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alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, para biathlon… What do the athletes do once the season is over?

Winter is over. Even if the snow continues to decorate the peaks and the slopes, the skiers will put their skis away for a while. Because after a season, exhausting and very demanding physically and mentally, the athletes recharge their batteries. But very quickly, the serious things start again and it is a long work which begins. Six months from the start of their season. The best French slalomer Nastasia Noens, the five-time Paralympic champion Benjamin Daviet and the cross-country skier Olympic bronze medalist Hugo Lapalus confided in their off-season.

“I’m going to rest until mid-April to rejuvenate and do things that I’m not used to doing”. Body worn out after his second full season at the highest level, cross-country skier Hugo Lapalus, bronze medalist in the relay at the Beijing Olympics, is relishing this break. The boy from La Clusaz will take the opportunity, like all his teammates in the France team, to take a vacation: “I’m going to leave with some friends, otherwise I’m also taking advantage of staying at home to see everyone I haven’t been able to see too much this winter“, continues the 23-year-old Haut-Savoyard. “It’s especially the time of decompression”supports his trainer Alexandre Rousselet.

On the other hand, for Nastasia Noens, slalomer within the French alpine ski team, the hour of rest has not yet arrived. “The month of April is quite intense. There are quite a few events after the French championships (which took place from March 24 to 31). There are the races organized by Julien Lizeroux and Alexis Pinturault, where we laugh more than we seek performance. But then we have a lot of ski tests to do and the challenge of the instructors where we open the track at the end of April.” Benjamin Daviet, quadruple medalist para biathlete at the last Paralympic Games, also has a few events that punctuate his month of April: “I still have little things to do on the right, on the left, with partners or meetings with children in schoolssays the five-time gold medalist at the Games. Afterwards, it will be a trip, quietly, at the beginning of May.

Benjamin Daviet celebrates his title in cross-country skiing, in the sprint event, during the Paralympic Games in Beijing, Wednesday March 9, 2022. (MOHD RASFAN / AFP)

Once the month of April has passed, they can close the page for six months of competition. “In the month of May, there is a big cut of a month, explains Nastasia Noens. I’m going on vacation for a fortnight in the sun, without snow (laughs).” And to add: “In the end, it’s the only period when you can cut like that.” But cutting isn’t necessarily the term for these top athletes. Because going from everything to everything is complicated, especially for these enthusiasts: “You can have fun for yourself, but it’s complicated not to do sport when it’s our job”explains the skier.

Very quickly, business resumed. Because after this month of rest, the preparation begins. Six months before returning to the stress and emotions of competitions, the season is pfix. “See you in early May”, says Hugo Lapalus about the founders of the France team. His coach within the tricolor collective, Alexandre Rousselet, continues: “For cross-country skiers, the recovery is quick, the holidays generally take place in the second half of April and we resume on May 1.” On the program, few obligations: “It’s up to everyone: cycling, running, we do what we want”slips Lapalus, former world champion in the youth categories.

“There are several cycles in the preparation, but at the beginning, everyone has their volume per week with a certain number of hours for each specificity and everyone builds their schedule accordingly. There are only specific sessions: weight training and speed, which we must all do together.”

Alexandre Rousselet, coach of the French cross-country ski team

at franceinfo: sport

One activity is also inextricable from these reunions, and this, all sports combined: muscle building. It is not Nastasia Noens, for 15 years at high level, who will say the opposite: “We do a lot of cycling and aerobics”, she says. Benjamin Daviet also puts the bike on the program for a recovery “calm” beginning of June, but getting back to it also means bodybuilding and roller-skiing”.

The first competitions resume early, “early December”, for the Paralympic champion. The cross-country skiing World Cup resumes its rights on the last weekend of November, in Ruka, Finland, while alpine skiers start at the end of October on the Austrian glacier of Sölden.

Some places are part of the decor when you have to prepare your body for the next winter. They are like second homes for athletes. In alpine skiing, “we generally meet at the Albertville national center in the month of June”, notes Nastasia Noens. But over time, habits can change and the preparation can adapt to the will of the athlete: “I like to start my physical preparation at home, in Nice, because often at this time, the weather is not very nice and very hot in Savoie”, smiles the Customs of the France team. Once the preparation has started, putting the skis back on becomes a fad. “We ski in mid-June and July in Les 2 Alpes (Isère)continues Noens. Otherwise we also go to Val d’Isère on the Grand Pisaillas. We are also lucky, in slalom, to be able to go to domes in August.”

Benjamin Daviet also knows training domes: “We are going through the tunnel in Slovenia (in Planica, temple of the Nordic) in the month of September. We are starting the intensive on-snow sessions there.” In biathlon, if the Oberhof tunnel (Germany) is a benchmark, pfor cross-country skiing, “there are less and less”, testifies Alexandre Rousselet. Because its key location, which also applies to biathlon and other Nordic disciplines, is Prémanon (Jura) and its National Center for Nordic and Mid-Mountain Skiing (CNSNMM). “We meet there at the beginning of the preparation before going on the glacier in Tignes in June and July and on other glaciers in Europe (as in Ramsau, Austria last winter)beginning of October”testifies Alexandre Rousselet who has been in charge of the planning of the elite of French men’s cross-country skiing since 2018.

Whether in France or abroad, as far as Argentina and Ushuaïa for alpine skiing destination that could return this summer after the pandemic – preparation takes time and keeps athletes away from home. “From May until the end of March of the following year, we are with themillustrates the Doubiste cross-country ski coach. We are with them in the preparation and there are about fifteen days a month of training.” Enough to reinforce the idea that being a high-level athlete also means forgetting your home, the better to come back medalist.

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