By Teemu Virtanen
Vetle Thyli, the captain of Team Kaffebryggeriet, drives on a winding road somewhere in Norway while talking on the phone about his team’s future. He is on his way to a sponsor meeting and his spirits are high up.
The upcoming season XI will be the one when the coffee boys are not only boys anymore, as there are two new girls in the Pro Team: Thea Krokan Murud and Oda Nerdrum.
The team’s core, which finished 7th in the Pro Team competition, is still the same; Vetle and Magnus Vesterheim are the lead athletes in the Champion competition. Stian Berg aims to hold on to the sprint jersey at least for another year, Øystein Pettersen graces Visma Ski Classics with his presence in some of the Grand Classics races and Nils-Ingar Aadne does 4-5 races.
And there is a new young face stepping into the big arena with high hopes; Edvard Sæthern, a 20-year-old athlete who is going to do Marcialonga and Birkebeinerrennet in Season XI.
Vetle is confident that the stars will align for him and his team in 2021, even if they lost one of their shining stars, Morten Eide Pedersen. Morten, who transferred to a new group of ambitious athletes called Team Nordic Athlete, formerly Team Mäenpää.
“Of course, I wanted Morten to continue in our ranks and build our team together,” Vetle admits sounding a bit sad to lose such a skier. “But I understand his decision. It was a better move for him economically, and he gets to be the leader of the gang there. My goal is to build a team that is so strong in the future that he regrets his choice.”
Even if Vetle’s statement has a humorous undertone, he is very serious about his team’s chances when the new season begins. He has recruited two female athletes, Thea Krokan Murud, who debuted in Visma Ski Classics last season representing Team Ragde Eiendom, and Oda Nerdrum, who will participate in about half of the events in the Pro Tour.
“We just did a 12-hour relay roller-ski race here in Norway and finished 4th,” Vetle continues his tale of things to come. “We knew we weren’t going to be the best team since our Oda still needs a lot of work to do, but Magnus and I started really well, and we felt good the whole day. I think we have a great team now and we aim to be one of the top teams next winter.”
Vetle is very happy to have Thea in his team and believes that she has the skills and capacity one needs to be on the podium.
“I think she is good enough to be among the best three ladies if everything goes well. She just needs to do the right things, and we are helping her in her quest. I’m also trying to convince her that she is capable of performing at that level. She got injured a while ago, but she has now recovered and is very eager to get started again. I need to slow her down a bit and make sure that we will proceed carefully. I think she can be among the best six skiers in most races, and the podium may be a possibility as well next winter. She will also focus on some standard distance races besides Visma Ski Classics much like I’m going to do.”
Indeed, Vetle has proven to be a powerful skier in shorter distances, and his goal is to do some diagonal striding and skating races outside of the Pro Tour.
“I have trained more than ever before. I took a break when the season got disrupted so suddenly and started again in May. Since then, I have clocked in more than 300 hours in three months. I will train about 930 hours this year, which is 100 more than last year. I changed many things in my training program last year, and I have continued that direction this year as well. I have the same recipe with a focus on increasing my max strength and VO2 max. My favorite workout is an intensive interval session with short one-minute sprints. I can start really hard and then slow down or vice versa.”
To illustrate his training methods, Vetle gives an example of a 90-kilometer workout that he planned for his team at their training camp. During the first two hours of the workout, they completed three 10-12 min intervals on the uphill section of the course, then on the flat part, they continued with three short three-minute intervals and finished with longer intervals again. Vetle is a firm believer in splitting training sessions into hard and easy parts.
As Vetle is getting close to his meeting destination, his thoughts turn to his personal goals for the new season. In several races last winter, he was knocking on the door of greatness, if podium places define the greatness, but that much-coveted achievement still eludes his grasp. He was outside of the top 10 in only three races; at Toblach-Cortina, where he fell just before the finish, and at Vasaloppet and La Diagonela where his skis weren’t the best.
“I know that on a normal day, I’m among the ten best skiers in Visma Ski Classics,” Vetle states oozing with confidence. “I can now officially say that my goal is to win a race next season. I need to be close to the podium in every race and a victory will come. I’ve taken my time to build my team and myself to reach this position where my team and I are ready for greater things now. I don’t think about the pandemic and its possible ramifications. I approach the upcoming season like any other and adjust accordingly if needed. I think it’s dumb to start doubting whether the season takes place or faces drastic changes because it affects your training and motivation immediately. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, and I don’t waste my time or energy thinking about it.”
Team Kaffebryggeriet is now a full force with strong male and female athletes, and it remains to be seen if they still have time to brew that splendid coffee at the events as they may get too busy winning races.
Photo: Ådne Strandlie.