Team Vercors Isère is one of the 35 Pro Teams for Ski Classics Season XV. The French Pro Team is a new squad on the Pro Tour, but they are already well known in France since they are the oldest French Ski Team. Get to know the Team with Rémi Salacroup, coach and Pro Team Director.
To begin with, can you tell us a bit about the Team and its history?
“Team Vercors Isère is the oldest Team in France. It was created in 1998, so it’s the 25th anniversary this year. We always had a double goal: help the traditional cross-country skiers return to the World Cup and perform and win long-distance races, in France, as a first step.”
“We have been organized this way since the beginning. The idea now is to be open more internationally by going to Ski Classics while maintaining performances in France. We know that Ski Classics is now the unmissable Tour if we want to perform internationally.”
What are the ambitions for the first winter as a Pro Team?
“We have a double ambition: for the whole Team, the focus will be on France. Inside the Team, there are some groups. One with the athletes that are part of the French Ski Federation, one where the athletes are trying to return to the European or World Cup, and one where the focus is on long-distance skiing, skating, and classic.”
“Inside this group, there will be more Ski Classics. We don’t have a specific target in terms of performance and places; the aim is to get there and succeed in a few years. We must be realistic; we can’t perform in Ski Classics in the first year. If we need to give precise figures, the goal is to be top 20 for women and 30 for men.”
“The main goal is to learn how to perform in Ski Classics. Because being in the top 30 in Ski Classics brings no visibility for our Team. So, the goal is not to be visible in Ski Classics already this winter but to learn how to perform to be visible in a few years.”
“Our Team is polyvalent: we are not racing only in Ski Classics. We will also be in France to win races on the French Tour. The goal is to go to Ski Classics in a structured way, and it takes work to perform both in a skating and classic Tour. We want to stay polyvalent, it’s one of our strengths, but it will be interesting to go to Ski Classics.”
How many men and women are you planning to register?
“I don’t know yet exactly, but we are sure two women and three men will be in the Pro Team. We haven’t decided on the strategy yet. The only thing I am sure about is that this small group of two women and three men will be permanent.”
Is there any race in particular that you are looking for?
“Yes, the Pro Team Tempo: the idea of racing for a team is wonderful. We are looking to present our Team during this race. The Pro Team Tempo is an innovative concept, and for that, Ski Classics is great because they are trying to reinvent themselves every year.”
“Then, during the winter, Birkebeinerrennet is the one we are looking forward to. It’s one of the four Grand Classics races, and we look forward to it.”
Is there someone who will fight for a bib competition?
“The idea is to do two races at the beginning of December and then one per month. The real goal this year is to learn. Now we will not be on the Tour to race for the bibs.”
What’s the main challenge of being part of the Ski Classics Pro Tour?
“The main challenge is that today it’s a high level to perform, and it will be hard to be at the top level and even just be at the level asked. That also means being at the top Teams level in logistics and staff.”
“We can see that in terms of logistics and staff, we have to provide the same level as in the World Cup. Today the French Teams are not able to provide that. We must reach the same level with lower finances. The biggest challenge is providing a logistical and technical level to the athletes that will allow them to perform with a budget ten times lower than the big teams.”
“For the long term, we are dreaming about skating in Ski Classics. Cross-country skiing is classic, and skating. We hope for an evolution and one day see the biggest skating races as Engadin, Transju, or American Birkie inside the Pro Tour. It would be a new challenge for all, and we’d find our way around it.”
How is the current summer season training going? Are you racing roller ski races this summer?
“We will compete at the Blink Festival. We can see that there is an evolution in the training methods. We have to compete more than only during the four winter months to progress. The Blink Festival will be super important for us, even if it will be inside a training phase. Then the French roller ski Championships will be important for us as well. Those are the biggest goals during the summer.”
“We will also compete for 3000 meters in track and field to finish a running block. Some of the athletes will also go to the Dupaski Festival. It’s early races, so it’s not a big summer goal.”
“Regarding the training, we will go to altitude during the autumn for some training camp to help our body adapt to the beginning of the season. For example, we will be in altitude every three weeks in Font Romeu and Bessans. We are staying in France to minimize our financial and logistic impact and have shorter traveling times.”
To finish, please tell us about the Team’s strengths and what you need to develop to be a top Pro Team.
“Our strengths are that we are working with the personality of our Team. We have a sense of locality on our Team. To be part of Team Vercors, you must have a license in a ski club in Dauphiné for more than one year. This is stability: other French Teams are disappearing and reappearing, changing their names. Our Team’s name changed three times in 25 years, so it’s real stability.”
“We have to manage to put in place training and performances that align with what we’re looking for, and sometimes that’s difficult. We have high hopes, and sometimes putting everything in place is complicated. There are 14 athletes on the Team and one coach. The first problem is the need for more human resources. Our strong point is that we have an excellent atmosphere in the Team. Everyone is friends and ski colleagues, which helps us push each other up.”
Stayed tuned on proxcskiing.com to more info about the Pro Teams.
Top Photo: Nils Loona