Markus Forsberg is more adept than most in mastering steep Alpine roads. It’s his third season at the helm of the Swedish cross-country skiing team’s Scania waxing trailer, and he safely manoeuvres the 16.5-metre truck and trailer combination through serpentine roads with hairpin curves to reach competition locations.
“I now know more about these roads, but they still require my full attention,” he says. “You can’t relax for a second. Not only is there practically no grip on icy roads, but you’re also almost at a standstill in these curves, and you need sufficient speed to carry on uphill.”
Forsberg avoids using snow chains, since he feels confident with good winter tyres. He says that snow chains would seriously impede speed and require demounting side skirts. In addition, if snow chains are needed, it’s probably too late. Forsberg explains that he will only fit snow chains when they are absolutely necessary, for instance for the final ascent to the competition venue.
Constant risk assessments
Markus Forsberg makes constant risk assessments, and if he feels apprehensive about road conditions, he pulls over and stops, rather than taking his chances.
“The waxing trailer is one-of-a-kind, it’s purpose built for the team and if it was damaged it would jeopardise the entire competition season.
“I drive cautiously since I’m aware of the perils and I know just how treacherous these roads can be. But sometimes you simply must make it there. In those instances, you have to resist that temptation and think hard about the risks involved.”
Other national teams copied the idea
Back in 2008, Scania collaborated with the cross-country waxing crew to develop a mobile waxing workshop, significantly improving their work environment. This positive experience prompted Scania and the team to develop a larger and more modern trailer to hold skis and waxing equipment. Several other national teams copied the idea, and now also travel around the competition circuit with their own waxing trailers.
This winter season 2019/2020, the Scania waxing trailer has been complemented by a purpose-built Scania bus; athletes can travel inside, and there is also space for rest and recuperation between races. Although his colleague Lennart Larsson is the designated driver of the new Scania bus, Forsberg got his bus driver’s licence a few months ago in case he is also needed to drive the bus.
“I’ve driven the new bus, and of course it’s easier driving a bus than a truck with trailer, but both must be handled with due caution in these conditions,” he says.
“We rarely travel together,” says Forsberg. “The bus can go up to 100 km/h while I can only drive at 80 km/h. Besides, there are traffic restrictions for trucks and customs formalities that I must cope with that don’t affect buses.”
A life on the road
Forsberg has been on the road since November 2019 when the first competitions in Sweden took place. Apart from a two-day break over Christmas when he flew back to Stockholm, he will be with the team until the final European race in Oslo in mid-March 2020.
His driving for the team includes covering hundreds of kilometres on European motorways. “Whenever possible, I try to go behind trucks that drive responsibly. I’m always surprised to see countless drivers pushing the limits, seemingly unaware of fuel economy. It’s also dangerous.”
Regardless of what time of day or night Forsberg reaches his destination he needs to prepare the trailer for the ski waxers. This involves connecting the power supply, folding out the supporting legs, activating the ventilation system and pushing out the trailer’s slide out walls.
“This morning I went to bed at 2 a.m., but everything needs to be in place when the waxing team comes knocking on the door.”
“The world’s best apprenticeship”
When he’s not on the road, Forsberg is busy assisting the waxing team. He is also in charge of radio communications between the entire team of athletes, coaches and support staff.
“In the process, I’m getting the world’s best apprenticeship in top-level sports, especially in the advanced science of correct waxing. I’ve learned so much from the team. Meanwhile, I get an equally great experience of challenging heavy truck driving.”
Besides shuttling between ski races, Forsberg also works as a firefighter. He is assigned to a fire station in central Stockholm. On his days off from the fire station, he drives a delivery truck for a food wholesaler. “I really enjoy my life – both in winter and summer.”