-country,” Vegard Ulvang, chair of the FIS cross-country committee, told the Norwegian newspaper Nettavisen.
The suggestion was first proposed during the FIS fall conference earlier this month. Nettavisen surveyed the sentiment among Norwegian elite racers, and the verdict is crushing.
“What? Are they adding moguls and big-jumps too? This is the biggest B.S. I’ve heard in a long time. There’s a reason we’re cross-country skiers, not alpine racers,” said a clearly-agitated Eldar Roenning. “FIS has got to start listening to the athletes. I really wonder what Vegard Ulvang would have said if these kinds of race formats had been introduced while he was racing,” Roenning continued.
Martin Johnsrud Sundby didn’t know whether to consider the idea a serious suggestion.
“I’m not even sure I’m going to waste my energy commenting on that. Why don’t they add whoop-de-doos and moguls while they’re at it, and maybe finish with a big air jump and style points too,” Johnsrud Sundby told Nettavisen, and continued: “Ski cross has already been invented, could you mention that to Ulvang?”
“That doesn’t sound serious,” Simen Oestensen said. He doesn’t know what to think of the suggestion. “As a part of the World Cup it sounds a little too far out, if you know what I mean. It would be different if it were just a spectator entertainment event at the very end of the season,” he said.
Oestensen said he thought the limit for new formats has been achieved in cross-country skiing.
“It’s a little risky to invent and introduce too many new race formats at once. The veterans who already think there are too few 50 k events will hardly be amused and excited by this,” Oestensen commented.
Oeystein Pettersen was also not ecstatic.
“I suppose it’s good that they are interested in developing the product, but I think we’re good on race formats for a while now. I think the FIS needs to look at the possibilities in marketing the actual events, so that they appeal to a broader range of spectators,” Pettersen said.
“Just look at the city sprint and how popular those are. Spectators get more from these events in terms of live music, concessions and vendor booths. There’s nothing wrong with the current race formats, it’s the marketing and presentation of the events that need help,” he said. “People who want to watch downhill racing buy tickets to alpine events.”
The proposed competition format will be tested at a lower level this coming season. The experiences and evaluations from those test races will determine if the rather bizarre event will end up on the World Cup schedule.
From Nettavisen.no, October 8, 2010. By Anders Skjerdingstad, translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.