Daniel Rickardsson, the tall Swede with a mean double-pole technique and the ability to ski seemingly any terrain with ease, is what keeps the Norwegians awake at night asthe 15K classic at the World Championships approaches.
“It’s a heck of an awesome course they have out there, and the atmosphere just adds to the experience. I can’t wait to get on it,” Rickardsson said at the press conference Monday morning.
Along with the rest of the Swedish men’s team, Rickardsson feels in shape and ready to revenge the bad wax on Sunday.
“I will definitely be there and fight for the medals,” said the modest Swede, who doesn’t want to name himself a favorite for the gold. “I don’t want to focus on results as much as I want to focus on my race and the challenges I have to solve on the course. The race in Drammen was the best race of my career, and those are rare, but I think I should be able to race well tomorrow. I am confident,” he said, adding that he thinks the peak from Drammen is just as good now as it was then.
Watch and learn
Rickardsson is a joy to watch on the course. His teammates describe him as majestic and elegant, and almost impossible to match in double-pole technique.
“I’ve always been a stronger classic skier, although I’ve made progress in skating too this last season. Double-poling has always come easily to me, and is something I’ve focused a lot on throughout my career,” Rickardsson said, understated as always.
“I try to ski efficiently and conserve energy. I think being tall is a benefit, especially in double-poling, and I’ve always tried to use it to my advantage,” Rickardsson added.
Anders Södergren, the veteran of the Swedish ski team and an authority on classic technique, admires Rickardsson’s skills.
“Daniel is tall and powerful. He skis with controlled, big strides and has a wicked drive, especially in double-poling,” Södergren said, adding that everything Rickardsson does is controlled and calm, and that he handles the pressure to perform in the 15K just fine.
“He’s totally relaxed. He’ll be fine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Daniel nervous or stressed out,” he said.
Marcus Hellner, who along with Rickardsson was a member of the Swedish team that won gold on the 4x10K relay at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, is also impressed with Rickardsson’s technique.
“I’m envious of his double-pole technique. He skis big, solid and elegant. The drive he generates without spending too much energy is amazing,” Hellner said.
The entire Swedish crew had less than perfect skis for the pursuit, but they’re not concerned about missing the wax again. Especially Rickardsson and Hellner suffered on the classic portion of the pursuit.
“That’s all forgotten now. Wax doesn’t worry me one bit. We talked to the wax techs, and we know they work hard on giving us the best skis,” Rickardsson said, concluding that Sunday’s sticky mess is history for him.
“I don’t waste an ounce of energy thinking about skis.”
Northug doesn’t define a race
While Petter Northug is sitting out the 15K classic, Marcus Hellner doesn’t feel like a medal would be worth less without him.
“Not at all. Northug has never been the king of the 15K classic,” Hellner said, adding that Lukas Bauer is one of the real contenders for the medals.
Additionally, Bauer sat out the 30K pursuit, and statistically, racers who have skipped the 30K have had better odds at winning the 15K classic that follows. Bauer also often does better in his first event in a major event. On the other hand, some racers feel that having a distance race in the books helps prepare them for the next. Other medal contenders include Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) who was fifth in the 30K pursuit on Sunday, and Dario Cologna (SUI) who seems to be good at all distances.
Sweden’s team to the 15K classic consists of Daniel Rickardsson, Johan Olsson, Marcus Hellner and Anders Södergren.
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.