By André Santos
The Czech Pro Teams in Visma Ski Classics are working hard to make long-distance skiing more popular than traditional skiing in the Czech Republic. After a summer of hard training and many popular competitions at home, they hope their performance inspires more people to go in for the sport.
After Jan Srail's victory at the Czech Roller-Ski Championships, Vltava Ski Fund Team gathered its athletes in Mallorca for a training camp. Training paths are getting the first snow in Central Europe, so this was a great time to travel in search of sunny conditions to continue the preparation for the upcoming Visma Ski Classics season.
"We trained five hours a day, sometimes doing long sessions with over 80 kilometers on roller-skis and 1800 vertical gain on the mountains. We trained a total amount of 30 hours, 500 kilometers and climbed more than 10,000 vertical meters", says Fábian Stocek to Pro XC Skiing.
This training camp is important for the Czech Pro Team because they have the ambition of being a stronger team next season. Jan Srail finished Toblach-Cortina and Jizerska Padesatka close to the top-20, and Fábian Stocek finished close to the top-30 at Macialonga and Jizerska Padesatka. So, the main goals for the upcoming season are to improve the overall ranking in general but to get better results in their home country race, Jizerska Padesatka.
"Jizerska Padesatka is the most known cross-country skiing event in the Czech Republic. Everybody knows what you are talking about when you say Jizerska 50,”says Fábian, also sharing some thoughts on the cross-country skiing movement in the Czech Republic.
"For a small country, in the Czech Republic, you can find many cross-country skiing events in the winter, and many roller-skiing events in the summer. Sometimes twice per weekend. Moreover, cross-country skiing courses are mandatory at middle and high school and all the Visma Ski Classics events are televised for free on the weekends. This shows how popular long-distance skiing is nowadays in the Czech Republic".
Fábian says that there is a special long-distance cup in the Czech Republic that shows a high interest in the sport, the Silvini Skiroll Classics. This cup is organized by another Czech Pro Team participating in the Visma Ski Classics circuit.
Marek Pazdersky is the director of both ED System Silvini Team and Silvini Skiroll Classics, and he also believes that long-distance skiing is more popular than traditional cross-country skiing. After a summer of hard training that, just like Vltava Ski Fund Team, has finished with a training camp in Mallorca, Marek tells Pro XC Skiing that he believes the team will be ready to show good results.
"This has been a summer of very hard training, so we hope everyone is well prepared when the season starts. Our athletes climbed mountains above 4,000 meters and Karolina Grohova even climbed an 8,000-meter mountain in Pakistan. Moreover, we have had four training camps so far,” says Marek.
Marek believes that with better performances next season, his team may be able to inspire even more Czech athletes to engage themselves with long-distance skiing.
"Long-distance skiing is more popular than traditional cross-country skiing. Every week, we have more than one popular race. And this happens both in winter and summer. During the roller-ski season, we have races that range from 10 to 60 kilometers, and we would like to welcome more international athletes in our cup.”
Despite the variety of long-distance skiing events in their country, Ed System Silvini Team has the Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour as its main objective, and most specifically, Vasaloppet and Jizerska Padesatka.
Ed System Silvini Team was the best Czech team, finishing in the 15th position, and the team's athlete Jiri Pliska was last season's best Czech athlete, with some top-20 finishes. The Pro Team didn't finish in 12th because they weren't able to start the last event of the circuit, so they are hoping that this winter they can finish eve