This summer, Pierre Mignerey took over the position of the FIS Cross-Country Race Director from Jürg Capol. FIS Cross-Country News talked to the new Race Director about the summer inspections, preparations for the coming season and development of Cross-Country Skiing.
Q: Pierre, how was the summer and summer inspections in your new role of FIS Cross-Country Race Director?
Pierre Mignerey: Next week we will finish our summer inspections in Sochi. These inspections are in my opinion very important to prepare for the upcoming season. They are good opportunity to stay in touch with the World Cup Organizers, to provide feedback from the various perspectives ranging from the teams, media, sponsors and other stakeholders. We’ve also explained the rule changes, checked upgraded or new courses and discussed possible improvements. It’s amazing to see how passionate and motivated people are to work for the development of Cross-Country Skiing.
Q: You have been in your position of FIS Race Director for a couple of months. What will be your priorities?
P.M.: In my opinion, the biggest changes in terms of competition formats have already been done during the last years. The World Cup program needs to be stabilized and we will continue working on the long-term planning in close cooperation with the other Nordic disciplines.
One of our main goals is to become more and more professional and to increase the cooperation among the various stakeholders such as Organizers, teams, media, TV production, FIS Marketing AG, sponsors, rights holders, etc. Therefore we will concentrate our efforts venue by venue on the improvement of TV production, general event quality with increased side activities, stadium atmosphere, team facilities and communication around our discipline to promote the sport even better.
Q: It is 100 days until the 7th edition of the FIS Tour de Ski. What are your expectations for the Tour?
P.M.: After only a few years, the interest in the Tour has reached a very high level. Athletes, sponsors, TV viewers, medias - everybody is focused and eagerly waiting for this event. The Tour itself has an impact on the training and competition programs all around the world. Therefore we are working in close cooperation with the hosting countries and venues to continue the development of this major event in Nordic Skiing. I have been following the Tour as coach or as FIS representative since the very beginning. I have never been disappointed by the quality of the Tour and I'm 100% sure that we will again have an exciting Tour next winter.
Q: Val di Fiemme will host the FIS World Championships this season. Has the Tour program been adapted and what will be the highlight of the Tour?
P.M.: The Tour will be shorter, including just 7 stages instead of 9 as last year. We will also have two rest days in the first part of the Tour, where we have the longer transfers between the venues.
Besides the Final Climb to Alpe Cermis, it is more or less impossible to say which stage will be the highlight of the Tour. This is one of the biggest strengths of the Tour. Nothing is certain in advance, the Tour develops stage by stage and every stage can be crucial for the final result.
Q: What about the athletes - will the best skiers take part in the Tour given that the World Championships are just a few weeks later in Val di Fiemme?
P.M.: I'm convinced that most of the top skiers will be at the start of the Tour in Oberhof. World Championships or not, the Tour is the Tour and nobody really wants to miss such an event. Of course in case of sickness or other physical problems the priority will probably be given to the World Championships and some athletes might skip a part or withdraw from the Tour.
The experience also shows that many athletes are in a good shape after the Tour and that it can be a very good preparation for the second part of the season and the World Championships.
Q: You’ve experienced the Tour also from the coach's perspective. What is the biggest challenge for the teams?
P.M.: From an athlete’s point of view, the biggest challenge is of course recovery stage after stage, especially when there are long transfers between the Tour venues. From service staff’s point of view, the Tour is really challenging. These guys are working from the morning until the evening during the entire Tour period, with a very limited time for ski testing, and then you have always the floating thought that one mistake can destroy the whole Tour.
Q: What is the biggest news from the sports and rule perspective for the coming season?
P.M.: During the autumn meetings 2011, a new ICR (International Competition Rules) was approved. A big thank you goes to our ICR working group for the huge work that was accomplished in the last 12 months. Even though the basic sports rules didn't change, we have now updated body of rules that are clearer, simpler and hopefully more understandable for everybody.
Q: In two weeks the FIS Autumn Meetings take place in Zürich. What will be your agenda there?
P.M.: Some of the points on the table will be last minute decisions and some long- term preparations. The sub-committees will have the opportunity to solve the last open issues before the winter season. The Cross-Country Committee will be mainly focused on long-term planning of the FIS Cross-Country World Cup Calendar. We will also meet representatives of the Organizing committees and technical delegates at our traditional OC and TD seminar.