Now it’s official. It will be three French Pro Teams for Ski Classics Season XV! Proxcskiing.com talked with Marc Desseux, Pro Team Director of Féclaz Formation Longue Distance, to know more about the Pro Team.
Can you tell us about the Team Féclaz Formation Longue Distance and the Team’s history?
“The Team was created three years ago. We have a double axis: train young athletes both on traditional distances and introduce them to long-distance racing, initially in France. This project has made good progress, and even if it remains at the heart of the project, the youngest athletes have now gained experience. We want to introduce the oldest and most successful athletes to the highest level. That means offering them the possibility to discover Ski Classics.”
Will you compete only in Ski Classics with those athletes?
“We’re open-minded about the circuit and still discovering things. We want to perform, but we need to learn. We will not be on all the stages but on 5 to 7 races with 5 or 6 athletes every time. The idea will be to perform and to be in the top 20 for the women and the top 30 for the men. We will also take this first year as a learning year.”
“We still don’t know the circuit well enough to have a specific goal. The mechanics of the points, the level of the athletes, the level of the circuit, etc.”
Will you also compete in the Ski Classics Challengers events?
“Yes, we will do some, but mostly in France. We want to perform in France’s biggest long-distance races, such as Marathon de Bessans and La Transju. But we will also probably compete in the biggest skating races with some athletes that are more into skating. We will go to the Engadin Ski Marathon to try to win, as last year with Arnaud Chautemps.”
How is the Team preparation going, and do you plan to race on roller skis before the winter season?
“The plan is to do nine training camps before the winter. We have already done two of them and are starting the third one this week in the Jura Mountains. Some of the youngest will compete in France at the end of August while others from the elite Team will go to Alliansloppet in Sweden.”
There are now three French Teams in the Pro Tour (Team Nordic Expérience, Team Vercors Isère, and Féclaz Formation Longue Distance). Do you think that is a sign that long-distance skiing is growing in France?
“I think this is due to two factors. First, the federation situation, with a smaller budget and an even more restrictive Team. That pushes the Teams to think about how to follow and help the youngest in their projects. And on the other hand, we see that Ski Classics is growing more and more, the Tour is becoming even more professional, and we have to be on the Tour and help athletes to perform. As Teams, we have to take this turn.”
“For me, that is a good thing. That’s going to pull everyone upwards.”
What are the biggest challenges of being a Ski Classics Pro Team?
“The first challenge will be the financial part. We have sponsors, but we want to make our budget grow to be able to compete in all the races of the Pro Tour. Now we can go on half of the stages. If we are looking at the long-term projects, we want to be able to have more power, offer better conditions to the athletes, and compete on the whole Ski Classics season.”
“The other challenge will be to improve the double poling skills of our athletes. The Team has already taken this turn since we are working a lot on the upper body with our athletes. We must go further and discover this race pace that everyone describes as super fast.”
“Then we have to deal with all the logistical parts of the races that we don’t know. It will be a challenge to be able to provide the best service possible to the athletes.”
What are the strengths and the developing axis of the Team?
“Our biggest strength is to have this younger and elite Team inside the Féclaz Formation Longue Distance. The youngest will be our future top athletes. In the Team, we have 20-year-old athletes that are already interested in long-distance skiing and double poling. We will potentially bring them to one or two stages to let them discover the Ski Classics Pro Tour.”
“On the other side, we have to work to find more finances. Cross-country skiing in France doesn’t get much media coverage, so our sponsors are passionate about skiing but don’t have the same finances as we can see in other sports.”
“But even with that, we have reinforced our staff with three coaches this year. We want to grow and gain more power in the middle and long term.”
Top Photo: Elohann Magini