Royal Palace: Coolest of all Sprints

Andy takes us through a day of World Cup city sprinting in Stockholm! 

City sprints are some of the most exciting and enjoyable races on the World Cup. The idea of bringing skiing to the people and to higher populated areas has always been appealing to me. I love the sound of the spectator’s cheers echoing down the city streets and the scrappy head to head racing on narrow courses. This past Thursday we raced in Stockholm Sweden one of my all time favorite venues for a number of reasons.

Stockholm was my first world cup start back in 2004 and since then has had a special place in my heart.  It was my first exposure to racing the best in the world, the first time I got to see what it might be like to stand on a World Cup podium.  Over the years I have raced hundreds of other World Cup venues but none are as unique as Stockholm.

Maybe it’s because it’s the only sprint in the World where you get to race in front of a Royal Palace! That’s pretty epic, the surrounding buildings and the water make for one of the most scenic venues for a race. The main uphill in the race actually brings the skiers up the steps of the Palace and finishes right at the font entrance with the King and Queen watching. Since there are no ski trails near by we warm up by bounding up and down the old cobble stone streets, trying not to get our ski poles stuck between the stones (which is actually pretty tough)

At last week’s race we saw typical city sprint conditions with soft slushy snow laid down in front of the Palace. There were actually quite a few rocks mixed in which made ski testing the day before a bit dicey, and the soft tracks made for some tricky klister skiing. It’s always a delicate balance in the Stockholm sprint to find skis that are fast enough on the flat section of the course but will also grip enough up the final climb to the finish.

On race day the scene was as hectic as ever with many of the guys trying to test classic skis and double poling in the small window before the course closed. With just 20 or 30 minutes available it can be stressful making those last minute decisions. In the end I chose to use classic wax in the qualification, which was a tiny bit slower but a safer bet for me. Unfortunately in the quarterfinals it wasn’t so cut and dry.

Andy coming out of the gates in Stockholm (Caitlin Patterson photo)
Andy coming out of the gates in Stockholm (Caitlin Patterson photo)

At races like Stockholm sometimes the conditions can be just so that double poling and striding can each have their advantages depending on who is in your heat. And sometimes the call can be seriously last minute (like down to the minute before we are called to the line) This was the case in my quarterfinal and I chose to use classic skis as we were being called to the gates in order to match up with the other top skiers in my heat.

In the end it didn’t work out so great… it’s always easy to look back on these decisions in hind sight and imagine you could have made the wrong call but that is the beauty of city sprinting.

Initially instances like that can be frustrating, but after the smoke has cleared I find it’s easier to embrace them for what they are. It’s such a unique style of racing and a very unique position to be in you can’t help but find it more exciting than anything else. I think Stockholm will always remain one of my favorite races to be a part of.

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