Saturday, January 5, 2002 - Coaching
Coache's Perspective: X-C Sprint Racing

By: Matthias Ahrens

Has Sprint racing created new excitement? I think not quite yet. Why?

The sprint is still too long (1500m for Seniors, 1000m for Juniors), some hills are too steep and high (up to 50m height difference) and the classic technique is completely unsuitable.

Due to the race profile and length we can compare the lactate level to a middle-distance run in track& field. With the only difference that a XC-skier has to do it 4 times.

This means that the lactate level 30 min. after a sprint heat is still between 5-6 mmol/l, which is about the level a 50 km race is done at. The sprinter will start unrecovered, this is maybe the reason why we still do not see true sprinters, but XC- skiers who need 10,000km and 900 hours of training to tolerate 4 heats of 1500 m. Of course not to ski them fast, but to manage to survive to the end.

Also, the classic ski sprint is not suitable, since it does not allow for spectacular sprint finishes. Whoever gets in front on a downhill or in a turn is hard to catch in a double poling fight, were the poling difference is usually minimal. A uphill finish would help, but which stadium has that?

It looks like the FIS might react to these problems and will shorten the distance.

The sprints could become more exciting with a faster pace and more fights towards the finish.

Also a more technical profile with corners, turns, bumps, maybe even jumps could provide a more challenging venue for the more technical skilled skier and more excitement for the spectator.

And we would see new explosive athletes, who would push the endurance athletes out of this discipline. Whether this is wanted, is another question, but then what do we need sprints for?

In general it is nice to see that, finally, new competition formats (i.e. skiduathlon, etc) are tried and maybe its not too late yet to get the XC- jazz going.

Overall, have fun!

Matthias Ahrens is the head coach for the Canmore Nordic Ski Club, as well as the distributor of Cerax waxes. Are you a coach who would like to share your opinion? Please send your articles to

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