By Teemu Virtanen
Team XPND Fuel’s captain Tord Asle Gjerdalen, the guest of this week’s Orsa2Levi, is a three-time Marcialonga winner, two-time Visma Ski Classics Champion, a Legend in the Hall of Fame with his 11 stage wins, and the reigning king of Vasaloppet.
He is also an innovator in the world of skiing and known to the TV audiences around the world as Mr. Aviator due to his special sunglasses that he wears in every race.
But Gjerdalen is much more than just the image that has been presented to us, and he had a moment to spare with the Visma Ski Classics podcast to reveal something new about himself.
“I’ve done this for a long time, and I can’t say that I’m old since Anders Aukland is still going strong and pushing 50. There are some younger guys who like to show off and make a big deal out of it, but I just keep doing my own stuff,” Gjerdalen, 38, says about his longevity on the podcast.
Last season, Gjerdalen finished second after Emil Persson, Lager 157 Ski Team, in the Champion competition, and he has always been a skier who fights for the podium in almost every race. It may seem that Season XI was a smooth ride for him, but not everything went according to his plan.
“We had to change our plans a couple of times, re-think our strategies and do the best we could all the time. Last season started very intensively for me since I had my new team. For a small team like us, the Covid-19 restrictions for travel were much harder to manage. The middle part of the season with the Grand Classics events worked really well for me. Then, at the end, we had a pretty hard finish in Sweden. It was an interesting season, for sure.”
On the podcast, Gjerdalen also sheds some light on his new team and how it came about. He talks about his role as a skier and the team leader and what struggles he has faced coming from a big and successful Pro Team such as Team Ragde Eiendom (now Team Ragde Charge).
The second season as the leader of the gang will be much easier for Gjerdalen, and he is already setting his sights on the Champion title and some races that he has not been able to win yet.
“I’m still fighting for the yellow bib, and I see it very interesting. Marcialonga is a really cool race that I’d like to win once more, and Birken is a race that I haven’t won yet. So, I’m really looking forward to that one as well. And defending my Vasaloppet victory!”
Gjerdalen stepped into the long distance ski arena in Season V after a successful career in traditional skiing. He represented Norway at three Olympic Games and got two individual bronze medals at the World Championships and two relay gold medals. In his first Visma Ski Classics season, he was on the podium four times and won Marcialonga.
“I’ve always liked longer races, like 30 km and 50 km ones in regular skiing. But there are not that many of them at World Cup, and you have to qualify through shorter races. I like races that take two to three hours, especially when there’s fast pace from the beginning, you get really tired at the end. I like the feeling when you’ve used all your powers and there’s nothing left.”
Since becoming a professional long distance skier, Gjerdalen has always kept his eyes wide open for discovering new things. He introduced longer poles for double poling even if his teammates were somewhat against the idea. He also brought in new types of drinking belts to be used during races, and he is constantly looking for new ways to improve the sport and one’s performance. On the podcast, he tells the audience about these innovations and discoveries in a vivid way.
As always on Orsa2Levi, one of the discussion topics with Gjerdalen is training and how it has evolved for him over the years.
“It’s not easy to analyze training because some things may work well for me but not for my teammates. My training philosophy has changed over the years. In my youth and during the early part of my World Cup career, I was into alternative training, which meant a variety of training methods to ensure that your muscles wouldn’t get tired by the workload. Then towards the end of my World Cup career and after my transition to long distances, I started to specialize in longer distances and my training became more optimal for the demands of the sport. For the past two years, I’ve been more into the mentality of being ready for harder exercises as well.”
On the podcast, Gjerdalen goes deeper into his training methods and gives examples of the workouts that have worked well for him. But there is much more in Gjerdalen’s life than skiing and extensive training. He is a devoted father of two, an eight-year old son and a four-year old daughter, and he has been happily married for many years.
“Being a father is amazing. My kids give me a smile on my face. They can stay up all night, make some noise and shout out loud, but they’re a lot of fun. I’m often lying on the floor playing legos and dolls with them. Having kids gives an extra addition to life. And I met my wife at a party long before the days of Facebook, Tinder and social media. It was the look in her eyes that got me hooked. She is a nurse and works in shifts, and it’s really good that I can be flexible in my training hours.”
On the podcast, Gjerdalen also talks about his future plans after his skiing career, although he intends to go on as long as he can keep up his performance level. He will be around for years to come, but even after his retirement he will always be remembered as the one with the cool sunglasses.
“You should be brave enough to do your own thing. I’m not trying to be special just for the sake of being special. If something different suits you, stick with it no matter what others may think or say. Who cares?”
Orsa2Levi is now out on every possible platform, and you can also listen to it embedded with this article. This Saturday, a new episode will come out with a special guest Petter Eliassen who has announced his semi-comeback at Marcialonga representing Team Robinson Trentino.