The surge in Covid infections has driven many national teams to training camps in desolate locations and inter-squad time trials to prepare for the Olympics in Beijing next month. But the Russian Olympic team considers real competition a crucial part of their peaking plan. Enter: Visma Ski Classics.
With all of the scheduled World Cup events in January cancelled due to a surge in Covid infections in Europe, the Russian Olympic team head coach Markus Kramer was forced to look for replacement competitions for his athletes.
“It’s not ideal for the skiers to go a full month without racing prior to the Olympics. And for some, including Sergey Ustiugov who didn’t race Tour de Ski, it is particularly important to get some real racing experience now,” Kramer says to ProXCskiing.com.
The upcoming Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour event, La Venosta Time Trial, is a 10-kilometer individual start classic race on a steep to rolling terrain, and as made for the Russian national team’s peaking plan for the Olympics.
“Of course, a Ski Classics event isn’t 100 percent transferable to World Cup racing, as most of the Ski Classics events are double-poling. But the level of competition at the Ski Classics is incredibly good. Many of the Ski Classics pro team racers are World Cup-level skiers, and many have also raced on the World Cup, Kramer points out.
Last weekend, Sergey Ustiugov, also a part of the 2022 Russian Olympic team, raced both the Visma Ski Classics events in the Dolomites. On Saturday, he won the 30-kilometer skate edition of the Pustertaler Ski Marathon. On Sunday, Ustiugov won the 42-kilometer skate version of the Prato Piazza Mountain Challenge.
However, to enter the Visma Ski Classics events in the Pro Tour, athletes must be racing for a registered Pro Tour team. Kramer’s biggest headache has been to identify and contact Pro Tour teams with room for his athletes, as each Pro Team can have a maximum of 10 athletes.
But after decades in the sport and a huge network, things are falling into place for the crafty, seasoned coach.
These Russians are formally entered for the Visma Ski Classics La Venosta Time Trial
Sergey Ustiugov – Team Futura Alta Quota Trentino
Sergey Ardashev – Team Robinson Trentino
Evegeniy Belov – Team Næringsbanken
Tatiana Sorina – Team Futura Alta Quota Trentino
Anastasia Rygalina – Russian Winter Team
Kramer is still working on finding teams for Yulia Stupak, Khristina Matsokina and Artem Maltsev, all headed to the Olympics in Beijing in February.
Additionally, Kramer is also coaching two of Italy’s Beijing-bound athletes, Federico Pellegrino and Francesco De Fabiani, who also hopes to race La Venosta Time Trial on Saturday.