By Teemu Virtanen
Since we are about to leave the old year behind and look upon the shiny new one, it makes sense to go back in time and dig deep into our great archives. This new Visma Ski Classics season started with a surprise as Øystein Pettersen, Team BN Bank, won the individual prologue and it seems that the man who is known as a “Sausage” in the cross-country ski circuit is back again. Hence, it is pertinent to look back to an interview with him three years ago when his victory in La Diagonela was only a year old feat and he was on the verge of another comeback. And his comments still sound very relevant and straight to the point! Here’s an edited version of that wonderful interview in the summer of 2016.
Øystein "Pølsa" Pettersen is back with vengeance – he has a new team and a new bag of tricks for Visma Ski Classics
“Hot dog” is his nickname and Lady Luck may not be a friend of his, but this smart wisecracker knows what it takes to be number one. Øystein Pettersen’s arm-wrestling with Mr. Destiny seems to fall in his favor as life looks good after a couple of challenging seasons. He now represents a new team and has a positive outlook on the business of long distance skiing, and that means he and his teammates are ready to climb to the top when the new Visma Ski Classics season starts in Pontresina, Switzerland, in the end of November.
September is just around the corner, and the winter is only a breath away as Visma Ski Classics pro athletes prepare for the longest season of the cup’s history. Øystein and Team BN Bank are eagerly awaiting the challenges that lay ahead of them, and why shouldn’t they since they feel proud to be part of the series and proud to give their best shot every time they dress up in their team race suits.
Here is Øystein "Pølsa" Pettersen in a mood for a little Q&A session for your pleasure:
1. What are your favorite Visma Ski Classics events and why?
“That’s a hard question, but I have to go with Vasaloppet. Because of the myth, the distance, the prestige, the glory, the ups and downs, and everything else that the race is associated with!”
2. Who are your toughest opponents? How much team tactics and strategies are going to be in play for you guys and in general?
“There are lots of opponents, and many of them are good enough to win. But we keep focusing on ourselves; how strong we are and how strong we can be. We don’t care what the others do and how strong they are. In terms of team tactics and talk of tactics, it’s hard to control a race. Tyson said that everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.”
3. Since your victory at La Diagonela in 2015, you have faced some challenges. How did you overcome them and how have you mentally prepared to be in the top again?
“I know how good I can be, so that’s no problem. Staying healthy, getting the work done, taking care of my family and making a team, that’s the real challenge. There are many skiers who can win, and I am one of them. Simen and Morten are there as well. But for myself, it is crucial to come up with the best plan ever in order to be able to fight against Dahl, Kjølstad, Eliassen and the rest of the gang.”
4. What does it take to be on the podium in today’s tough competition? What makes a great long distance skier?
“That’s impossible to answer, but I think that the level it takes to win a podium place in Visma Ski Classics today is much harder than yesterday. Most of the athletes are doing a great job and the level is increasing every day. A great long distance skier is made today, tomorrow and the day after. Week after week, year after year. Long hours on the road and on the tracks!”
5. You have been in the business for a long time. From a pro athlete’s perspective, how has XC-country skiing evolved over the years, in particular long distance skiing?
“I was actually discussing this with Østensen at Toppidrettsveka, when we competed there. It doesn’t feel like a long time ago when we were 20 and eager youngsters. Now we are among the oldest guys out there. But we hope Aukland never quits. About XC-country skiing, I think it is improving every day, and that’s because those young skiers in the front are pushing the limits. I love it”.
6. Double poling seems to be a hot potato at the moment. What’s your take on the technique; is it killing the “good-old” diagonal striding or is it the future of skiing?
“This on-going discussion is stupid. Diagonal striding will never die, because most people are not strong enough to double-pole their way in the forest. But in elite skiing, I think it will be less used. Do I find it sad? I think the best answer to that is to throw out a counter-question. Do we miss the “good, beautiful and old ski jumping technique?”
7. Generally speaking, how should Visma Ski Classics evolve and develop in the years to come?
“I focus on our team, my training and our results. The staff in Visma Ski Classics should focus on making the tour the best possible experience for everyone. When our team shows up, we will do our best to make the Ski Classics product as good as possible. I think so far the Visma Ski Classics staff has been doing a great job, and we are proud to be part of this tour.”
8. Finally, what made you become a cross-country skier and more precisely long distance skier?
“Cross-country skier is nothing you become. You either are or you are not a skier. I was lucky, I was a skier in birth and I still am! Why long distance? My first thought is to blame it on my age, but I instead answer by saying that it fits my everyday life the best. I get to do what I love and at the same time I can take care of the ones I love the most.”