Saturday, February 21, 2009

B is for Birkie

The American Birkebeiner was today, Feb 21st. Conditions were perfect for skiing. Temps in the teens, a skiff of new snow on top of old transformed snow. Fast, but not too fast. Cold but not too cold. Perfect weather for Nordic Ultratune's 615b grind on skate skis.

This afternoon I got an email from Andy Gerlach of the Saab team thanking me for work on skis for their team. Overall Women's winner Rebecca Dussault, Laura McCabe (4th place), and Kristina Trygstad (6th place) were all skiing on the 615b grind on brand new skis.

On the men's side, I got a phone call from Brian Gregg of CXC, who finished 4th overall, and he said his skis were rockets. He gave credit to the fine waxing by Bryan Fish of CXC and to the fast 615b grind.

Often I'm asked what the "b" stands for on the "615b" grind... ...maybe it stands for Birkie!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First Tracks - Testing the Rossignol Xium WCS

Three pairs of the new '09/'10 Rossignol Xium WCS skate skis arrived at Nordic Ultratune last week.

Here are a couple of pics (click 'em to make 'em biggy-sized). To see some in person, stop by the shop.

Rossignol has trimmed weight from the tip - that's the most noticeable structural difference. The tip is pared down to the carbon layer with reinforcing remaining around the perimeter. Compared with the Xium S1, some fiberglass in the top-sheet was replaced with carbon fiber. The intent was to make the front end of the skis more compliant; a bit softer. In addition, some weight has been removed from the tail (not visible, but that's the story). The result is a lighter tip that will swing more easily ("reduced moment of inertia" in tech-speak) and with a quicker feel.

The WCS will be available in three lengths - 181, 187, and 193. Interestingly, the sidecut on the 187cm version will remain the same as the profile of the Xium S1, but there will be minor changes to the sidecut on the 181 and 193. Each size is being specially tweaked for best performance in that particular length.

The bases of the new skis are flat and very easy to work on. A racing grind will go on the pairs from Ultratune, of course, and it's nice for me that I won't have to work too hard to make them fast. They're nice, very nice.

Of course, there are some minor cosmetic changes too. My favorite thing is the old-school red circle with the R in it. It's about 6 inches in front of the binding plate, and I think it's perfect. I like that.

Um, also a new font for the big ROSSIGNOL on the front, but will anyone really notice that but me? Good for podium shots, though.

Cosmetics were already great on the Xium, and people are liking the orange color more and more. I think Rossignol was about a year ahead of the curve on color sensibility. It's just hard to write a poem about orange Rossignols.

I finally got a pair on the snow. The skis have the familiar feel of the newer generation of Xium, but they definitely do feel a bit more lively in the front. During accelerations and energetic skating with the legs, they feel quicker in the front (I'm at a loss for a high quality adjective!). They don't feel "loose" or unstable, but just a bit more light and snappy. The skis are stable. They turn predictably and respond especially well to confident assertive maneuvering. They handle firm tracks well for a ski with a compliant front end - very well, in fact.

It's a winner. I think the change is an evolutionary step from the Xium. They've tweaked a good thing to make it even a little better, rather than bringing out an entirely new ski design. I think that it's not only smart, but will allow racers to improve their quiver with a new pair of skis, rather than having a new pair that have an entirely different feel from the rest.

Rossignol gets high marks from me for the Xium WCS. Now I'll just have to wait to get a pair of 193's...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Birkie Prep with Laura McCabe

Last week I got a few calls asking if I'd be able to help get some skis ready for the Birkie. That's nothing new, of course - there are thousands of skiers trying to prepare for their best race.

But one caller was from Laura McCabe, a contender for the overall title in the women's division. Laura skis with the Saab/Salomon team and won this year's Noquie 50K classic race and recently finished 4th at the Boulder Mountain Tour.

Laura and I decided to meet to examine and test skis on the snow so that we could decide which skis were the best bet for this year's race. I asked Laura to bring all her skate ski candidates (5 pairs), all of them waxed the same and ready to go.

We tested the skis for feel and also used a speed trap to measure in-the-track glide properties. Laura has a good feel for her skis, and my tests (for feel) confirmed her impressions of the skis.

The speed trap was useful. All of Laura's skis have Ultratune grinds, and three of the pairs had the same structure. The speed trap was really useful in separating three very different pairs of skis, since the base structure wasn't a variable.

The pics show Laura tucked and gliding past the timing wand (top), and the lower shows Ultratune's digital timer strapped to her leg. The speed trap uses two reflective stakes to trip a light beam emitted by the timing unit. The skier starts from a dead stop at a pre-marked starting point and builds speed before the speed trap. Then the time is recorded between two points. Several runs are measured for each pair of skis.

The result? Expect Laura to be well prepared for the Birkie!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Race of the Methow - JOQ

Races this past weekend, Feb 7-8, were at the new racing trails at Liberty Bell High School. The Race of the Methow had a skate sprint event on Saturday and an individual start classic technique race on Sunday.

Shown in the photos are MV Nordic's Nina Ekblad on the left, and Marc LeDuc on the right, below.

Race results CLICK HERE.

Pics from both Saturday and Sunday races are on the MVSTA Blog.

More pics at the MV Nordic Team Blog.

Article in the Methow Valley News CLICK HERE.
Conditions for Saturday's sprints and Sunday's classic race were perfect! The new ski trails are terrific.