It was a sweet ride, only rivaled by Petter Northug’s personal tour bus on the Tour de Ski. But the Canadians had the one-up on the Norwegian: they had it first.
Three years ago, Canadian head coach Justin Wadsworth proposed a rather bold idea to its nonprofit investor, B2ten. All the additional training and coaching support was great, but the their World Cup team could really use a tour bus when navigating Europe for the Tour de Ski.
Co-founder Dominick Gauthier laughed.
“Every rock star wants his own, but it doesn’t make sense,” he recalled thinking.
Wadsworth made a strong case, and Gauthier thought more about it. A former freestyle skier who started the Montreal-based B2ten to provide Canadian athletes with the best resources, Gauthier decided it was worth some $15,000 dollars or so.
“I know how demanding it is to be at an event all squished together,” he said. “And having treatments while moving to one venue to the other, we loved the idea. For us, it’s all about finding things that do affect performance and we thought this was directly impacting their performance in the Tour de Ski so we talked to Justin and he made all the connections in Europe.”
Wadsworth went to work, after having first researched motor-home rental companies overseas. But all the ones he found were too small, he explained in an email.
“So I started to look into buses for rock bands touring Europe,” Wadsworth wrote. “I contacted a lot of companies, but only Marco from MZES wanted to work with us on a good deal, even helping with the promotion of some logo costs.”
First a supporter of Alex Harvey and then the Canadian National Ski Team as a whole, B2ten signed on. In a phone interview, Gauthier explained that they considered renting the bus for the entire season, but “it would be more complicated and a logistical nightmare.” Better to keep it simpler, rent the 14-meter long and 3-meter wide (45 x 9-foot) bus from Dec. 20 to Jan. 7 and let the team enjoy its perks in between.
Among them, according to Harvey: a front section with a couple couches, mini kitchen, table, sink and bathroom, middle area with 12 beds stacked three high, and a lounge in the back with couches and a PlayStation for Lenny Valjas and Ivan Babikov. They also had a massage area back there, all for four athletes (the three women on the team did not compete in the Tour).
“After the race and for the long commute, it’s good to be able to sleep a little bit and even get a massage at the back with Wolfman our massage therapist,” Harvey said. “It’s really good.”
With three Canadians finishing in the Tour’s top 25 and Harvey vying for an overall top-five before pulling out for the final race, Wadsworth wrote that he feels as strongly as ever the bus aids their performances.
“There’s not much worse then finishing a hard ski race then hopping in a car for a 6-7 hour drive,” he wrote. “During the transfers the athletes get massage on the bus, hot meals, and can relax play video games or watch movies in one of the two lounges. Another benefit is it gives us a mobile clubhouse for our athletes to do their pre and post race prep. In a lot of the venues the athlete rooms are small and crowded, and having the bus as a spot of tranquility is huge.”
The way B2ten sees it, the bus is a moving billboard. This year, an image of Devon Kershaw decorated one side of the bus, and Chandra Crawford’s face was on the other. Gauthier said the B2ten logo is most prominent since “we’re the ones paying for the bus,” but they also included team sponsors.
As for the cost of a Greyhound-size bus, which is reconfigured specifically for the four guys, plus a driver, Gauthier said it’s justifiable.
“It’s not as crazy expensive as it seems and the reason for that is Justin has some great connections,” he said. “If you count everything around the bus, it’s gonna be more or less around $15,000 so its substantial, but not that bad in the scheme of things.
On Monday, the Canadians bid adieu to the bus, with Harvey tweeting: “See you next year…” Hopefully they won’t get locked out again.
For an inside look, check out Alex Harvey’s photos below:
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.