"Choice of material and state of mind were decisive"
Philipp Götsch, winner of the speed class of the "Val Gardena-Gröden Vertical Up" race in 2017 is looking forward to racing again this year. Not just because the competition on the Saslong has a very special flair, but also because it is very unique. Götsch is 33 years old and father of two children. He lives in Dorf Tirol and runs the restaurant "Zum schlechten Seppl". For 13 years, he has participated in competitive sports, completed mountain runs in the summer and started in around 20 races in the winter season.
To race a World Cup run like the Saslong is not commonplace for an endurance athlete. What is your motivation to return to this challenge?
Philipp Götsch: To run a World Cup uphill is in itself unique. After all, these slopes are usually reserved for the world's best skiers. With the Vertical Up series, endurance athletes can now compete in a race and run the steep sections uphill. What's more, there are few rules in these vertical-up races: each participant can decide for himself which material to use on his or her feet. That motivates me enormously, because the race, which I personally contest with spikes, is a change from the classic winter ski tour races.
You reached the finish line after 29.23 minutes in the first edition of the race in January 2017. Did you owe that speed to the choice of material or your constitution?
I would say both. I felt in a very good state of health that day and fortunately I had chosen the right material: web running shoes with 9 millimeter spikes. Although I was struggling at first because the snow was soft, my choice of gear revealed itself increasingly better during the race - also because the closer we got to the finish, the harder the ground became. Picking the right material is a matter of luck but you have no chance if you don’t have the right gear.
How did you prepare for the race?
Not specifically. I take part of some mountain races in the summer, and in winter I do some ski tour races. Thus, I am constantly in training, and my diet plays an important role. In the end, the vertical-up race resembles a normal mountain run - you just walk with poles in the snow.
What makes the Vertical Up on the Saslong so special?
There are several reasons: first, the Saslong offers plenty of variety; from the long finish schuss which sets the stage from the beginning, to the sliding passage and the steep wall, it is a challenge from beginning to end - for which you have to properly manage your stamina. This race - as well as the entire racing series - has a strong media presence and that is very important in order for this sport to achieve more international recognition. What makes the race definitely special is its perfect organization. It is very important for us athletes that everything is taken care of in this respect so that we can concentrate purely on the competition - in Val Gardena/Gröden the organizers did a great job.
And so you have another reason to look forward to the 27th of January 2018?
Yes! The competition will again be very intense this year. The starting field consisted of many excellent athletes already in 2017 - many from South Tyrol, but also Italians and Austrians. Maybe in 2018, I will tackle the vertical-up race on the Streif in Kitzbühel in addition to Val Gardena/Gröden and Madonna di Campiglio - that still appeals to me.