Every year as december arrives I disappoint my children. That marks the start of the cross country world cup. This means that almost every Saturday and Sunday we have to watch TV between 10:00 and 15:00. Besides, this goes on and on until mid March.

Just to be clear – between March and December, my kids are happy to watch TV between 10:00 and 15:00. In those cases it’s some kind of children’s channel that is broadcast into our living room and “not those stupid skis again”. I can almost not think of anything better than reading the news paper in the morning with a cup of coffee and turning into the TV tableau and realize that there is cross country skiing on the television! Usually, I collect the cheese and the butter from the table and put it in the fridge, just to show the rest of the family that I contribute to the clean kitchen routine. Then I take my cup of coffee and sneak out into the TV in the living room and just enjoy myself.

Today the amazing thing happened. Today the world cup came to me! Here in Borås! Or rather, to Ulricehamn that is just thirty minutes away by car. The tickets were released by midsummer and I think that I was one of the first to click into their homepage to by tickets. Ulricehamn is the south-most city in Sweden ever to host the world cup and to be honest I didn’t think that it would actually take place. We don’t have much snow down here, really. But not only did it take place, it was a tremendous event in so many ways!

Ulricehamn

Ulricehamn is a city, or rather a village, which lies nested between the cities of Borås and Jönköping. It has around ten thousand inhabitants and is nicely situated next to the lake Åsunden. For most of the people in Borås, Ulricehamn is mostly known for their downhill ski slope – Ulricehamn Skicenter, where we go downhill skiing in the winter. But it’s a nice city that is kind of a mountain city since all of it is built in the slope from the lake.

The competition today was held in Lassalyckan, just by the Ulricehamn golf course. I have actually competed there myself a couple of years ago in Västgötaloppet – a seeding race for the Vasaloppet. That was before my first and only Vasaloppet in 2012. It was almost like they wanted me to race today, as well…

We started out early this morning, adhering to the request to do just that by the Ulricehamn organisation. Despite our ambitions we didn’t leave the house as early as we had hoped, and when we got closer to Ulricehamn there were long queues waiting for us. We had to stand still on the highway for around 15 minutes before we could enter the area, but then we got at parking spot quite close to Lassalyckan. From the parking lot a long lemming trail with expectant spectators were heading for the competition area.

World Cup Cross Country Ulricehamn

Great conditions

The sun was shining from a clear blue sky as we walked towards the competition area. The temperature was around minus three degrees Celsius as we walked and the snow must have been perfect for the race. Thankfully we had a lot of time at hand, since there were a lot of people around the ski tracks. According to sources, 30’000 tickets were sold for the event, excluding the children’s tickets. As a side note, the children could enter for free.

Inside the ski stadium there was a lot of activity going on. We entered the stand about 40 minutes before the women’s race and by that time the stand was technically full. The closer to the finish line, the more people. We found a perfect spot in the corner just before the finish. We could see the skiers entering the stadium and we could follow them all the way over the finish line.

For me, as a ski nerd, I had a great time looking att all the things going on around the event. How the athletes tried out the skis, how they warmed up and how they were queuing before their start. We could see the camera crew running around in the start area and no less then two people were working to make sure that the ski boots were free from snow before the competitors put on their skis.

World Cup Cross Country Ulricehamn - The stands

The stands were fully loaded when we got there

The competition

The women started out first. They were running a 10 km competition on a 5 km course. The type of competition was individual start, which means that the runners start one at the time with 30 seconds between each of them. Hanna Falk who is born and raised on that very course started out as number 10 and she left the area in a cloud of smoke. She had the lead in the race for quite some time and I think she made a result far above her ability. Apparently, it’s not that usual that so many people comes to see a world cup competition. We heard a lot of interviews that told us that the runners almost had that championship feeling in the tracks. The swedes that were competing could not hear their coaches yelling at them in the tracks since the crowd was cheering so loud.

One by one of the runners entered the goal area and after about an hour Marit Björgen from Norway had won the race, just before Krista Pärmäkoski, Finland. Charlotte Kalla from Sweden came in on a third place, and I think it was just because I did such a good job cheering her on!

World Cup Cross Country Ulricehamn - Charlotte Kalla third place

Go Kalla!

After the women’s race we entered the food queue. This was the only detail during the day that we experienced as a problem. First we bought food tickets and then we entered the food court where we traded those tickets for food. We wanted hamburgers, but that queue was long like infinity. At long last, they managed to produce another table and were able to serve us at double the speed. Well, it may be OK if the biggest fault of the arrangement was a 20 minute wait for the burgers.

Half Time

When we got back to the stand we had to wait for a while for the men’s race. While we had some coffee, a speaker held some interviews with the competitors and with the people arranging the event. We never had a dull time, though the wait was quite long.

The men’s competition was on the same course as the women’s, but three laps – resulting in 15 km. This race hade the same characteristics as the last. The Swedes were cheered and the local abilities over-performed. Alex Harvey, Canada won before Martin Johnsrud Sundby from Norway. As in the women’s race, we had a Swede on the podium as well. Marcus Hellner got a third place. We had a great time watching.

All the while when the race was going, we were entertained by the speaker Kjell Erik Kristiansen. Apparently he is a Norwegian guy, but when he wasn’t overly excited over a Norwegian runner he talked Swedish. When runners from other nationalities were in the stadium he was talking English, German, Finnish and even som Italian. I was really impressed, and besides he wasn’t silent for a moment. I always have a hard time finding the words when I talk to people, but Kjell Erik didn’t have that problem. Good work! Really entertaining.

Tomorrow there will be a relay competition. I’m looking forward to it!