Tour de Ski 2010/2011 – Mid-Tour Update

Behind the scenes at the Tour de Ski – from the coach Finn Marsland

As many readers will know the 2010/2011 Tour de Ski is underway. It has been a little too busy until the rest day today to post any team reports, hopefully some of you have been reading Callum Watson’s blog updates. This is an attempt to paint a bit of a picture of what has been going on over the last 5-6 days.

Tour de Ski Background
This is the 5th edition of the FIS Tour de Ski. Eight World Cup races in ten days at four locations in two countries – Germany and Italy. Australia’s sole competitior: Callum Watson. The main aim for Callum is to make it all the way through to the end, which is not as simple a challenge as it might first seem, with time cut-offs and short loops increasing the risks of being overlapped.

The support crew for Callum is Canadian Jeff Ellis and myself. While most of the other nations have much larger service teams, by Australia standards the ratio of two support staff to one athlete is pretty good.

Day -1
The day before the first race was spent setting up the wax cabin, testing skis and attending the team presentation in downtown Oberhof. There was pressure from some of the TDS media crew for an interview by Wally Wombat and he made a brief appearance.

Day 1
The 3.75km Freestyle prologue didn’t go quite to plan. Callum was looking good early on and was up on 4 skiers at the 1.4km mark, however it became apparent that he’d started a bit fast and was losing time in the second half of the race. In the stadium he struggled to keep his technique together and lost time on all the skiers he’d been up on early on, ending up in 75th and last place by about 8 seconds. All up an inauspicious start, and we started to worry a little about the overlapping rule on the 3km loop the next day. It was New Year’s eve, but Callum was in bed early and the support team was also in bed before midnight after a couple of beers with the US team.

Day 2
Our worry about the overlapping was unnecessary. Callum came out strong in the 15km Classic (held in pursuit format from the prologue times), catching Francois Soulie from Andorra early on skiing most of the race with him. On the final lap Callum left Soulie and caught one of the Austrian skiers, only to be outsprinted by him in the finish straight. Several skiers withdrew during the race, so Callum ended up in 70th place. A quick pack-up of the wax cabin followed by a stopover at the hotel to pack Callum’s bags and we were on the road to Oberstdorf by about 3:30pm, arriving around 8:30pm.

Day 3
Classic Sprint day. We set the wax cabin up early and had our first grip testing completed just in time for it to start snowing steadily. While Jeff was getting lost on the way to the hotel to pick-up Callum we made a smooth transition from covered klister to stick and Callum’s skis were all ready to test when he arrived at the track 20 minutes late. The sprint went alright, Callum knocked off a couple of skiers and ended the day in 68th place overall.

Day 4
The 20km Pursuit on a 2.5km loop was already penciled down as a tough challenge and the day didn’t start well. Callum had felt bloated the previous evening, had a terrible night’s sleep and woke with no appetite. More details in Callum’s words are on his blog. We had worked out that he needed to be skiing around 12.5% behind the leaders not be overlapped and felt some pressure to make sure he had good skis. In the end we probably erred on the grippy side just to make sure he didn’t blow up on the steep Oberstdorf hills. Callum lost only 50 seconds in the first 5km, however after the pursuit changeover after 10km the leaders skied the first freestyle lap in just six minutes. With FIS always edging on the side of caution to avoid overlapping there was still some nervous laps before Callum made it safely onto his final lap a good minute and a half ahead of the pack. He lost a lot of time on the final lap but with more tour withdrawals finished up in 64th place. Exit Oberstdorf, arrival Toblach, Italy four hours or so later. There seemed to be more room in the car so we were proud with our packing efficiency. We stopped for dinner in Austria but both Callum and Jeff (who ate the same meal as Callum the previous night) struggled to get much food down.

Mission Pursuit Accomplished!

Oh, and FIS decided to do a short interview with the waxing boss – see this video on the FIS site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=az0fomfDW80

Day 5
Rest Day! Though not without drama. Our apparent packing efficiency was actually due to leaving our waxing table behind in Oberstdorf. This moment of panic at the wax cabins was relieved two minutes later when we found the table already deposited outside our waxing cabin. Many thanks to the good Samaritans who picked up the table for us – we still don’t know who it was. It was cold in Toblach this morning, minus 12, we made preliminary wax and ski testing during the day but most likely we’ll do it all it again tomorrow. The novelty for the day was a guy from NRK in Norway doing a piece on Callum for Norwegian TV. Keep an eye out for this if in Norway, it should be a good story.

Tomorrow, a freestyle sprint. There should be no chance of missing the time cut-off, it would be nice if Callum can knock off a couple of guys in the sprint time trial.

Cherio for now.

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One Response

  1. Good job Callum. In norway cheering you on will keep an eye out for the NRK report!

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