Simen Sveen, 26, was the first extra to the Norwegian team, so when Didrik Tønseth got appendicitis right before Christmas, Sveen called off the holidays, stayed in Davos, Switzerland, to train and when the Tour de Ski opens Saturday, he is race prepped to the gills and ready to burst.
“I’m just excited for the whole thing to start,” Sveen told FasterSkier in an exclusive interview on Friday night. “I’m not nervous, just excited. There’s a big difference. Being excited helps me bring out the best in me.”
He learned he was the alternate when the team was selected, giving him time to prepare just in case over the last several weeks.
“When Didrik Tønseth got sick, I just stayed in Davos rather than adding more traveling to the schedule,” he explained. “It’s a good place to train for this.”
In turn, his family members, who live near Sjusjøen, flew to Davos to spend time with Sveen. And just in time for Christmas, snow arrived to the high Alps.
“It was so awesome, and they’ve groomed all the touring trails, too, now, so we could all ski a lot,” he said. “It was a great holiday, and I’ve been able to train well.”
The first week after the Davos World Cup Dec. 20-21, Sveen focused on volume, getting as much snow time as he could. This week, he focused on logging some solid intensity sessions while also resting up for eight days of racing and traveling between Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
“I’m ready; bring it on,” he said with a grin.
“I’m really excited for the long skate race [from Cortina to Toblach, Italy] and for the final stage up Alpe Cermis. They are both later in the week and it’s nice to know that my best events are coming up later,” said Sveen, who considers himself a stronger skater. “It’s definitely a big motivation for me.”
While Sveen is a Tour de Ski rookie, this isn’t the first time he’s joining the fun late in the game. His first World Cup was the 50 k in Holmenkollen, Norway, in 2010 when he was called late the night before the race.
“When I raced my first World Cup race in 2010, the coaches really called me in the 11th hour,” he said. “The good thing is that you just don’t have time to get nervous or think about all the different things that can happen.” He placed 31st in that event, just seconds from his first World Cup points.
The Tour de Ski opens Saturday with the women’s 3.2 k and men’s 4.4 k freestyle prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany. From there, the Tour continues with 10/15 k classic pursuit on Sunday in Oberstdorf.
From Germany, the Tour moves to Switzerland for the third stage — skate sprints in Val Müstair on Tuesday, Jan. 6. The next day, there will be 5/10 k classic individual races in Toblach, Italy, and Thursday features 15/35K freestyle pursuits from Cortina, Italy, to Toblach.
On Jan. 9, the skiers get a second rest day before the final two stages in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Saturday, Jan. 10 holds 10/15 k classic mass starts, and on Jan. 11, the Tour concludes with the brutal 9 k freestyle pursuit for both men and women up Alpe Cermis.
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.