UPDATE Sept. 2018
…Kind of hard to believe, but almost a year has flown by since Team United Bakeries director Bernhard Rønning and the boss of Rollerski Mallorca, Manu Rullan came up with the idea as brilliant as it is simple:
Allow amateur skiers into a professional skiing team camp.
To train, live and even eat their meals together with some of the planet’s best long distance skiers: Tore Bjorseth Berdal, Stian Hoelgaard, Astrid Øyre Slind, Torleif Syrstad and, of course, triple Vasaloppet winner John Kristian Dahl.
Team United Bakeries had since become Team Koteng. But the idea really took off. This October Rønning & Rullan cordially invite skiers to join them on island of Mallorca again in late October for one-of-a-kind experience.
And no, this is not an advertorial. It’s a memory of a great week spent in company of interesting people – and a desire for more.
..Every time professional skiers fly past you along the tracks at speeds that could only be described as superhuman , you can’t stop wondering – what does it take to ski like that?! What kind of people are they?! What do they eat and what jokes they crack in their spare moment?
Luckily the days when pro-skiers lived most of their lives at some secluded mountain to descend from it exclusively to win yet another race and then to disappear back to their ski-Asgard, those days seem to be coming to an end.
First the Ski Classics series came with its distinct pioneering feature: professionals and amateurs run the same course and even get to rub shoulders at the start of most races ( that is, before the pros throttle up and disappear along the tracks )
Now, in what appears to be the world’s first ( there are similar joint training sessions in Norway but this is the first international effort), the skiers & the management of the one of the world’s top professional ski racing teams have decided that they are both ready and willing for the next step – allowing amateurs to live, communicate with and even train alongside them while in the camp abroad.
Let’s introduce the heroes of this story
Team United Bakeries 2016-2017 are
The TUB is one of the younger teams in the Ski Classics – with addition of Stian Hoelgaard, 25 and Torleif Syrstad, 23 possibly the youngest. A 36 year old father of two Dahl is not just the TUB’s most titled star, but a clear de-facto captain & source of inspiration for the rest. Yet no kowtowing of any kind is displayed by the others. “First among the equals”
Slind and Berdal, both 29, fall somewhere in between – young but mature enough, at a threshold of big victories ( Slind has already opened her season in style by winning 60km Blink Festival race and coming close second behind Justyna Kowalczyk in Val Di Fiemme, both on rollerskis)
Unlike most national ski teams, that search for any available patch of snow in October – beginning of November, professional ski marathon teams seem to prefer to catch the last glimpses of European summer , training in places like Majorca. That makes sense: national teams are gearing up for the World Cup and tough Olympic selection, while marathoners have a rather lopsided schedule: two back-to-back races in Pontresina and Livigno at the end of November – beginning of December ,then a gap of 6 weeks till the season restarts in earnest. There is no point in forcing the peak form before that while training on rollerskiing just as efficient .
What does one glean by spending a few days with the skis pros:
– They do nothing by half. In fact, they do double of everything – rollerskiing for 4 hours in the morning? Let’s have another 2 hours of running in the afternoon. At times it looks unnecessary daring, even dangerous – skyrunning on goat trails with darkness falling and rain starting made this reporter ( waiting safely at the foot of the mountain) worried.
Personal speed record rollerskiing downhill? “Not sure, but must be around 130 km per hour, one could go faster but wheels start to burn”
Is there a secret of how to treat one’s rollerski scrapes faster? ”There must be, but we would not know – we never fall, at least not that bad”
They also eat a lot – ordinary human simply wouldn’t be able to digest that much food, but these guys burn up to 5000 calories per day with their training. They eat just about anything: healthy, not so healthy and downright unhealthy stuff yet their sculpted bodies quite simply look like walking advertising to benefits of cross country skiing.
They also laugh and joke – a lot. And seem to be in perennially good spirits. A question “Do you ever fight inside the team” momentarily shocks them, with eventual answer coming “it probably happened at some point but we can’t remember when and over what..”
They are sharp, witty and most certainly not living in the “camp bubble ” where all conversations revolve around training and racing. On the contrary, they are both willing and able to discuss anything, be it a global warming, a future of media or an economic role of China in the modern world, to name just a few random conversation topics at the team dinner table or during the bus ride to a rollerski session.
They spend 150 days a year together as a team with an important exception : Dahl, who very obviously, openly misses his wife and kids ( 2 and 4 year old) flies home between the races in the winter while younger team members tend to stay put for a month or more at a time when race moves to continental Europe.
Team’s social media accounts’ updating is done collectively, in turns by all members of the team and of course being discussed over the dinner table, with best comments and messages read aloud. Note to yourselves, fans of skiing – your messages are being seen.
The Olympic Games, the World Championships and the World Cup races get better TV audiences – and better prize money. But in their own chosen game, the long distance ski marathons, these guys would not be defeated by anybody. Last year, for instance Dahl beat at the finish of Vasaloppet no lesser contender ( among the others) than the Olympic champion Dario Cologna, this year it was a bronze medalist of Sochi Ilia Chernousov who couldn’t keep up with Dahl at the finish stretch ( Chernousov now specializes in marathons too – it was his first season)
Lastly in Part I of the Team United Bakeries profile, – but probably the most importantly for the success of this new concept of pro-skiers and amateurs training together: they are actually are very nice people, without exception, ready to dispense an advise on one’s skiing technique, share training tips or comment on nutrition. Just what you came the training camp for.
…In the Second part of the TUB profile the TUB skiers will talk about their training methods, reveal what sort of money are there in professional skiing and share their views on how to grow a popularity of skiing in the world. Stay tuned