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FasterSkier FasterSkierOctober 25, 2010

The first Worldcup of the new season is November 20th in Gallivare, Sweden.  It begins with the Women’s 10K Skate in the morning and the Men’s 15K Skate in the afternoon.  The next day is followed up with relays.  Sit in a room right now with a few coaches, athletes and industry folk and you can feel the anticipation.  The coaches and athletes are excited, but not tense.  The extensive hours spent on glaciers, in ski tunnels, in weight rooms and trail running lead to a thrilling sense of anticipation that is sharpened with a feeling of confidence.

Same with the industry reps.  Very few of them are nervous about the Worldcup opener.  While everyone else has been enjoying the summer weather, top reps have spent the off season on Europe’s glaciers and ski tunnels.  New designs, new constructions and new technologies have been tested and carefully vetted.  However, it will be on November 20 that the new products are truly “combat tested.”

The Sognefellt Glacier in Norway. Cold and snowy even in July. This is the lab where World Cup Technologies are born.

We caught up with Atomic’s International Race Director, Roman Toferer, to talk about the opening race.

RICK HALLING: I hear mixed things about the opening Worldcup.  Some coaches claim it is not that important.  They say that athletes who are winning in November will not be winning at the World Championships.  Then I have talked with other coaches who are full charged bent on victory for that opening race.  What are your feelings?

ROMAN TOFERER: Rick, this is the Worldcup.  All spring, all summer and all fall we have been waiting for the Worldcup season to begin again.  Yes, the opening race is very important.  It will set the tone for the entire season.  If an athlete is fast at Gallivare, the other athletes watch him or her the rest of the year with very careful eyes.  The athletes, they have so much hunger at this very first race.  It is maybe the best of the year.

RH: In a way, it’s sort of like a first date.  You have recruited some pretty impressive athletes over the summer.  You and the new athletes have gotten to know each other on the glaciers, but the opening race is the first real test of how you are going to work together, isn’t it?

RT: Ja, with the new athletes there is some nervous things.  We want to prove that they made the right choice to switch to Atomic, they want to show us that we were smart guys to recruit them.  You can see that in the wax trailers.  The first race of the year the reps and the new athletes are a little nervous with each other.  The reps and the athletes who have been together for a few years are more relaxed, but still they desperately want to win that first race.

RH: You really went to town in regards to recruitment.  You signed quite a few of Norway’s top skiers this summer.  We know what Norwegian journalists are like.  What do you think they will say if one of their top skiers has skis that are a little off at their first race ever on Atomic.

RT: They will show me no quarter, but then, I have not asked for any.  It is not just Norwegians we have recruited this summer, athletes of many nationalities made the switch to us.  The opening race on a new brand, this is part of what makes Gallivare so exciting!  And remember, they want to prove themselves to me too!

New recruit Monique Siegel of Germany. The next Claudia Kunzel-Nystad?

RH: Let’s talk about equipment.  You have developed a new skate ski…

RT: No, no, I interrupt you right now.  We are still making the skate ski we had at the Olympics.  But we are developing a special ski for certain conditions, it is too early to talk about this new ski.

RH: The second day of racing will be relays for the men and women.  This means Classic legs.  You have a new waxless material that…

RT: Stop, stop right here!  You can show this new waxless material to dealers this winter, but do not talk too much about it now.

Roman Toferer showing the new waxless material to Vasaloppet Champion Oskar Svard. It will be used extensively on the World Cup this year.

RH: We should point out to readers that this material is for all conditions.  It is not limited to 0 degrees C.  It can be used for both hard wax and Klister conditions as well.

RT: It is best if we just plain do not talk about it at all right now.

RH: Good luck in Gallivare.

RT: Good luck at West Yellowstone.

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