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Ski stars at the Tour de France

Fri, Jul  24, 2009 - By FIS

The 96th edition of the Tour de France, underway since 4th July, has also cast its spell over many a ski star. During the first two and half weeks, several well-known FIS athletes have visited the Tour, the world's largest sporting event in terms of the number of spectators on site. Most of them left impressed by the well-organized event and the outstanding performances of the riders and many tips crossing over the discipline and sport borders.

For example, athletes of the U.S. Nordic Combined team, including world champions Todd Lodwick (who crashed into a car) and Billy Demong rode up the Cormet de Roselend on today's stage 17 from Bourg-Ste.-Maurice to Le Grand-Bornand as well as scaling the 2,000 meter crest of the Col de la Madeleine which is not part of the 2009 Tour.

"We're training in Courchevel for a mixture of ski jumping and some lower altitude speed work," Bill Demong said. "We also used the opportunity to ride our bikes on some of the Tour de France for a little bit. It is a great way to get some cross training and see the best cyclists in the world up close."

The Vice Junior World Champion in Cross-Country sprint Timo Andre Bakken from Norway, too, enjoyed the final climb of the 15th stage to Verbier (SUI), cheering for the riders together with his family and another 100'000 fans. Caroline Weibel and Emilie Vina from the French Cross-Country national team were at Le Grand-Bornand together with Stephane Vittoz who said he took some good tips with him back with him for the next La Clusaz World Cup. And 2006 downhill Olympic champion Antoine Dénériaz (FRA) was seen helping out the organizers at the stage in La Grand Boucle. He commented: "I have always cycled a lot for training," and displayed his strength on the bike in taking part in a public race on part of the Tour course. He added: "In sport, we speak the same language. The only thing that is different (between cycling and alpine ski racing) is the trajectories."

The cross-over also works in the opposite direction: The young German-Australian Heinrich Haussler, winner of the 13th stage from Vittel to Colmar in cold rain, commented: "Even if I was born in Australia where it is normally really hot, I like cold weather. Last winter, I trained much on Cross-Country skis and really enjoyed the long workouts in the snow. It was the perfect preparation for me.

Contributed by Sandra Spitz