Intervju med Petter Eliassen

I veckan intervjuade jag Petter Eliassen, en av världens genom tiderna bästa långloppsåkare. Och kanske också den mest ödmjuke. Han berättade att han nu troligen lägger av. Petter berättade också varför han drog så otroligt mycket i årets Vasaloppet. Intervjun publicerades på Visma Ski Classics hemsida igår.

Petter Eliassen: “My career is probably over”

With ten victories in Visma Ski Classics, Petter Eliassen is one of best long distance skier of all time. Now he is probably done as a professional athlete. In this Friday interview he also explains why he led the pack almost the entire Vasaloppet.

Text: Erik Wickström

Before the season of 2015, Petter Eliassen decided to switch focus from traditional distances to put all effort into long distance skiing. Thomas Alsgaard’s Team LeasePlan recruited Petter and he set up the goal to “get used to Visma Ski Classics and over time fight for the podium in individual races”.

Petter Eliassen efter Birken 2016. Foto: Magnus Östh.

Petter Eliassen efter Birken 2016. Långa stavar var det på den tiden. Petter testade ett tag att staka med stavar som var längre än hans skejtstavar, berättade han för mig i en intervju förra året. Sedan gick han ner till ungefär dagens maxlängd, innan regeln infördes. Foto: Magnus Östh.

Petter certainly “got used to” Visma Ski Classics. He is always humble and he keeps a low profile in most situations, the complete opposite of his namesake Northug. With four consecutive victories in König Ludwig Lauf, Vasaloppet, Birkebeinerrennet and Årefjällsloppet, respectively, he won the overall title in 2015. In 2016, he repeated the success and conquered the yellow jersey after winning Jizerská, La Diagonela and Kaiser Maximilian Lauf.

Wished he raced in China
In 2017, he was second in the overall standings. Petter had a great start when he won the prologue and finished third in La Sgambeda. After that he had some, in his terms, mediocre races where he was 17th in La Diagonela and 10th in Marcialonga.

– After La Sgambeda, I got the flu. It took time to get back. I wish I had skipped periods of big training volume during the season. I should have done Vasaloppet China instead.

After a month with several days off due to different sicknesses, Petter was back in February, where he was second in both Toblach-Cortina and Jizerská. Then he tried to increase the training load the weeks before Vasaloppet.

– It didn’t work. I did too many long workouts and I got tired. And then I got sick just before the Vasaloppet. Once again, I should not have tried to get in so much training during the season.

Petter Eliassen och jag vid Gardemoen flygplats i Norge 7 maj 2015

Petter Eliassen och jag vid Gardemoen flygplats i Norge 7 maj 2015. Petters sambo Sigrid Aas och jag gick i skolan ihop i Alaska. Väldigt trevligt par det där.

“Not fun sitting in a big pack”
Petter got healthy just in time before Vasaloppet, but according to himself, he wasn’t in good shape.

Everyone who watched Vasaloppet on TV could see that Petter led the pack about 70 out of 90 km, a pretty insane performance in the headwind. I tiny bit of snow in the tracks also made it hard to go first. Despite that, Petter managed to make the group smaller in smaller.

– My plan was to go hard up the first hill, and then continue to keep up a good pace in the beginning of the race. I hoped that someone would help me. But when nobody wanted to go first, I just thought that if I go hard for a while, I could at least help my teammates a little bit.

The kilometres went on. Almost none wanted to keep up the same pace as Petter in the lead.

– Then I just figured I could do the entire job. I knew I wasn’t in good shape, so I didn’t really care. I can’t win a big sprint anyway. But of course I realise that this is not an optimal way to ski a race. The last 10 km I was done.

Petter finished 16th.

– On the other hand, skiing for me is hard work. It is not fun for me sitting in a big pack waiting for something to happen. I want to push my body in the entire race. Also, I am not the best athlete in terms of changing tracks and advancing fast in a field. I am not like Tord Asle Gjerdalen or John Kristian Dahl, who both are brilliant in doing that. My role models have been Anders and Jørgen Aukland. They have been successful in attacking skiing.

Petter Eliassen, okänd barn och Tord Asle Gjerdalen vid La Sgambeda igår

Petter Eliassen, okänd barn och Tord Asle Gjerdalen vid La Sgambeda i vintras. Otroligt fin bild, bara så ni vet. Foto: Magnus Östh.

Paternity leave
But now it is over. Probably. Petter has an education in physical therapy. He was done three years ago and now he has to start working.

– I have applied for exemption three years in a row, but now they say I have to work. They don’t want it to take too much time for me to start working after my education.

Petter had a successful end of the season, finishing 2nd, 4th, 1st and 1 st in Birkebeinerrennet, Årefjällsloppet, Reistadløpet and Ylles-Levi, respectively. After that he has been on paternity leave and the length of workouts has been limited.

– I have three small kids. Of course that is also a reason to stop skiing on a professional level.

Petters segerkrans i Vasaloppet 2015

Petters segerkrans i Vasaloppet 2015

Team LeasePlan, who Petter belonged to, retired recently. Petter had a great offer from another team to ski a few races, but he declined.

– I want to do it all out or nothing. If I should start in the elite group in Visma Ski Classics, I want to do it well.

Comeback in 2019?
We don’t know if Petter changes his mind. And a comeback could be possible in the season of 2019. But it seems like we will not see him in the elite group anymore. In that case we want to thank Petter for three great years in Visma Ski Classics!

Petter facts
Name: Petter Eliassen
Born: 1985
Family: Girlfriend Sigrid. Three kids, 7 years, 5 years and 1 year old.
Home: Alta in northern Norway, since 2013. Neighbour with his parents in law.
Education: Physical therapist.
Results: Second overall in Visma Ski Classics in 2017, with victories in the prologue, Reistadløpet and Ylles-Levi. Overall winner of Visma Ski Classics in 2016, with victories in Jizerská, La Diagonela and Kaiser Maximilian Lauf. Overall winner of Visma Ski Classics in 2015 with victories in König Ludwig Lauf, Vasaloppet, Birkebeinerrennet and Årefjällsloppet. 4th at 50 K freestyle World Cup, Holmenkollen in 2013. 11th at 50 K freestyle and 15th at 15 K classics at the World Championships at Holmenkollen in 2011.
Training volume: About 700 hours per year
VO2 max: 87 (running) and 80 (double poling) ml/kg/min in Alta in 2014. 84 (running) and 76 (double poling) in Oslo in June 2016.

Om Erik Wickström

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