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.

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

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