By Teemu Virtanen
On Saturday, Visma Ski Classics saw yet another new face on the highest podium place when Russian Winter Team’s Ermil Vokuev won La Venosta. This 27-year old Pro Skier is not an unknown player in the game as he has been 4th in three Pro Tour races in the past; Jizerska Padesatka in 2017, Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in 2018 and Birkebeinerrennet in 2018. He has also managed to be 7th twice; Marcialonga in 2018 and Ylläs-Levi in 2019.
His victory this weekend may have been a surprise to some, but the two other podium skiers Petter Eliassen, Team Ragde Eiendom, and Morten Eide Pedersen, Team Kaffebryggeriet, admitted after the race that they knew about Ermil’s great shape since he has performed really well at the Eastern European Cup this season.
But who is this Russian athlete and what makes him tick? Let’s give him an opportunity to tell us a bit about himself and his goals for this season. To start things off, he says that his victory was a great step forward not just for him but for his new team as well.
His team director Andrey Tyuterev is keen to point out that Russian Winter Team is a mix of experience and youth, and their goal is to strive for an atmosphere of a large family where more experienced ones show how and what to do at international events, and young and talented newcomers have a chance to race with strong athletes from around the world.
But now it’s time to go back to La Venosta and ask Ermil about the race this Saturday.
“It was fast and there was a lot of hassle. I have not done that many mass start races this year, and I forgot that this is really a contact sport.”
Then, what about his personal goals for this Visma Ski Classics season after his victory?
“My original goal was to enter the top three this season, and I was able to exceed that task early on. Now, my plan is to take part in another 3-4 races and see if I can keep up the winning spirit.”
As we don’t know much about this young skier, it would be great to hear his story – how did he become a member of his team?
“I watched Visma Ski Classics on TV for a long time, but I used to be in the Russian National team and couldn’t participate in any long distance ski races. Back then, I had other goals, but in 2017, one of the team members suggested that I should start at Jizerska 50, and I decided to give it a go. My debut was successful and unexpected both for me and for the team. From that moment onwards, I became a member of the team.”
When Ermil is asked about his strengths as a skier, he is quick to reply that heavy climbs suit him best. So, it goes without saying that muscle strength with power is his strong suit. He says that long ski workouts in Norway with endless tracks and winter scenery around are his best training moments. Therefore, it is quite expected that Birkebeinerrennet is his favorite event.
“Birken has a great course, wonderful nature and long climbs. The atmosphere there is unbelievable, and the 3,5 kg backpack gives it an extra punch.”
Ermil seems to be in great shape right now, but how did his dry-land training season progress?
“The preparation for this season went well and I had no hick-ups. I had both high altitude training camps and ski tunnel sessions, and all that thanks to our team. I was able to undertake many good long double-poling workouts during the summer and fall.”
We will certainly see Ermil at Kaiser Maximilian Lauf on January 11 next month, but he is also planning to go to China for the local Vasaloppet race around the turn of the year if he can sort out the travel arrangements.
Finally, how is the winner of La Venosta going to spend his holiday break before those two races?
“I will celebrate Christmas at home with my family, and perhaps New Year as well if I don’t go to China.”
Indeed, peaceful and quite time with the loved ones is in the cards for our Pro Skiers, and they certainly deserve it. Now, they can take a breather from racing and prepare themselves for the epic five-weekend challenge in January and early February.