“Sweden Team: Rollerskiing in France...It’s All Uphill!” Video
July and a trip to the French Alps sounds like a pleasant holiday option. That is, unless you are a Swedish biathlete, because a July trip to France means one thing: a training camp in the mountains.
Week of Mountainous Training
That is exactly where the 13 Swedish biathletes found themselves on Tuesday morning, stepping out of their chalets in the village of Correncon-en-Vercors, outside Villard de Lans. After a long day of travel, they piled into the team vans for the first of a week of mountainous rollerskiing and cycling plus some shooting at the nearby home stadium of Martin and Simon Fourcade and Marie Dorin Habert.
Coach Wolfgang Pichler had been up early finding the perfect spot for his planned session. “Seven times six minutes for the men, six times for the women.” Getting in the vans, Pichler urged the group that was dressed for summer training, to “get a jacket; it is cold up there, especially when you finish.” No one seemed to believe the veteran coach, but everyone left with a jacket.
Rollerski Up, Ride Down
After 15 minutes of driving through deep forest in the mountains, the vans unloaded for a 20 minute warm-up. There seemed to be some confusion as someone said, “We have gone 4 km uphill, where do we start.” The answer was simple. “Meet us up the road.” The next stop was a wide spot on the virtually single-lane deserted road. In a bit of a departure from the norm, the plan was explained when the group arrived. “Boys go first, 10 seconds apart. The girls follow after. When you get to the top, get in the van quickly and we drive back here. We want the recovery to be no more than 4 minutes.” Rollerski up, and ride down for recovery was the unique plan.
Steep and Steeper Grade
The idyllic cool green forest was quickly filed with the click-clack of ski poles hitting the pavement, the buzz of rollerski wheels and heavy breathing. The first few hundred meters were a gentle climb, followed by an ever-steeper grade. The trees and curves in the road meant there was always a surprise ahead: more and more uphill. The men reached the vans first. Pichler and assistant Mattias Nilsson watched the body language; everyone was in full training mode, but in control.
Slow it Down
After the third interval, the coaches quickly checked blood lactate levels. A few were a bit too high. The coach urged, “Slow it down a little bit.” However with each time up the climb, the effort was more etched in the faces and bodies. Just as at the end of a competition, leaning over the ski poles, gasping for air was the universal reaction at the end of the six minutes.
Full Speed and a Record
Before the group headed down for the last interval, the message was clear, “Full speed this time.” No one hesitated, pushing hard up to the last few strides. This time, bodies covered the road, with not a drop of energy left. The lactate levels were astronomically high; Pichler commented as he looked at one result, “I think you set a record.” He and Nilsson smiled; first hard training went well.
The first training session was over. Next on the agenda was lunch, delivery of rental bicycles, a short rest and in three hours, running, shooting and weight training.
Our video offers a short glimpse yesterday’s uphill interval training.