Now that the Ski Classics Challengers race Lipnolopet, held in the Czech Republic, is approaching, ProXCskiing talked with one of the event organizers. Marek Pazderský, eD system Silvini Pro Team Director, spoke about this specific event and cross-country skiing in the Czech Republic, where the sport is getting more popular.
Do you think the Czech Pro Teams are getting more competitive and can challenge the Scandinavian dominance?
“It is said that the appetite grows with the food, and since we manage to improve our performance higher and higher every year, we are still very motivated to try to move a little bit further. Our team doesn’t have any professional skiers. The racers and the service team take time off from their jobs for the races, bringing great advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that they all do it with love and because they want to and are not bound by commitments or the need to win to make a living. The disadvantage is that we don’t have the space to focus or the chance to stay abroad between races and always must go back home immediately to work, negatively impacting our recovery process. Otherwise, we obviously try to be professional in terms of training or service approach. Czech teams would have to join to be competitive, and unfortunately, that is not possible; the egos of some are too high for a meaningful agreement. Even so, they would still be fighting for a 5-10th place in the overall team standings. Unfortunately, we don’t have strong enough competitors for a better position, and foreign competitors are too much of a burden on our budget. Now, even the Czech National Team has a weak budget, so it’s getting harder and harder for us to find new partners for the private teams.”
What is the popularity of cross-country skiing nowadays in the Czech Republic? And long-distance in specific?
“The popularity of this sport is growing every year. It became even more popular during Covid-19 when the slopes were closed, and people could only go cross-country skiing. It is a traditional sport in the Czech Republic. Long-distance skiing had its big boom, but Covid and the current energy crisis have easily stopped it. We can only hope that it can be restarted. In any case, the TV ratings are huge and, thanks to the fact that it is broadcasted on Czech public television in the Czech Republic, it far surpasses those of the World Cup. Young athletes want to ski, and that is a good sign. Unfortunately, in the Czech Republic, things are not at the level they are in Scandinavia, where young athletes directly target long runs. We are still only waiting for those who do not make it or end up in classic skiing. Even though the support of the Ski Association is not good in this respect, many coaches and managers see us as a big competition and try to make a mockery of long-distance skiing. I have been working hard for several years to change this situation.”
You have been organizing some rollerskiing races during the summer. How has it been this year?
“Our team organizes a sports camp every month, and for ten years, we have been organizing a series of rollerski races called EDS Skiroll Classics, which has about 10-14 races every year, and two races are organized by us. This year, unfortunately, we are having problems with the number of entries, like most organizers worldwide. We are feeling a 30% drop in starters at all events, which is sad and devastating for the organizing committee, as there are only around 100 competitors in the Czech Republic competing in rollerskiing events on average. The record was our race before the Covid (218 starters at the uphill to the mountain Jested). This year we still have the international championship on September 25 at the uphill from Jablonec via Bedřidchov (start Jizerská 50) to Královka and then the first Ski Classics Challengers event in the Czech Republic on October 8, Energamo Lipnolopet 55 km, where everyone is welcome.”
Speaking of Lipnolopet, can you describe the race and the environment around it to us? How many athletes are you expecting?
“Energamo Lipnolopet was put together with our member Luboš Krejza, who lives there and knows the location well. It has the necessary facilities for such an event. There is very beautiful nature and landscape, perfect for rollerskiing. Lots of flat land around our largest water reservoir Lipno, vast pastures and undulating terrain on the border with Austria, which used to be a no-go zone under communism, plus the mountains and the Šumava National Park. The whole area is also ideal for training camps, and there is plenty of water, beautiful secondary roads with smooth asphalt, lots of forest paths and hills, and plenty of accommodation and services. Depending on snow conditions, they also try extensive grooming in the winter, but unfortunately, it depends a lot on the amount of snow. Only a two-hour drive from the airport, 3 hours from Ramsau, if anyone wants to combine with glacier camp. So far, everyone who has ridden the course with me has been absolutely delighted and said that the course has everything, flat, sprint prize, a ride around a large dam, undulating terrain with a mountain prize, and finally, an incredible climb that has three levels and ends on St. Thomas, from where there is a beautiful view from the Alps. Considering this is the first year and the current economic situation, we are hoping for 100 competitors (65 were registered by the end of August). Still, our goal for the future is higher. We want to get to 300-500 competitors. I believe it will be so popular that we will bring a lot of racers from other countries.”
What could be done to make skiing even more popular in the Czech Republic?
“I think a lot is already being done. Sometimes we miss more snow like everywhere else. The last years only snowed in the mountains, and it is difficult to commute if you are not lucky enough to come directly from a resort. The Ski Classics and its increasingly popular broadcasts are a good way to motivate people to hit the slopes. I just miss a bit more support for the teams from central Europe, which would need a bit of a kick-up on the backside for better funding and better racers. This would make the competition more interesting. More and more Scandinavian teams are springing up, which is good. Still, nothing similar happens in central Europe, where teams tend to disappear or survive only through the dedication of ‘crazy’ directors. We still get compared a lot to cycling, and here I see a significant difference in the incentives for teams in skiing and cycling from promoters, TV, etc. Anyway, it’s good that Ski Classics has come into it and is slowly but surely taking over the reins of cross-country skiing, and we will try to continue to be a part of it.”
- Date: October 8, 2022
- Place: Frymburk
- Country: Czech Republic
- Race distance: 55km
- Technique: Classic
- Registration fee: 40 euros
- Registration: Registration
- Number of active years: 2
- Number of participants: 200
- Website: Lipnolopet
- Facebook: Lipnolopet
As Lipnolopet is a Ski Classics Challengers event, Pro Team registered athletes could collect points for the Ski Classics Champion and Youth competitions in their respective gender.
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Photo: EDS Skiroll Classics/Lipnolopet