By Teemu Virtanen
This is the second part of this week’s Weekend Classic story from the archives. This two-part article is about the Aukland brothers’ pro team, now called Team Ragde Eiendom and previously Team Santander. This article appeared in the fall of 2017, and yesterday you had a chance to read about the team’s director Magnar Dalen’s thoughts right before the Season XIII started. Today, you can get into Jørgen Aukland’s mind and find out how he felt after retiring from active skiing and taking the driver’s seat in the team’s management.
Before wrapping this article up, we should spend a moment with the true winner whose name has been mentioned in the paragraphs of this written rendition of the achievements of the greatest team in long distance skiing. But for your reading pleasure, it may be convenient to change the format from a traditional article style to a one-on-one Q&A set-up. So without further ado, my dear Nordic skiing friends, let’s put Jørgen Aukland in the spotlight and let him tell us what he has in mind in the eve of the new season.
1. The summer is over and the always important fall season is starting. How did the training go for your team over the summer and did your team come up with anything new training-wise to keep up the motivation?
The training is going well. We have competed in some roller ski races and also in running races. No big injuries and lots of motivation! Tord Asle is getting used to having two children, a big change for him. Luckily, he will get good tips from the older men in the team…Some are picking up swimming, like Anders. He has tried some Swim Run training.
2.There are about three months before the season starts. How is your team going to maximize the fall season in order to be in the best possible shape come winter?
The fall season is important. Train well, but not pushing too hard. We do not want to be in the best shape in September and October. We are going to train a lot in Livingo, as we have a new cooperation deal with Livigno Alpen Village Hotel. That will be our base during the fall and the winter. It’ll help us to maximize the training impact.
3. You've had some changes in the team for this season. Can you share a word about them? And a word about your team in general as they are getting ready for the new season? And your brother - how on earth can he be that good at that age and keep going?
We wanted to give a Norwegian girl the chance to reach the top in Visma Ski Classics. Kari has the talent and ambition. I hope she will challenge Britta and Smutna for the victories in some races! We also lost Jens Eriksson, but there’s a new Swede in the team, the young and talented Oskar Kardin. We hope he will be the next Swedish winner of Vasaloppet! Anders is still going strong, training not so many hours but hard as hell. He knows what to do and how to be in shape at the right time. Now, he also has a personal blog where he shares information about training and stuff. Every day, no secrets!
(Anders Aukland’s online blog can be found at https://auklandmetoden.no)
4. Running a team is a challenging job, I assume. How is it going for you right now as this is your second year behind-the-scenes sharing duties with Magnar? And what really makes a great team?
We learned a lot last year. Magnar is always the hands-on-guy for the team. He takes care of all training camps and races. I will work more with our sponsors and media. I’ll join him in some of the big ones like Marcialonga and Vasaloppet. Not as a racer, but testing skis, serving skiers and so on. Together Magnar and I have tons of experience ranging from his leadership skills to my years as a racer. We both know what we want and what the athletes in the team need in order to win. And we got the PASSION for the sport! What really makes a great team; trust, dedication, respect, talent, communication and lots of fun and big smiles!
5. Long distance skiing as an organized professional sport is still relatively new, Visma Ski Classics is now heading for its 8th year, and each season brings something new. What are you expecting from 2018?
I expect a close battle for all jerseys. The new rules for getting points present an interesting challenge. We aim for the yellow, sprint, youth and team jerseys, so we have to be sharp from the start. Last year was amazing, but if better is possible, good is not enough….*
*(Author’s note: Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote)
6. In our previous articles, we've discussed about double-poling, you being one of the torchbearers of that particular technique, but last year was the first one with pole regulations. When you look at the evolution of double-poling based on your long experience and the recent developments, where is it heading towards and how should we approach it (pro skiers, FIS, amateurs, etc.)?
I think that double poling is still developing, and we will start seeing young guys taking some big steps. I don’t like regulations that are trying to stop a sport from its natural development. I think the big question is whether we will only have skating in the future or can classic survive.
7. Visma Ski Classics is also in a constant development; a new hill climbing competition has been introduced, rules & regulations have been refined and Finland is now part of the tour (the finale will be Ylläs-Levi again) and there's always something new cooking. From your perspective, what do you want to see taking shape in VSC and why?
As I have said before, I would like some skating races in VSC. Now we see that some teams are focusing on the FIS Marathon Cup, and the sport is too small to be divided. I would also expect to see some old or young biathlon superstars from Germany double poling and skating in VSC if we had some skating races in the mix. We need to pull in the same direction.
8. What about long distance skiing in general - what should we do in order to ensure that our sport stays popular and can expand to other markets?
I think VSC is heading the right way, and lots of good things are going on! But we could improve the TV show. Maybe send a 30 minute recap from the first two hours of a race, then broadcast the last hour live. More behind the scenes footage, and all teams must “play the game”, like go for different jerseys, have a girl on the team, take some action during a race! We can’t complain if we don’t put on a show.
9. There is a lot of talk about the Norwegian dominance in cross-country skiing, which is reflective in VSC as well, but what should we, teams and skiers from other countries, learn from you guys so that we could even up the competition?
Train like hell, train together, think about development and give it some time. Don’t focus on the details, go for the big picture.
10. Lastly, you still keep yourself fit and you did the Nattvasan (the Vasaloppet’s nigh race) race last season. Do you have any plans to do something similar for this season as well?
I have learnt that what you spent years on building up goes away pretty fast… But I spend a lot of time on my surf-skis paddling in wind and waves. I also do some long swim run sessions/ open water swimming. I have no plans for competitions, just small adventures so that I can eat ice cream every day without getting too fat to double pole the Cascata Hill.
Thank you Jørgen for these great words! We will certainly have some ice cream in Cavalese after Marcialonga. And we will work on the show business aspect to make this sport a fun spectacle for everyone involved. As a matter of fact, a little bit of Hollywood glamour won’t hurt us – so, where is the red carpet with sparkly spotlights and shiny stars? Bring on the dancing girls and keep the camera rolling as the Oscar goes to….!