Andrew Musgrave has previously been tipped as a young gun to watch in the world of skiing. This season, despite racing only a single World Cup, Musgrave has recorded impressive finishes against top talent.
In the Norwegian Cup races he started, he has faced stiff opposition – sprinting in Gaalaa, Norway, he was narrowly beaten by American Torin Koos, and finished far up the results sheet from Thomas Northug. In distance racing in Meraaker, Norway, he took on Petter Northug, and Anders Soedergren, finishing less than a minute behind both World Cup stars in a 30 k freestyle race. And in a 10 k classic, Musgrave finished 30 seconds back of none other than Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset, one of Norway’s premiere classic skiers – so premiere he was brought to the Olympics to ski just the classic leg of the 4×10 k relay and the 50 k classic.
A British national, Musgrave has a unique training situation. This summer, Musgrave made a move to Lillehammer, Norway, to train and race with Team Hovden, a Norwegian team which focuses on the Norwegian and Scandinavian Cup circuit.
FasterSkier caught up with him between race weekends to find out how his season was progressing, and whether he was going to see a few more World Cup start lines.
FasterSkier: It’s currently a mad snow storm in Great Britain – are you at home, and have you managed to get out skiing? Or are you in Norway? Are the guys at Huntly Nordic Ski Club making the most out of the snowfall?
Andrew Musgrave: I am in Norway just now, so haven’t been able to make the most of the snow back in Britain! There is more snow at home than there is in Norway, and it isn’t often that happens! I think the guys back in Huntly have been making the most of the snow. Every year there is a competition to be the first person to ski around the longest trail in the local forest, and the winner of this wins a “golden ski boot” trophy. The first person to ski round the trails this year drove up closed roads so that he could beat everyone else! I was gutted to not be there, and in the running to win the boot!
FS: It looks like you had a solid start to the season – two top 30 finishes in Beitostolen, Norway – sprinting and distance skiing well. How did your races go in Beito? Are the results where you want them to be?
AM: I was fairly pleased with Beito. I wasn’t in the contention for winning any of the races, but it was very early in the season and I generally get better after a few weekends of racing. I felt like I could ski continuously fast, but like I didn’t quite have that top gear yet. Despite this I feel that my training has been going well, and that I just need a few weekends of racing to get my top speed back. I was pleased to qualify for the sprint knock-out stages. One of my goals this year is to improve in sprinting. Over the last few seasons I have occasionally been OK in the prologue, but my tactics in the knockout stages have always been a bit suspect. I also knew it was going to be a big step up from qualifying in junior races, to qualifying in senior races. It was good to know that I am not too far behind the level of the senior sprinters, and it was good to get a bit of experience in the heats.
FS: The only World Cup race for you so far was the 15 k in Gallivaere, Sweden, where you finished 52nd in a strong field. Why only the one World Cup? And was that result what you were aiming for? When will we see you on the circuit again?
AM: Gallivaere is probably going to be the only World Cup I will be doing before Christmas. I am going to be focusing more on Norwegian Cups. I feel it is better for my development to do races I can be more competitive in, and it limits the amount of travel I will be doing. Sometimes I cope really well with traveling, but other times I find it very tiring. In the New Year I will probably do a couple more World Cups; in Otepaa, Estonia, and in Drammen, Norway. As for the race in Gallivaere, it actually went fairly well. I felt I was in much better shape than I had been in Beito, and was skiing much better in general. I didn’t really have any solid goals, I just wanted to go out and ski well. In the end I was just a bit over 30 seconds behind getting World Cup points. It would have been nice to go 30 seconds faster and get some points, but that is more competitive than I have been in World Cups before, so I can’t really be too disappointed.
FS: You did pretty well in Gaalaa, Sweden – two top 10’s, just narrowly missing out on a podium in the sprint. Was this an indication of where things are headed for you? Are you aiming to race a lot of Norwegian races this winter?
AM: Gålå was a pretty interesting weekend. The weather forecast had predicted that it was going to be very cold, and a lot of the Norwegian racers didn’t even bother to travel to the race, as they were convinced it was going to be cancelled. As it turned out it was warm enough for the races to be held. I didn’t think it was particularly cold, never dropping below -18C during the races, but a lot of people didn’t start, complaining that it was too cold to race. I can understand people not racing in the cold if they have problems with asthma, but it is a bit excessive when two thirds of the race field drop out. I think people need to man up, and remind themselves that it is a winter sport!
Despite the large numbers of people dropping out, the races did go ahead, and they went quite well for me. In the sprint I had a good prologue and advanced easily to the semi-final. I was lucky to get through to the final with “lucky loser” time. In the final I was just edged out of third place by less than a boot length. I should really have come third, but I did the world’s most pathetic lunge across the line.
My result in the classic distance was a promising one. I was in the top 10, and just over 30 seconds behind the winner. This is a big step forward for me in classic from last year, and a good sign that my technique training from the summer and early winter has been paying off. I have always found classic technique more difficult to master than skating, but hopefully now I am beginning to get there!
FS: Are you training hard through this first World Cup period with your eye on a specific event before Christmas? Or are you mostly focused on the big events in the New Year?
AM: The main races for me this season are not until February, but even so I will be racing a lot throughout the first part of the season. For me the best way to train is to get out and race as much as possible. During this early part of the season I am trying to maintain as high a volume of training as possible while still fitting all the races in. In January the volume of training I am doing will probably drop off a bit in the run up to World Under-23 Championships and the World Championships.
FS: How has the training and racing experience in Norway been? Do you still travel and race with the other British skiers (Andrew Young, Callum Smith), or are you mostly with Norwegians?
AM: Training and racing in Norway is going really well. I think everyone on Team Hovden [the Norwegian racing team Musgrave joined this fall] is in pretty good shape now, and we can be really good in the Norwegian and Scandinavian Cups coming up. I think this year we can definitely be one of the top teams from the whole of Norway. We have had a lot of training camps this year, and there has always been someone in really good form, pushing you to be at your best in every interval session. I think the amount of training we have been doing together is why we are all at such a good level now. In the first Norwegian Cup race in Meråker, Norway we were 1st, 2nd and 4th place amongst the U23 racers. Hopefully this will be 1st, 2nd and 3rd at the next Norwegian Cup!
Up until now I have been mostly training with Team Hovden, but later on in the season I will be getting back together for racing and training with the British Team. Andrew Young and Callum Smith have both started at ski gymnasiums in Norway this year, so it will be interesting to see how fast they are skiing! A few of the other British guys have moved to Lillehammer [where Musgrave lives] for the winter, so even though I haven’t been on too many national team camps, I have been getting in quite a bit of training with some of the guys on the team.
FS: What’s your target for this season moving forward? Have you had any hiccups in your training that have forced you to adjust your goals, or make changes on the fly?
AM: So far this season my training has gone exactly to plan. Fingers crossed, it should keep going that way! The main races I am targeting are World U23s and World Champs. I would be really happy with a top 30 at World Champs and/or a podium at World U23s. That’s going to be difficult, but hopefully I will manage!
One of the other guys on Team Hovden, Thomas Vestbø, and I always like to joke about who is the best, and who is going to win the next race. We have started keeping a running total of the times of all our races from the season. So far, after the five races that we have both done this season, including classic, skating, distance and sprints I am leading him by four seconds. The most important thing for me this year is to beat him over the whole season! He also did quite well at the World U23 Championships in his first year as a senior, and came in fourth. This year I have to be better than that, or I’ll never hear the end of it!