Sweden Team: Steep Intervals to Start a Camp
The Swedish Men’s and Women’s team started their one-week camp in Le Grand Bornand with an exclamation mark: rollerski intervals up the steep Col de la Colombière!
Short Night; 9 am Start
This was a tough start for the altitude-challenged Swedes, who never see 11 km of uphill road, climbing up to 1630 meters at home in Sweden, An additional challenge was their short rest: a midnight arrival followed by the start of training at 9 am the next morning…It was 9 am sharp, as the local church bells tolled, Coach Wolfgang Pichler sent the team out for a flat warm-up in the valley. 30 minutes later, he counted down to the second and the first of four small groups, each two minutes apart, started their uphill trek.
9 Times 9 Minutes, 11.7 km, 690 Meters Climbing
The workout consisted of 9 times 9 minutes for the men and 9 times 8 minutes for the women, with varying recovery times. “This is still base training,” explained Assistant coach Mattias Nilsson. “We will do a couple of 4 hour cycling tours this week but more rollerskiing than cycling…and of course shooting and rollerskiing and some gym work.” That is, if there is any recovery on a narrow road that climbs 690 meters over 11.7 km at an average grade of 5.9%, with a couple of sections checking in at over 10%! The small flat sections through a couple of villages consisted of less than a few hundred meters total. Complicating the climb were numerous hairpin turns and a fairly steady stream of traffic, cyclists, a few hikers and even some cows that decided to cross the road just as a couple of the athletes approached. Pichler commented on this camp kickoff. “I have been coming here with teams since 2007 and we always do this.”
Cool at First, Then Shirts Off
Starting in the center of Le Grand Bornand, the site of BMW IBU World Cup 3 next season, as the group headed up the mountain, everyone was wearing a t-shirt in the comfortable 18 degree-temperature. After the first interval, the men quickly went shirtless and the women sported sports bras; the cool weather suddenly seemed much hotter as the sweat started to pour from their bodies. The three team vans hop scotched up the road, stopping to provide water, a bit of encouragement and a lactate check. The clusters of alpine style houses and small villages gave way to a more barren landscape above the tree line. With seven intervals completed, Pichler just as he does in the winter out on the tracks was encouraging his charges, “Just two more to the top!” With heads down, the lines of three of four continued to the seemingly very distant top of the pass.
“We Came for the Mountains!”
Two final long turns and the last 600 meter uphill straightaway loomed. Pichler and the rest of the staff clapped, “Bravo; great work!” as first, the women and then the men finished. Suddenly the shirtless and sports bra apparel seemed far from adequate; the temperature was now 9 degrees Celsius! Fredrik Lindstrom commented, “I think this was the hardest workout so far this season.” Sebastian Samuelsson, who could not stop sweating, added, “That was the longest climb, but the mountains are what we came here for!”
Great Place; Good Food
Pichler was quite pleased with his mostly young team. “This is a hard climb and they did a good job.” Continuing, he added, “This is a great place to train; the big mountains, good roads for cycling and rollerskiing, good weather, nice hotel and of course the good food.” Adding with a laugh, “That is really important, especially for the coaches!”
Next on the agenda: lunch of course, a nap, some rental bike fitting and from 4-7:30 pm, running shooting and some strength work in the gym.
Simple Range in a Cow Pasture
Although Le Grand Bornand is part of the BMW IBU World Cup circuit; its shooting range in the village is semi-permanent, so it is not available for summer training. Training is conducted at a small six-point range 8 km from the village at the Nordic Ski area that doubles in summer as cattle pastures (the cows were kept a very safe distance away). This was the most basic training on the slightly crooked manual targets; no one seemed concerned. With only six lanes, the group split with the men starting at 4 pm while the women were doing strength in the gym. For an hour and a half, the men leisurely ran up and down the farm lane into the forest and back to the range. Tourists from a nearby hotel curiously watched and even cheered a bit. A lady passed by her horse and the sun gradually shifted towards sundown. Running was a nice change of pace after the grueling uphill rollerski intervals. However when the allotted time was over, everyone seemed happy to jump into the van and head back to the hotel. The ladies arrived for their session on the shooting range which brought the men back to reality. One catch about the trip back to the hotel: the strength session awaited; the “good food” would have to wait until almost 8 pm.
After dinner, everyone could mark down five plus hours of training, and then get some much needed sleep before Camp Day 2 and more challenges…all on the Road to Pyeongchang.