Letter from IAWLS to Worldloppet
In our previous letters to WL, March 2000 and March 2001, we presented a number of proposals for improving the WL races. We are glad to state that several improvements have been adopted or are underway. Apart from the use of snow guns which is a heavy investment that probably cannot be afforded by the ” smaller ” races before a number of years, most of the proposed improvements are easy to implement and will make the races much more ” user-friendly “. In the following we discuss four issues.
In our March 2001 letter we introduced the new motto
Everybody must be allowed to ski at his/her own pace which should be satisfied by all WL races. This motto seems irrefutable but it is so important that we will discuss some further aspects of the problem hereafter.
- The WL Statutes state : “In order to keep a consistently high standard and uniformity in cross-country skiing, the member races will recognize and honor FIS rules… “. The FIS Guide for the Organizers of Long Distance Popular Cross-Country Ski Races stipulates : ” The start area must be wide enough to accommodate the anticipated number of participants, to give each of them a fair and equal chance, and to enable the start to take place smoothly. The start should gradually narrow to the width of the course over a distance sufficient in length to allow competitors to spread out before entering the tracks and without creating bottlenecks “.
We wrote to WL in our March 2001 letter that we take for granted that all the points raised by the FIS rules concerning the safety etc. are fully satisfied. However, the necessity to avoid bottle-necks is not only a statutory question. Hereafter we give some further arguments.
Bottle-necks create unfair conditions : elite skiers suffer no loss of time whereas slower skiers are stuck in a traffic jam for durations which increase going back in the field. The cut-off times often force skiers to abandon, not because of their level, but because of time lost unfairly in traffic jams. The same holds for the premium (e.g. the Vasaloppet 50% medal) depending on the percentage back. A skier who achieves 50% back at the American Birkebeiner will be disappointed to make only 70% back in Marcialonga, although both performances may be equivalent. When a skier who belongs to the slower waves is stuck in a traffic jam for a longer time than a faster skier, the conditions are not fair play, or sportsmanly.
A bottle-neck usually transforms in a ” battle-field “. If we were cynical, we could say that this provides the advantage of learning the whole gamut of swearwords in the local language. Gallows humor apart, these traffic jams lead to damage to skis, poles and skiers.
The FIS rules don’t even mention bottle-necks appearing a long distance after the start, so unbelievable is the case (which however occurs after 30 km in Marcialonga and in the St Moritz area in Engadin). We also recommend that if a race is combined with a shorter race, the starting time and place of the latter should be such as not to disturb the main race.
Placing every skier in the starting group corresponding to his/her level is one of the conditions needed to satisfy the new Motto. Vasaloppet is a good example to follow. We give hereafter our understanding of a perfect seeding system.
- There is a person responsible for the seeding. This person prepares a table containing the limit times for each of the 14 WL races during the 2 or 3 last years, these limit times corresponding to each starting group/wave of the local race. Example (with fictitious numbers) : if group 2 of the local race corresponds to 25 % back, and the 2001 Tartu Maraton winning time was 2h 48′, then to access group 2 of the local race the limit time in Tartu 2001 was 3h 30′( 2h 48′ x 1 .25 = 3h 30′). In other words, the following principle holds : ” N % back at any WL race = N% back at the local race “.
- The registration forms should contain 3 or 4 lines where the skier can give his/her best results from other WL races during the 2 or 3 previous years. When the organizer receives a registration form he has first to check these results in a collection of result lists of all WL races. Then he will look at his tables and attribute to the skier the correct starting group/wave. If the skier has already participated, this can be done automatically using tSeptember 23, 2007m mentions that the skier does not have to indicate previous results in Birkie. The best of all these results (local race and other WL races) determines the starting group/wave.
- During the bib pick-up days, there is in the race office a well marked place with a person knowing the seeding system. If a skier comes with recent results better than those given on the registration form, he/she will be reseeded, i.e. obtain a corrected starting group/wave. Since the checking of result lists is time-consuming, it is acceptable that the organizer requires the skier to bring a copy of his/her diploma or the result list, but this requirement should be announced in the instructions sent to the skier with the registration confirmation.
- If the bib numbers correspond to the starting groups/waves, and a skier obtains a reseeding, the organizer will put an unfalsifiable stamp on the bib. Vasaloppet uses a large size ink stamp showing the start group number.
- In the starting area the skier enters the box corresponding to the bib number or the reseeding stamp.
Distinctions to Masters and Multiple Masters
Many skiers have expressed the wish to get their medal with the number (and possibly name) engraved on the back. The paper sticker does not honor these beautiful medals for which skiers have worked hard.
We noticed with satisfaction that the new presentation of Multiple Masters in the Yearbook (it was recommended in our March 2000 letter to WL) has created a new stimulus, with record numbers of passports sold and Masters’ titles awarded.
We proposed a new distinction for those who have achieved a certain number of Masters, e.g. 5 x WL Master (WL Super Master ?) and 10 x WL Master (WL Hyper master ?). These seem less pertinent now that the Yearbook gives a separate list of all Multiple Masters with the exact number of Masters they have achieved. But a quite significant innovation would be the adoption of a distinction for those who have skied all 14 WL races (WL Global Skier, or WL Universal Skier ?).
We also make the following proposal to all WL organizers : put all participating N x WL Masters in the first start group with a special bib. This is maybe comparable with the Marcialonga Senators (those who have skied all Marcialongas from the beginning). If the value of N is taken equal to 3, this would mean having maybe 10 triple Masters in the first start group (there are now 19 triple Masters). These skiers would not disturb the elite and would certainly be well accepted by the successive waves overtaking them. Each time a skier overtakes a Senator in Marcialonga he/she shouts : ” Bravo Senatore ! “. This proposal is in contradiction with the requirement of a correct seeding system. But it may be justified, while providing a negligible disturbance, by the important promotion of the WL system. Of course, the information should be given in the information package and by an announcement in the start area. This proposal does not concern Birkebeinerrennet, they have a quite different (and excellent !) wave system based on age groups. Sapporo Ski Marathon puts all foreign skiers in the front row (Japanese hospitality !). Also in these two races bibs with a special colour could be given to all N x WL Masters, in the spirit of promoting the WL system.
Arrangements in the Start/Arrival Area
In the start area it is recommended to have a warm place, at least a heated tent where skiers can keep warm until they enter their starting box in their thin race suits.
In the arrival area it is recommended to have a warm place where skiers can put on dry clothes.
A guarded ski storage area is needed near the arrival where skis can be left safely while the skiers change clothes and enjoy drinks and food. When handing in the skis the skiers get a ticket against which they recover their skis before leaving for the transport to the hotels.