By Johan Trygg
Now that Visma Ski Classics Season X has started, there are more teams and skiers than ever before. The fight for the Pink Youth bib will be tougher than any season before. An athlete who has the pink color in sight is Max Novak, Team Ramudden.
He finished 18th in the Livigno Prologue, 18.1 seconds behind the race winner Emil Persson, Lager 157 Ski Team, and he has a four-point lead over Stian Berg, Team Kaffebryggeriet, in the Sprint competition. The aforementioned Persson leads the Youth competition while Max is second 168 points behind.
The start of the season at home in Sweden has given the 23-year-old Novak good confidence. Novak, a former Swedish junior national team member, has had a focus in traditional cross-country skiing without getting the breakthrough he had hoped for.
Last winter, he took part in three races in Visma Ski Classics. First, Vasaloppet on his own without a team, only with his dad as his support, and he finished 33th. Then, he raced Birkenbeinerrennet (27th) and Ylläs-Levi (25th) for Team Ramudden.
Prior to this winter, Novak got a contract with Team Ramudden and focused fully on a whole season in Visma Ski Classics. Already in the summer's roller skiing races, Max showed his good form. At Klarälvsloppet, he was in the front group and sprinted in as the ninth man 4 seconds behind the winner, Stian Berg, Team Kaffebryggeriet.
At the season premiere on snow in Grönklitt on November 16, he became second, 10 seconds behind Oskar Kardin, Team Ragde Eiendom, and one second ahead of Øyvind Moen Fjeld, Lager 157 Ski Team.
“It went well in Grönklitt but I was not so surprised. It was more a confirmation of the feeling I’ve had since this summer,” says Max.
Max also impressed at the official Swedish season premiere in Gällivare. In 15 km classic race, he finished 9th, 1.22 behind the winner, Dario Cologna.
“It was really fun and I'm really happy with that performance. I have never been in the top ten at any Swedish cup competitions before.”
The next day he reached the final in the sprint and finished fifth among the athletes who all specialize in sprint races at World Cup.
“I had hoped to do well in the sprint but maybe not to make it to the final. Since it was difficult to get a good grip on the skis, I quickly chose to go without grip wax”.
Thus, Novak has performed better than ever in traditional skiing at the opening of this season, despite the focus on long-distance skiing.
The explanation may be in his changed training program. Since last year, Max’s training program has been inspired by pro cyclists with the help of trainer Mattias Reck, who among other things, coaches the professional team Trek-Segafredo.
“I was at a lecture with Mattias and it became a turning point. I had been training a lot and had been careful about everything but had not received any dividends. I decided to change my training and go to Vasaloppet. It went well and I finished 33rd.”
What is the difference from before?
“Now I do mostly one long training session with short intervals such as 30/30 sec. In the past, I usually had two workouts a day. Now it is only session with different elements within.”
Novak now has an entire training season with a focus on Visma Ski Classics behind him. The goal is to fight for the Pink Youth bib.
“But of course, it will be tough, but it’s a motivating goal. There are many talented young skiers such as Torleif Syrstad (Team Koteng), Emil Persson and Stian Berg.”
One thing that Max is really happy about is the fact that he is going to do a full season of the Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour.
“It feels really good. I have known since last summer which competitions to go to. It has not been so for years. It feels really nice,” Novak concludes.