Home > Justyna Kowalczyk, Szklarska Poreba > The Polish Experiment

The Polish Experiment

When I say “The Polish Experiment”, I’m not referring to Justyna Kowalczyk or if you are a MMA fan, Krzysztof Soszynski. No, I’m talking about the recent proposed race format from Vegard Ulvang and the FIS. In recent history, the FIS has attempted to tweak and improve the sport of cross-country skiing to win fans, viewers and potential sponsors. Ultimately, they have faced some criticisms, mostly regarding the pureness and roots of the sport. This is no more evident with the introduction of individual sprints in 1996 in Reit im Winkl, the gradual increase of mass-starts to replace the “pure” interval start; and recently, the proposed new race format for the 2012 World Cup in Szklarska Poreba, Poland.

If you haven’t heard, the proposed race profile will be a 10km race with the first 5km being uphill and the second 5km being all downhill. When I first read this, I thought FasterSkier had accidentally published on of their famous April Fools articles a little early/late. Sadly, I was not mistaken and it seems that I share the same sentimentality towards the issues as some of the athletes. Eldar Rønning recently blasted the proposal by saying that it was the biggest nonsense he’s heard. His teammates agree that the FIS needs to slow down bringing new ideas to the sport as it has “currently reached its limit for innovation.”

The problem I have with this race format that could never take place is rooted in the name of the sport; cross-country skiing. Cross-country has always been synonymous with difficult, undulating terrain (the exception is the Tour de Ski Final Climb). Not climb a giant hill then ski down, that’s why lazy people invented chair lifts. The other problem, is that cross-country is compiled of some of the most aerobically fit athletes in the world and downhill skiing does not exude that quality. I’m not trying to minimize alpine skiers, I’m just saying combining two sports is probably not the best idea. I respect what downhill skiers do (ie. thunder thighs), but we’re cross-country skiers here. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, or as the Thai’s say “same same, but different.”

Being extremely aerobically fit gives athletes the impressive ability to recover from maximal efforts much faster than your average human being. So how hard can they actually push themselves in the final 5km of this race format if it will be 100% downhill? I’ve never witnessed an alpine skier collapse from utter exhaustion after crossing the finish line, have you?


Justyna "Bambi" Kowalczyk

Justyna "Bambi" Kowalczyk


I also find it rather ironic that the FIS has planned this race in Poland, the homeland of Kowalczyk who has never been afraid to comment when a course is too easy. It’ll be interesting to hear how she reacts to the proposed race. Thinking about Kowalczyk and downhills, this could be her biggest challenge to date. When you see her on a descent, you almost cringe and watch in awe as an athlete as dominant as her can have such a hard time going down a hill. I don’t want to sound sexist, but half the women on the World Cup circuit are in the same position, they look like Bambi on ice.

Ulvang is looking to increase interest and he will succeed, but for all the wrong reasons. People will tune in just like I tune into NASCAR, for the inevitable crashes.

If the race does happen, it has to be executed perfectly. If it’s an interval start, it will be unfair whoever starts last at the downhill section will be rutted out due to the proposed slalom type gates added. However, if it’s a mass-start, the last half of the race could become a crowded version of Red Bull NordicX and the most competitive game of Chinese Downhill in recent history.

If this race did managed to get into the race calendar, my question is, who would win it? You have to think the prototype skier for a race such as this would be someone like Pietro Piller-Cottrer with his small stature and his experience in the C.S. Carabinier or someone who is tough as nails like Babikov or Sodergren. The women would have to be someone like Johaug, Størmer-Steira or Schechenko.

So what do you think? Is this a good or bad idea on behalf of the FIS. Currently, a poll on Langrenn.com shows that 74% don’t believe that the FIS should implement slalom into cross-country skiing.

Til next time, less than 30 days until Beitostølen!!!

  1. November 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

    ideas in about blogging.
    John Smith http://dumm1.co.uk

  2. XCWorldCupSpy
    October 27, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Good play with the Kowalczyk-Bambi reference. When do we get to see your season Preview? I just checked FasterSkier and they’re profiling the Bulgarians!?! WTF is that about??

  3. October 15, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  4. bluenose
    October 15, 2010 at 3:24 am

    not a fan of this proposed event. I think it might be ok if the race went uphill then down than a shorter up. The down has to reflect XC skiing though, not slalom as has been stated by the news sites. I really hard/fast 3-4km of XC type downhill (with even some short ups or flats) would be ok but 5km of slolom or alpine skiing is lame and just brings XC further from its roots and closer to a farce.
    I would rather see a individual start 20km duathlon, that would be great, the classic skiers coul go out hard and try to hang on while the skaters were charging to the front towards the end. Lots of tactic and drama.

  5. October 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Personally, I don’t care for this format. I think there should be an equal number of individual start and mass start races – or more individual stArt events.

    Great site, keep it up.

  6. Skidfan
    October 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Beitostölen? Why not Bruksvallarna? 😉 Although I will try to watch both if it is POSSIBLE. It it’s not as easy to as to finding a cycling feed. Bruksvallarna is sadly only a )pretty professional) web-cast with speaker and camera at the arena.. would been nice if swedish television picked it up..

    And then Gällivare! Bring 50k ind. start back!

    • October 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm

      Bruksvallarna is a good race, but Beitostølen has so much more riding on it. Particularly with regards to team selection for Norway. Either way, I can’t wait for the racing season to start! 🙂

  1. October 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm
  2. October 16, 2010 at 8:06 am

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