Killer In­stinct

Test Event Pays Div­i­dends

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Andrew Newell

This sea­son, the cross-coun­try World Cup made its racing de­but at the 2018 Olympic venue in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Th­ese World Cup races, which took place ap­prox­i­mately one year out from the Games, are known as Olympic Test Events, and it's a cus­tom­ary In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee rule that the host coun­try holds such events in prepa­ra­tion for the Olympics.

The sched­ul­ing of th­ese World Cups wasn't per­fect for the cross-coun­try ath­letes be­cause the races fell three weeks out from the World Cham­pi­onships and at a time when many coun­tries have their Na­tional Cham­pi­onships or train­ing camps sched­uled. Since trav­el­ing to Korea isn't the quick­est of jour­neys, it was a lit­tle risky to make the trip, but for me it was an easy choice and a big pri­or­ity of the sea­son.

See­ing pic­tures and video is one thing, how­ever to be there in person to ski and race the Olympic tracks is not only great prac­tice, but it also al­lows me to be­gin to map out the best prepa­ra­tion strat­egy for what will be the big­gest races of my life. Since the test events, I've had many peo­ple ask me about my ini­tial im­pres­sion of Pyeongchang. Here are some take­aways:

Travel

It took a long time to get there . . . that's for sure, es­pe­cially for any­one com­ing from the North Amer­ica. For­tu­nately, the ma­jor­ity of the World Cup skiers were fly­ing from Es­to­nia, so our trip was smooth, catch­ing one flight to Helsinki, Fin­land, then an eight-and-a-half-hour flight to Seoul. From Seoul, it's about a three-hour bus ride to Pyeongchang.

One thing to re­mem­ber is that when Na­tional teams are trav­el­ing around to World Cups, most of our skis and all our wax gear are driven from one coun­try to the other in cargo vans and wax trucks. This is ob­vi­ously not the case with Korea, which makes it a gear-in­ten­sive travel day. No­body will be driv­ing their wax trucks to the Olympics next year, which is cool be­cause it lev­els the play­ing field, but is also

Race Cour­ses

a pain be­cause ev­ery ski, pole, bench and crate of wax sup­plies will need to be flown from Europe.

I have had many peo­ple ask me what it's like to ad­just to the time change and food. South Korea is a 14-hour time change from the U.S. Ath­letes have a gen­eral guide­line we try to fol­low for racing, which is one day on the ground for ev­ery hour of time change. When we ar­rive in Korea for the Olympics, we will most likely be trav­el­ing from Europe, and, to ad­just, will ar­rive eight to nine days be­fore our first event.

Lay of the Land

The ma­jor­ity of the Olympic dis­ci­plines such as freestyle, snow­board­ing, bob­sled, luge, cross-coun­try and most of the alpine events will be held very close to one an­other, which is rare for the Games and also a pretty cool fea­ture of the area. There are mostly very small towns sur­round­ing where the Olympic vil­lage will stand, with the ex­cep­tion of Alpen­sia, a more es­tab­lished re­sort vil­lage. Alpen­sia is a typ­i­cal alpine-re­sort town and tourist des­ti­na­tion, with many ho­tels, con­dos and restau­rants.

The fact that there is a moun­tain nearby that is large enough to host alpine events gives an idea of the ter­rain, but, in gen­eral, the moun­tains aren't huge. For the most part, the land­scape is sim­i­lar in size to the tree-cov­ered moun­tains of New Eng­land, but with much more challenging slopes, val­leys and to­pog­ra­phy. When most of the World Cup ath­letes heard that the Olympic venue was go­ing to be built on a golf course, we were skep­ti­cal as to whether the ter­rain would be up to world-class stan­dards. Not the case with Pyeongchang. All I have to say is that it must be a very hilly golf course.

Not one of the climbs is ex­cru­ci­at­ingly long for dis­tance racing, but there are many ups, downs and turns on all the cour­ses. Two of the tough­est climbs are be­side the sta­dium, which will make for ex­cit­ing spec­tat­ing and a super-challenging sprint course. With a Clas­sic sprint sched­uled for the Games, it is al­ways a con­cern that rac­ers might dou­ble-pole, but I can tell you that won't be the case with this course. There is a solid one-minute grad­ual climb right out of the start and a sec­ond very steep climb be­fore drop­ping back into the sta­dium. By World Cup stan­dards, this course has the most strid­ing I've ever seen for a sprint.

I was re­ally stoked to have the op­por­tu­nity to race all the way to the fi­nal while there for the test events. It not only gave me valu­able prac­tice on the Olympic course, but it also in­grained in my mind ex­actly what I will need to work on phys­i­cally to per­form my best. I know, for ex­am­ple, I will in­cor­po­rate much more fast strid­ing and steep strid­ing drills into my train­ing for the next year. That, and se­ri­ously step­ping up my chop­stick game.

Canada’s Alex Harvey makes his­tory win­ning the men’s 50km freestyle race at Lahti 2017 - the big­gest win of his ca­reer. Nordic Fo­cus

(l-r) Rus­sia's Gleb Re­tivykh wins the men's sprint CL fi­nal over Nor­way's Son­dre Tur­voll Fossli at Olympic test event, as Canada's Len Val­jas just misses the podium by a toe to An­drey Par­fenov (RUS).

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