By Teemu Virtanen
This weekend, Visma Ski Classics pro teams and athletes have a well-deserved break from racing, although some skiers are going to participate in various races outside of our tour just to keep themselves in racing shape. As we are now taking a breath, it is a good time to dig into our library of content and pull out a “classic” again from our archives.
Team Serneke was the surprise team last season with some really good results, and even two years ago they were titled the rising team of Visma Ski Classics. This season has been much more challenging, but there is still time left for Martin Holmstrand’s gang. Vasaloppet is coming, and last season Team Serneke was very successful in the longest ski race of our tour as Bob Impola finished second and Sara Lindborg 5th (not racing anymore).
Let’s go back in time and re-publish an article I wrote in the summer of 2017 when Team Serneke and Martin Holmstrand were optimistically looking forward to the new season, which turned out to be a great one for the team. As the article and Martin’s interview are quite long, you can enjoy this weekend special in two parts.
TEAM SERNEKE – THE RISING STARS OF VISMA SKI CLASSICS (2017)
Each Visma Ski Classics season brings along unexpected events, big surprises, a bit of drama and new heroes who are hungry for success. Last winter, there were 28 teams competing for the glory and their place in the sun in the long distance ski series. While Team Santander seems to be basking in the limelight after every season, there is a lot of affirmative action taking place behind the number one team.
Lager 157 Ski Team from Sweden managed to take home the second spot in the overall team competition right before Team United Bakeries, which really did not have the greatest season last winter. Team LeasePlan, now defunct, finished fourth under the leadership of Thomas Aalsgaard, the true legend of Nordic skiing. Another new Norwegian team, BN Bank, injected some humor and positive attitude into the proceedings, but that was expected from the team that has a man nicknamed a sausage holding the reins, Öystein “Pölsa” Pettersen.
All these top five teams were quite expected to be in the top of the food chain, but the first true surprise came in the form of a young Swedish team that goes by the name of Team Serneke. Most of the skiers in the team were born in the era of trashy Euro-dance-pop and grunge rock led by Nirvana. Music preferences aside, these 90s kids entered the scene without fear, judgment or prejudice, and they were willing to push the envelope and play by their own rules. It paid off and they walked away with a few podium places and the sixth place in the overall team results (Sara Lingborg was 3rd in five races including Vasaloppet and Marcialonga, Oskar Kardin was 3rd in Årefjällsloppet).
Despite the great success, the team is still relatively inexperienced and somewhat uneven performances marked their first season in the big league, e.g. Bob Impola was 5th in Sgambeda and 13th in Vasaloppet and 12th in Vasaloppet China, 31st in La Diagonela but was in the north side of top 40 in the rest of the races. But this is something that the team leader Martin Holmstrand is ready to tackle and make sure that the Season VIII will be even stronger for his youthful team. So, let’s meet the man guiding his team to the podium and promising us that Team Serneke will be among the giants come the season number eight.
1. Can you tell me about the origin of the team - how did it come about?
“My background is in sport events and sponsorship; finding the link between sports and business. That led me to be in contact with Ola, the founder and CEO of our current main sponsor. We met for the first time in one of the Swedish long distance races, which I happened to oversee. In my mind, I’ve had a plan to put together a team for the longest time, and when meeting with Ola, the occasion presented itself and we moved ahead with the idea.”
2. When looking back on the last season, how would you summerize it? What were the biggest surprises and your team's ups & downs?
“The first year with the team was beyond my expectation. Many had probably expected me to bring in more famous skiers, but I was convinced that the guys in the team had great potential. It was therefore very nice that my faith in them bore fruit. Sara Lindborg also had her best long distance season so far, but it was quite expected because of her previous success and high level performances in traditional distances. Bob Impola’s breakthrough and Sara Lindborg's performance in Sgambeda were both very important for the whole team as it gave us success immediately. Oskar Kardin's podium place in Åre was really icing on the cake for the past season. Actually, the only really bad moment took place in Jizerska where we gambled on our waxing choices. We became overly confident because we had spent the whole week in the area.”
3. What are your expectations for the Season VIII? And how do you prepare your team to meet those expectations?
“Our primary goal is to be able to perform at the absolute top level. We value individual top performances higher than, for example, the team competition. I feel that we have already raised the bar in our training camps, and everyone in the team is in better shape at this time of the year than they were in last summer.”
4. What are the strengths & weaknesses of your team - what do you need to work on to make your team one of the best?
“Our strength is the fact that every athlete has a very high capacity but the challenge lies in being able to become more stable and being able to perform well throughout the entire season. Of course, the continuously high quality workouts that we keep doing in our summer and fall training programs is the way to success.”
5. That being said, what kind of a training program do you have for your team (training camps, roller ski races, etc.)?
“This summer, we will focus on the Guide World Classic Tour on roller skis. It’s a great platform to get feedback and see how well we can do against our strongest competitors. When we have our training camps, we try to keep continuity in everything we do. We’re not big on one-off workouts as they don’t really develop the qualities needed for building up endurance and shape for the winter.”
6. What are your training principles? What are the key elements in training well for long distance skiing?
“If you are a good long distance skier, you know that you have the capacity and needed endurance for the sport. I’m not a firm believer in doing extensive double-poling as I think it can hamper your overall development. Diversity is the key in my opinion and focusing on areas that each athlete needs improve on. It goes without saying that to do well in Visma Ski Classics, you need to train double-poling, but there’s a limit to everything!”
To be continued tomorrow....