The Story

In August 2013 the biggest mountain bike race in the world, The Birken, drew two Englishmen to Norway. The race was completed and they both were left in awe of the organisation and scale of the Birken event.

The Birken bike race is the summer cousin to the original winter ski event. Not long after returning to the UK a plan to return was hatched but this time not on 2 wheels but on skis. Apart from the obvious challenge of the 54km of cut cross country ski tracks which make up the Birken race there was another more pressing issue... neither of the mountain bikers had ever cross country skied.

Can two absolute novice skiers learn to master the technique of cross country skiing in time to complete the Birken Ski Marathon by March 2014 ? well there is only one way to find out ... the Zero to Hero challenge was born.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Happy Mondays - a perfect start to any week.

Zero to Hero ( Part 2 ) from Henry Iddon on Vimeo.

Short video of our second and final training camp on snow. After two days poor weather we had perfect conditions - Norway at it's best? Probably !

Friday, 21 February 2014

Peak of the Week (end)

After a challenging first day back on Norwegian snow we were hoping for an easier second day ... unfortunately like the Norwegian National XC Ski Team our tough times were not over on day one.

 Norwegian media had  a field day questioning why there was a lack of medals in XC skiing at Sochi.
Sunday morning greeted us with more of the same weather that had proved so challenging the previous day.  With limited time on our hands we affixed the British stiff upper lip and got back out in the snow.

                                           Lillehammer XC Stadium in heavy snow.

The days plan was to head back to the Olympic stadium just above Lillehammer for an hour or so in the morning then to head to Sjusjøen in the afternoon, where we hope a greater altitude would give us colder temperatures and better performing ski conditions.

As the day before no combination of wax gave us the grip / glide performance we had seen in perfect snow back in November.  The skis would glide with no grip or grip with no glide ... better to suffer these conditions now than on race day we hoped.
After an hour at the stadium and a lunch watching another Norwegian ski relay defeat we headed to Sjusjøen.  Conditions were poor with very limited visibility and the same issues with the skis.

                                         A near white out at Sjusjøen.

To make matters worse after stopping for a chat I pushed off but instead of gliding forward I simply pushed myself over forward to the sickening sound of an expensive SWIX pole snapping :(

                                         Well over 2m of snow at Sjusjøen - covering huts !

We continued to rack up a daily total of 24km ...

An evening of good food and wine with Torbjøen and partner Dise was reward for our toil in poor conditions.

All along all hopes had been pinned on Monday being a fantastic day ... in cross country ski terms that is blue skies and -5 to -10 temperatures ... Monday did not disappoint !

                                         Blue sky and freshly groomed tracks

Monday was a real test for myself and Henry as it would be the first time we were out on the tracks unsupervised, not only this but the days plan was to tackle the final descent form Sjusjøen to Lillehammer, the steepest part of the course !

The day was fantastic ... we had grip, glide and phenomenal views across the snow covered slopes with there heavily snow capped trees.  We headed back up the Birken course for 5km before we turned to make our way to Lillehammer.

Straight away as we left Sjusjøen the track got steep and luckily today my snowplough had returned so when Henry switched in to speed ski mode I maintained a more controlled approach and ploughed my way down the steeper part of the slopes.

As the skiing was pretty relaxed we subconsciously took a decision for more climbing and took a wrong turn as we neared the stadium at Lillehammer.  What should of been a gently rolling descent turned in to a roller coaster as we herringboned up some pretty steep slopes to be faced with, at one point, what looked like a ski jump we had to descend.

Arriving at the stadium, with another 25+km's under our belt, I think we were both now much more comfortable with completing the full course though come race day I am sure nerves will prevail.

                                         Recovery treat time at the stadium.

Bring on the Birken !!

                                          Heading home.

Huge thanks again to Jean Francois who though injured still orchestrated our whole training weekend and put us in touch with the excellent Torbjøen and Dise.  Thanks also to Jon from the Birken organisation for driving us on the Monday so we didn't have to face a large climb back to Sjusjøen.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Tough Day for Norway

So we're back in Norway for some on snow training - after flying in and picking up the Benz we headed up to Lillehammer.

The weekend was set to be a big one for Norwegian XC skiing - with the relay events taking place in Sochi and National pride at stake !  It was also an important one for us as we needed some time on snow.

As if the challenge of limited time on snow wasn't enough our mentor Jean Francois had sustained a skiing injury the week prior to our arrival.  Jean Francois was able to draft in a substitute ... Torbjøen ... a multi time Birken finisher and wax guru.

The forecast was for high wind, fresh snow and temperatures around or just above freezing - the most challenging conditions for XC ski waxing. We headed up to the Lillehammer XC stadium, home for events at the 1994 Olympics,  to get some sheltered skiing.

After prepping the skis headed out on the trail. As the wind buffeted us and big flakes of 'wet' snow fell obliterating the freshly cut tracks it soon became apparent that we'd got the waxing wrong. And so had virtually everyone else we spoke to.  Instead of trying fix things on location it was decided that we head back to Torbøen's house (His house was part of the athletes village for Lillehammer 1994 winter games) for some early lunch, watch the women's Olympic relay and get the ski prep dialed.

A great race was won by Sweden with Norway having a tech disaster, getting their ski prep wrong - finishing 5th. The TV pundits were having a field day blaming wax and skis.

With our skis getting the relevant treatment on the bench we headed out for a challenging 18km circuit - fresh snow around or just above freezing, still strong winds and so much snow the tracks were getting covered. By all accounts is was as tough as conditions can get.

Next up a shower and more tmrw