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2003 Birkie Notes

February 26, 2003


Making Waves

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:

"No 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 suit.



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.


Of Course

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.


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