February 08, 2006

Cross Country Checkup: No air time, no style points, and gravity is not your ally. If you're a fan of the X-Games, this might not be for you. But if you want to see some of the world's fittest athletes go head-to-head on skis, head on out to Prageleto, site of the cross country skiing for 2006.

Sportsfilter's 2006 Winter Olympic preview continues with sportsfilter columnist Amateur.

posted by justgary to other at 01:21 AM - 9 comments

amatuer.. Nice job! I live across from 1 of the largest cross country trails in the midwest, it runs along the Grand River, it's usually well used accept we don't have much snow this year. If you ever need a cardio workout strap on a pair of cross country skis, it will kick your ass. I remember watching alot of cross country on ABC's Wide World of Sports back in the day. Curt Gowdy was able to make it sound really exciting! Anyway, I live in cross country territory and they will be watched by alot of my nieghbors. Thanks for the info.

posted by skydivedad at 09:32 AM on February 08, 2006

teams typically employ at least a half a dozen wax technicians Holy crap! I had no idea that was a viable career.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 01:51 PM on February 08, 2006

I raced x-country in highschool right when the change from classical to skating occurred (late 80s) very interesting time, Gunde Svan won a world cup race using one giant pole if I remember correctly. The swedes were amazing then. Waxing for classical style is a serious art. You basically have to match a wax ( or waxes) to a combination of snow crystal shapes and temperatures. Made all the more difficult as the snow crystals and temperatures vary throughout the course and during the race. There were 3 major brands of wax, about 30 kinds of wax in each brand, all with subtle differences. Some waxes cover a larger range than others, some are faster in certain conditions etc. And then you have the combinations of one wax under another, mixing brands etc. Applying the waxes properly is difficult. The right wax on a given day is also dependent on a particular skier's technique and skis. Because most races were interval start the waxes would change throughout the race, with races going first using different waxes than racers going last. Coaches would stand at the start/finish and add final touches, while polling finishing racers. In longer events other coaches further a field would have a small selection of waxes in case someone was struggling. It's a huge part of the sport that is pretty invisible to the casual fan, races are definitely won and lost based on waxing decisions. My coaches claimed that part of the reason that Bill Koch won the silver in the 1976 Olympics was that the Americans nailed the wax (actually it was an obscure no-wax treatment), and several of the other nations missed it. The biggest stars probably have their own wax/ski technicians. sorry for the long post

posted by turnip at 04:23 PM on February 08, 2006

turnip, I had no idea. Thanks! If this was MetaFilter I'd flag your post as "Fantastic".

posted by DrJohnEvans at 04:58 PM on February 08, 2006

Thanks for the insight, turnip. You may or may not know that we have a little Winter Olympics team thing going on here, and I signed up to cover cross country even though I am decidedly less than an expert. So any time you want to jump in, go right ahead.

posted by Amateur at 07:09 PM on February 08, 2006

turnip Top notch stuff. Most excellent indeed. Thanks

posted by skydivedad at 07:12 PM on February 08, 2006

I haven't followed the world cup in a long time- Amateur- I liked your write up, I didn't know about the pursuit style races, and the sprints seem new as well. Since I haven't paid a lot of attention "new" could be 10 years old... X-country can be difficult to watch as a fan, I wouldn't be surprised if the sprint and pursuit races were added to drum up fan interest. turnip

posted by turnip at 08:23 AM on February 09, 2006

I wish they would show more of the race. I think cross-country skiing is difficult to watch because of how they televise it. You see two points: the start and the finish. You gain no perspective of how hard the athletes are working other than watching all of them collapse at the finish line (as I saw on many highlight reels today). That being said, I cross-country ski myself, so I know it's difficult. So why isn't it watchable? Why is it less compelling than other race sports (e.g., long-track speed skating)?

posted by jane at 12:49 AM on February 13, 2006

A far as coverage goes, you must be watching NBC, if you have the chance catch a CBC telecast, especially live in the morning. They cover more action of more sports. As far as compellingness...there is a lot of strategy in all stages of the race, for example, in the womens 5Km Pursuit when the leader slowed down enough to allow the second group to catch up, all because she wanted someone else to lead for a bit and give herself the benefit of the draft...

posted by elovrich at 12:34 PM on February 13, 2006

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