Alexander Bessmertnykh and Sergey Ardashev about the gathering in Terskol (Elbrus region)

World Vice-Champion Alexander Bessmertnykh and World Youth Champion Sergei Ardashev in an exclusive interview with “Skiing” shared their impressions of the just ended training camp in the Elbrus region.

In the Elbrus region, in the village of Terskol, a group of the senior coach of the Russian national team, Oleg Perevozchikov, held a training camp. We asked vice-world champion Alexander Bessmertnykh to tell about this new training site for the country’s strongest skiers-racers.

Alexander, please share your impressions: you probably haven’t been to the Elbrus region for a long time! Liked? How does this place correspond to the fact that the national cross-country skiing team can fully prepare for the sports season in August, when the loads increase significantly and a large percentage of serious work needs to be done on roller skis and in imitation running, and not just wandering with sticks in the mountains? As far as I remember, the group of Oleg Perevozchikov, in which you train, usually spent at this time training on Belmeken, in Bulgaria, where everything is tailored for the sports process …

Yes, in fact, this is my first time in these parts! The place is, of course, very beautiful. But for a serious training process, it is not quite suitable. We are accustomed to specialized sports centers, where everything is compact and accessible, specially designed for skiers and, most importantly, safe … Here we had to train on roller skis on a regular road, which is quite narrow and with very heavy traffic. This introduced serious adjustments that did not allow the planned work to be fully completed. On the one hand, the required amount of work was carried out, but all the time you had to be wary of the cars rushing very close to you and signaling cars.

Belmeken, of course, is the most unique place for training skiers and biathletes. And not only – there are also excellent conditions for other sports – the base was built specifically for athletes. There would still be to change the asphalt on the roller ski track – in general it would be great! In the Elbrus region, everything is still tailored for the tourism business and for climbers who climb Elbrus.

On Belmeken, by the way, there are very few cars on the road – an excellent opportunity to work uphill.


Tell me besides testing on a trampoline and a bicycle ergometer, are there any other landmarks by which you could assess your current state, the level of readiness, say, in comparison with previous years?

You can roughly compare the results in cross-country stadium. But this will not be the most accurate comparison, because all stadiums have different coverage and different conditions for conducting control training. According to my cross-country result, which we ran at the end of the training camp in Terskol, I can say that it is not much different from the results of the same period of previous years. It can be roughly concluded that the level of training is currently similar. However, what he will be like in skiing is still unknown and unclear.

In previous years, during this period, your group held control trainings and competitions on Belmeken, and this place is higher than you ran in the control cross: there are 2000 meters above sea level and 1300 meters here. And the climate there is somewhat different. Can the results of these controls be compared? And what result did you have at this distance at the flat camp?

Of course, you cannot compare with the past results that were shown at Belmeken, because there is a dirt-sand surface on the tracks of the stadium, but here there was rubber, respectively, the leg did not slip. And the height, of course, plays a big role.

But the good news is that the result is approximately the same even when compared to a flat race: the difference of plus or minus 10 seconds does not play a big role. The main thing is that I run around 9.00-9.30, and not in 9.50 and 10 minutes – and this is already good!

Do you consider yourself a good runner? How much do you think the results in a smooth stadium run are projected onto modern cross-country skiing?

No, I do not consider myself a super-duper runner, – laughs, – but functional readiness can be determined and felt using this test. If you run for 5-7 years in about the same seconds, this indicates that you are in good health. And this is good news. And if the result is still improving … But I have never run out of 9 minutes in my life.

The season before last you had a silver medal in the classic race at the World Championship. What failed in the past season, what went wrong?

I would not say that something went wrong for me. Due to problems with snow cover, the formats of races at the World Cup stages were changed right before the start! We were preparing, for example, in the Czech Republic to run the classic race first, and then the “catch-up” (pursuit race – note swapped places. And with my coach, all the preparation was built with an eye to the Oberstdorf stage of the World Cup, and there at the duathlon I drove into the top ten (I was 8th or 9th). I felt very good in the race and this is a positive sign for the upcoming World Championships in 2021.

Then there was a small experiment in preparation for the Holmenkollen marathon, but it did not quite work out what I wanted. Although in general terms the season was not bad.

Let’s hope that the winter season will take place and there will be no more such variations with snow. And the world championship will be held according to the planned scenario.

If the world championship takes place, its format will not be changed. But what will happen before the World Cup is already very interesting!

At the moment in the national team, and in the Perevozchikov group, there has been a serious rejuvenation, and you are 10 years old, or even more , older than some of the guys who train next to you. Is it stimulating? Do you feel like a patriarch of the group or do you work on equal terms?

Patriarch ?! – laughs, – No, I don’t feel like a patriarch! The difference is really 10 years, and even more is felt only at short accelerations – young people are still faster. Their explosive abilities are better. On long accelerations, the picture changes the other way.

Nowadays, not only in our country, in the world cross-country skiing, there is a tendency towards rejuvenation due to the fact that the number of long races from a separate start is decreasing, where experience and many years of practice are required. In short races, predominantly explosive strength and speed are required.

Are you ready to try yourself in long and extra-long marathons, what has your long-term teammate and teammate Maxim Vylegzhanin now come to?

I think about it, but not in the short term. This year will be dedicated to the World Cup and the next two seasons. When there is no goal – the World Cup and the Olympic Games – I would like to try myself in such a discipline. There, of course, where age and experience play a greater role.

On your Instagram page, you wrote that you were planning to conquer Elbrus? Did Anton Gafarov inspire you, who went to the top at the same time when you were in Terskol?

Александр Бессмертных нацелился на Эльбрус.
Alexander Bessmertnykh took aim at Elbrus. From A. Bessmertnykh’s archive

No, not Anton! – laughs. – But it would be very cool to go there! And being now at the training camp in the Elbrus region, I really fired up the desire to visit the top of Elbrus. Knowledgeable people say that for trained athletes it is not so difficult and that this is far from Everest, for which you need to specially prepare. In general, I have already decided and even told some of my friends about it that after the end of my sports career we are going to conquer Elbrus! New peaks are always interesting.

One of the youngest, but already titled athletes in the group of Oleg Perevozchikov can be called Sergei Ardashev. Sergey is the world champion among youth under 23 in the 15 km classic race in the German Oberwiesenthal (March 2020). It was also interesting to know about his impressions of this unusual training place for the national team.

Sergey, is it your first time at the training camp in this place?

No, not for the first time, I’m already at the training camp in the Elbrus region for the second time. The first time I visited here was when I was 16 years old.

And when was it harder: then or now?

The first time, of course, it was more difficult, because it was my first training in the mountains. now I’m used to mountain training.

You participated together with the whole team in the cross control training in the stadium at a distance of 3 km. Have you ever competed at such a height? How hard is it?

Last year we had the same control training in Bulgaria (at Belmeken), where the altitude is about 2050 m above sea level. To be honest, it’s hard for me to run cross on the plain or in the mountains. This is my weak point – I cannot call myself a strong runner. And besides, muscles acidify much faster in the mountains. Although the result was good for me – 9.37. Last year I ran this distance at a slower pace, and in June I ran a three-ruble mark at a lowland training camp in Izhevsk for 9.25.

You are currently the youngest athlete in the group. Isn’t it hard to work with older and more experienced ones?

In our group we are one year old with Kirill Kilivnyuk, but I am a few months younger. And training in a group is not at all difficult. I immediately liked this training and was given quite easily.

Do you want to say that it was more difficult for Yegor Sorin in the group, and before that in the junior team?

The hardest for me was training in the junior team (coach Alexander Kravchenko – TS): the first three training camps in it I just “survived”, training there was a real nightmare for me (laughs). Then he adapted. True, now there are trainings that are much harder, but for some reason they are given to me much easier. The paradox is straight forward!

Do you have such races around the stadium at every training camp?

Control cross-country runs, as a rule, 1-2 times during the summer.

What do you think about the local roller ski training on the road? I hope there were no weird situations?

To train on the road in Russia is very dangerous and absolutely uncomfortable, thank God, our team had all the skating trainings without incident. It is much easier to train abroad on the roads, there people do not drive like crazy and don’t honk, they behave calmly and intelligently.

Did you only do functional-strength training on rollers, or were there high-speed ones too?

On the rollers, there were both functional and high-speed workouts.

А where did you manage to speed up?

We were accelerating both uphill and on the plain. I could not only do it in a group – mostly one after the other, occasionally in pairs. Mainly during speed-strength̆ work in pairs, we accelerated while there were no cars nearby.

Where will your group hold the next camp?

While preliminary Tyumen is scheduled from the 28th. If nothing changes, now no one can say anything for sure. We will also participate in the All-Russian competition, but it is still not clear where it is. I really want to see finally clarity both in the preparatory period and in the first starts, both domestically and abroad.

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