LIFESTYLE: Cross-Country skiing is an eminent way of cross-training in winter. Most importantly, it can boost your VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption), and make you a stronger rider.
Winter in Europe makes it hard for many a rider to train well. It can be both cold and dark, and sweaty evenings on the trainer doesn’t sound too tempting. How good wouldn’t it feel, to rather put on a pair of skis, and glide through the terrain with a smile on your face?
Cross-country skiing is a sport where endurance is important. Skiers have been using cycling as summer training for
decades. Many are of the opinion that the other way around could be just as fruitful. While skiing, your entire is at work. Both the skating and classic technique challenges your upper and lower body. Core musculature, and of course leg strength, are at the centre of attention.
Many claim that cross-country skiing, and the use of the entire body, as compared to cycling, where the legs do most of the work, can boost your VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption). If we just look at who has achieved the highest numbers, the skiers stand out. Eight time gold medallist Bjørn Dæhli tested as high as 96.0 (millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of bodymass per minute).
Norwegian cyclists, who also have been using skiing as a part of their training program, have a way of achieving exceptional numbers as well. Just look at Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Dimension Data) and former world champion Thor Hushovd. Both keen users of cross-country skiing as preparation for the spring classics. Boasson Hagen is rumoured to have measured 86.4, bearly beating Hushovds 86.0.
In comparison, Chris Froome, who’s tests were made public in December 2015, only managed 84,6. Five time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain are one of the few riders who have measured a higher capacity than the Norwegians, rumoured to be at 88.0 (or probably even higher).
The Instagram-post from Boasson Hagen was posted in the end of January, which means that he was still skiing only a couple of weeks before he headed to Qatar and Oman. He won the 11 km time trial in Qatar, and two small group sprints in Oman, as well as the points classification.
However, the Norwegians are not the only cyclists claiming that cross-country skiing is a great winter substitute. Three time Tour de France-winner Greg Lemond has also been a supporter of this view. Spending a lot of time skiing before he started cycling, Lemonds story backs the view of the Norwegians. He is also one of the highest scoring cyclists when it comes to VO2 max, pushing it as high as 92,5.
Former 7-eleven rider Alex Stieda is another cyclist who has declared his trust in cross-country skiing. The Canadian wore the yellow jersey for a day in the 1986 Tour de France. He has emphasized that skiing improves both the aerobic capacity and the muscular strength and flexibility.
Of course, it is not that easy for everyone to just start his or her skiing career right away. Snow is a necessary factor, which might cause trouble for everyone who is not Scandinavian. However, there are plenty of opportunities in big parts of Europe, and also in the northern parts of the US, and naturally in Canada as well. There are even skiing paths in both Victoria and New South Wales in Australia.
And if snow turns out to be too big of a problem, why not just go for roller skiing instead (or “funny looking roller blades”, as the American gossip site TMZ characterized them)? As the main summer training for the professional skiers, roller skiing can be just as rewarding for a cyclists stamina as regular cross-country skiing. It can also provides the opportunity of variation during summer, which for many can be welcoming as well.