2003 Birkie Notes
February 26, 2003
In recent years, the American Birkebeiner has been part of
the FIS Marathon Series. However, the full FIS rules have
not been applied until this season. Last summer and again
in January, the major sponsored teams were sent notifications
of FIS commercial marking rules and the new elite wave separation.
The Pre-Race Birch Scroll also carried a notification.
In short, there would be an elite-A and elite-B wave. Skiers
in the elite-A wave would be internationally and nationally
licensed racers and would have to conform to the FIS commercial
marking rules. Skiers in the elite-B wave would not have to
adhere to these FIS rules. The original plan was to start
both waves at the same time, with the elite-A wave skiers
up front, separated by some distance from the elite-B wave
skiers. Most of the major sponsored teams decided to start
out from the elite-B wave, as this would allow them to use
their normal uniforms and still compete against the best racers.
However, sometime on Thursday (and perhaps as early as Wednesday)
prior to the race, the FIS Technical Delegate Thomas Nowak
of Germany informed the organizers that the elite-A and elite-B
waves could not start at the same time. While there is some
debate as to exactly when the various major sponsor teams
knew of this new change, it was clear by Friday night that
some scrambling was going on. Those major sponsored skiers
had to make a tough choice: cover up their FIS illegal logos
and go with the elite-A wave skiers, or start two minutes
back in the elite-B wave.
Unfortunately, this change in the elite wave starts was not
disclosed to the public nor to the rest of the elite wave
skiers until just before race start on Saturday morning. While
a few top skiers were tipped off in time to make the switch
to the elite-A wave, many qualified racers were not notified
in time and had the possible disadvantage of not skiing with
some of their top competitors.
These changes in wave placements, especially on race day
morning, were a large factor in the delays in issuing complete
results on Saturday.
Looking forward, the Birkie organization will undoubtly examine
the elite wave issue and attempt to develop a system that
allows a more even and fair representation for all the elite
skiers involved. It is also our hope that they will find a
way to restore the womens elite wave(s) that gave the Birkie
part of its unique character.
Logo No Go
The FIS rules on commercial markings are a bit lengthy (see
link below). Much of the rules contain specific details on
logo sizings (down to the square centimeters) and placement
and occurance of the logos.
But perhaps more importantly, and often overlooked, is the
General Principles section which states:
brand or model names which appear on hardware products (skis,
poles, bindings, boots, helmet, etc.) can be shown on starting
bibs or on clothing unless the name represents that of an
effective producer of the clothing in question."
That means that under FIS rules names like Salomon, Fischer,
Madshus, Atomic, Peltonen and Rossignol can not appear on
ski suits unless that company has manufactured the suit. For
example, if Swix (who manufactures ski poles) produced their
own uniform, they would be allowed to have a logo on their
The 2003 Birkie also brought in the new era of doping controls.
The top three finishers and another half dozen to dozen skiers,
chosen at random, were selected for drug testing. The preliminary
results of those tests should come in this week, with final
results roughly two weeks after the event.
Those skiers who examined the course on Thursday afternoon
or Friday wondered how the full race course could be held.
The southern half of the course, especially south facing hills,
had a number of thin and downright bare spots. At one point,
the Technical Delegate Thomas Novak considered limiting the
race to FIS elite skiers only, with everyone else relegated
to some kind of untimed tour status. However, the strength
of the Birkie community came to the rescue. A crew of as many
as 30 shovelers hit the course on Friday and into Friday night,
transforming nearly unskiable sections into snow covered trails
once again. These incredible volunteers should be recognized
with a "Golden Shovel" award for helping the Birkie
regain the full course and allow the wonderful traditional
finish down Main Street that was lacking last year.