XC Ski news - 18/3/10
Engadin and Vasaloppet racers, 2010 reports

This year over 200 British skiers took part in the Vasaloppet and Engadin Ski Marathons - two of the biggest cross-country ski races in the world. Many of these racers were doing their first ever cross-country ski races - some with only days on snow beforehand.

Vasaloppet: Salen-Mora, Sweden, Sunday 7 March

Races: 90km classic (main). Other races include 45km (Half-Vasa), 30k Skate Vasa
Total competitors:
50,000 over the week, 15,000 for the main race
British entrants:
101, main race - 47
British results:
See here
London rollerski starters:
Website: here

The main Vasaloppet is 90km long and takes place every year between the towns of Salen and Mora in Sweden. This is a tough race - both mentally and physically - and is the longest race in the international World Loppet series of citizens' races.

Being flat, it requires a lot of the 'double poling' technique, and the start is a major challenge with a huge number of starters funnelling quickly down to 4 tracks wide. Because of this, it's quite a major achievement to make the cut-off points before being 'timed out'. Conditions this year were pretty good - decent snow and temperatures produced good reports from our rollerskiers -

HK, Vasaloppet: "I had a days of thunder moment on one of the downhills as I narrowly avoided someone losing their balance, only to see about 14 skiers tumble in his wake. The 4 week course was all i needed to get the technique but i did have 1 weekend of practice on snow beforehand as well. I did not find the race too difficult - it is more of a mental game than anything else and important to keep the thought/feeling of finishing at the front of your mind to make for an emotional and well deserved finish. Tips - train muscles in your core. Double poling can cause some stress on your back".

TR, Vasaloppet: JustGiving Page "Yes we managed to make it round both under 10 hours which was better than we'd hoped. The better man won with a time of 9h14m but J can blame too many wipeouts on what would have otherwise been a very close race! Your tips were very helpful, I think I'd finally worked out the double pole kick by the end of the race! We had our skis professionally waxed before the race which definitely helped though I don't think they put enough kick wax on as Jock and I both struggled to get grip on the uphills. I got them rewaxed at 60k which definitely helped and would recommend that people did it at least once during the race. We were well advised to carboload before hand as 9 hours of poling is pretty exhausting."

AT, Vasaloppet: Race Blog

JT, Vasaloppet: "I'm still buzzing, absolutely elated, that I finished - I still can't believe I kept going for 12hrs making it 9 mins before the cut-off time! Sheer mental determination I think :-) My strategy was to mentally break it up into chunks - ie just make it to the next village 9-14km further. Figured that as long as I made it to each village before the cut-off, then I had to try for the next village. It ended up being a '4 down, 3 to go' sort of thing. I also really, really just didn't want to be the only one of our group of 4 coming home saying 'I didn't do it' so that also helped to spur me on. For anyone doing it next year tell them to get as far forward at the start of the race as possible, because for the first 2km uphill you are jammed in a stop/start situation. Had I been any further back I probably wouldn't have made it since the further back you started the slower you were forced to go. It was great to see a couple of English guys on the tv the night before being interviewed. The interview asked them how much training they'd had on snow and they said '1 day!' Thought that was a brilliant example of English eccentricity - & I thought we were mad doing it after just 1 week of snow experience in January." [TR & JR - see pic above left]

LC, Vasaloppet: "Having thought on crossing the finishing line 'thank God I never have to do that again ' I am now up for another ski challenge."

AB, Vasaloppet: "I set a goal of getting half way and managed 62k in the end before I missed the time cut-off. I was happy with that but would love to return and complete the job in a year or two."


Engadin Skimarathon: Switzerland, Sunday 14 March

Races: 42km / 21km skate (main), 17km Frauenlauf (ladies' race)
Total competitors:
10,000 main race, 1,000 for the ladies' race
British starters:
130 (2009: 73)
British results:
See here
London rollerski starters:
Website: here


GS, Engadin: "It was crazy crowded at the woods. But at least I didn't fall. However I had to stop and turn back for one of my pole tip... I was lucky it didn't break..."

JC, Engadin: "Got round in 3:26 and pretty chuffed with that considering I didn't really have a specific target in mind. That said, I don't think I could have gone any faster what with the sheer number of people on the hills - that skate 1 and skate 2 stuff didn't prove particularly useful seeing as I found myself walking in the throng the whole time! Roll on the Kangaroo Hoppet..."

VL, Engadin: "5hrs 42 mins for the classic so pretty happy after one lesson for an hour on saturday and definitely couldn't have gone any faster."

AK, Engadin: "The Marathon itself was great and we were happy with our times considering it was our first one. We will definitley be back there doing it again next year. We will also do the Goms 30km race too! ... as a warm up."

FJ, Engadin JustGiving page: "Our goal had been to enjoy the day, complete the course, and not worry about the time. Notwithstanding G's dissapointment at not completing the full distance we both enjoyed every moment of it - what a fantastic experience! I will definitely enter again next year, and with more time to train, and a less leisurely approach I am sure I can knock an hour + off my time."

MH, Engadin: "All our group got round the whole course which we definitely weren't sure about on Saturday and the roller skiing definitely helped. Felt pretty good all the way round (until the surprise hills with 5k to go!) and the atmosphere was great. Got 3.47 and felt great to beat the 4 hour barrier!"

ET, Engadin: "Thank you all so much for your superb training and support Ė we had the most incredible time in Engadin and could not have done it without our roller ski prep!! We didnít set any records (apart from F for having the smallest feet in the race!) but for us completing the marathon/half marathon was a huge achievement in itself!"

DW, Engadin: "Wow, we really understood what you meant by the 'cold at the start' as we stood shivering and huddling together to break the -15 wind chill yikes! The weather was beautiful though on Sunday, full sun and very warm once we got moving."


Other races

JM, Foulee Blanche: "Survived our first ever 20km x-country race this morning - both absolutely exhausted now. Course was hilly (very) in parts, but very well organised race. A finished in 2:01 (and she's training for Ironman Lanzarote this year...) And I staggered in at 2:31 with the more sedate competitors (who put those last steep bits in? Completely outrageous). We've perused the results board and it looks like we are the only GB entrants (at least in the 20k race), so we're claiming GB 1st and 2nd finishers spots. Very good friendly race which I'd recommend to others. On Saturday there were two classic only races - 10k and 25k - and a sedate "raquettes" race. Sunday had 5k, 10k, 20k and 42k free style races. Several thousand racing on Sunday. Its within 2 hours of Grenoble so it could be done in a weekend if anyone is interested. We're planning on doing the race next year to beat the PBs (after some extensive training and rather a lot of weight loss on my part after today's experience). Bizarely on both days the starting "tune" was "Land of hope and glory" - I was laughing so much at this I forgot to be nervous and so didn't fall over in the melee at the start."


Ski marathon calendar

Rollerski race calendar, 2010