While we all wait for Lance's first pedal strokes in a ProTour race, there is another tour going on and it's providing the same sort of excitement that we all see in France in July. The Tour de Ski is a 9-day, 7-race cross country ski series that is raced along a similar format of the Tour de France.
The Tour de Ski is the brainchild of Norwegian Vegard Ulvang the three-time Olympic gold medalist. You might remember, on the eve of the 1994 Olympics in his home country of Norway, Vegard's older brother, Ketil, disappeared on his way home during a blizzard (the family lives 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle). When news reached Vegard, he left the Norwegian Olympic Team's training camp and went home to conduct a search. Unable to find his brother, he decided to compete in Lilihammer and won three Olympic gold medals. They found Ketil's body the following spring when the snow melted.
If you have never seen a pack of 50+ cross country skiers racing flat out, time to tune to NBC Universal Sports and check out the Tour de Ski. Frankly, it's awesome. If you are suffering from either PTD (pre-Tour depression) or PTD(post-Tour depression) the Tour de Ski offers the true sports junkie the fix necessary to carry you through thsoe long cold days and even colder nights until the boyz on two wheels take center stage.
The first race was a 3km prologue in Oberhof Germany, the 7-minute event very reminiscent of the opening day of the Tour. After a distance event, 10km for the women, 15km for the men, the race heads to Prague for a 1km sprint. Next stop is Novo Mesto also in the Czech Republic for two races before finishing off with two final races in the Italian Dolomites at Val di Fiemme. Cool stuff and well worth checking out!