ALL AROUND CENTRAL EUROPE (Oct. 5) – Bikes, beaches and skiing, oh my! Billy Demong led the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team around central Europe for a three stop adventure. On the journey the crew crossed paths with heaps of bikers, a lack of sand and of course some time on the ski jumping hill and roller skis.
First stop for the Team was Predazzo, where the athletes and coaches enjoyed sunny skies. Predazzo, a small northern Italian town located in the Dolomites with an abundance of ski history, is home to Team wax technician Paolo Bernardi and to past stages of the Tour di Via Italia bike race. During their stay at the 2013 Nordic World Championships site, the crew's daily routine was regimented with interval training, ski jumping and a time trial, won by Bryan Fletcher.
Billy Demong and Taylor Fletcher race up the hill side-by-side. (U.S. Ski Team/Dave Jarrett)
"There are tons of cyclists all along the roads that have been used in the past for the Tour di Via Italia, the big Italian stage race," explained Hendrickson. "It's cool to be able to go through those places and at least drive what you see in all those bike races."
"I did a little bit of cycling while I was over there, which is also a little bit of training but a chance to see the country side," said Demong. "One day I road with my coaches, Dave [Jarrett] and Chris [Gilbertson], and we did some of the famous Ruggiero climbs, the Pazzo Pellegrino, the Pazzo de Rolle and the Piazza del Valle."
Changing stations, the Team packed their gear to head to Kranj, with hundreds of para-gliders soaring off the mountains in the rearview mirror as they drove out of Predazzo. Kranj, as Hendrickson describes it is "like going back in time," but with a nice hotel, a HS105 ski jump and a cross country ski track nearby, it provides and is conducive for high intensity and volume training.
"It’s an awesome hill, there's always head wind, it's just really good to train on," said Hendrickson. "Then not too far away up in the National Forest, there's a little roller ski track, so we went up there and roller skied and did some intervals for a day."
With European countries bordering each other like the states in the U.S., the group decided to take a road trip during the one and only afternoon off from ski jump training and made the hour and half trip to Croatia.
"We went and tried to find a beach but found out all the beaches in northern Croatia are concrete," said Demong. "There's a ton of people out sun tanning and swimming and they're lying on concrete. There's definitely no sand."
With Kranj disappearing from their view, the athletes and coaches moved camp to Ramasau, the place to be if you are a nordic skier. A well known stop for national teams, the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team was in good company with Sweden's national team as well as top ranked individuals who have made Ramasau their summer home base.
"You're always seeing other roller skiers out training, doing intervals and time trials," said Hendrickson." There are a lot of places you can go and test yourself."
Test themselves is exactly what the Team did during the two-week stay in Central Europe. From ski jumping to time trials, from biking to beaches, the athletes pushed themselves to the limit.
"For us to go to Europe, we have an opportunity to not only work on our cross country side with intensity," said Demong. "But because of the proximity to so many hills, we're also able to do quite a bit of summer jumping at low altitude on a variety of hills. In this case it was Predazzo, Kranj and Ramasau."
Next, the Team travels to Lake Placid, NY. The group, aside from training, will be participating in ski jumping competitions and the annual roller ski Climb to the Castle five mile race up the Whiteface Mountain Toll Road to the fifth highest peak in New York.