There is no doubt that when Canadian Brent McMurtry trained this summer, he was motivated by the thought of standing on the start line in the stadium in Oslo, Norway, in February.
But for McMurtry, a member of the Pierre Harvey National Development Center (CNEPH) and one of Canada’s most promising young skiers, had a self-described “disappointing” start to the season.
During the first World Cup period, he fell flat, cracking the top 50 just once in nine individual starts. McMurtry then returned to Canada, and finished sixth in the 20 k pursuit and fourth in the 15 k freestyle during domestic World Championship trials at the NorAm event in Thunder Bay.
His struggles, combined with the success of CNEPH team mates Len Valjas and Phil Widmer on the World Cup, left McMurtry on the outside of the battle for a World Championship spot.
After failing to qualify for the Canadian World Championship team, McMurtry knew his season wasn’t over – but he did feel the need to find some races to fill out the calendar during February.
He could have easily chosen to compete on the NorAm circuit in Canada, but after missing the first two weekends of racing, McMurtry was out of the running for the overall title, and the World Cup starting spot that accompanies it. Instead, he looked to Europe to solve his racing dilemma.
“I wanted to find the highest level of races I could,” McMurtry said in a recent e-mail to FasterSkier.
He found three race weekends in Europe – Swiss National Championships, and two Alpen Cup weekends in Switzerland and Italy.
At Swiss Nationals, McMurtry had some good results, finishing seventh in the 15 k freestyle, and then fifth in the 20 k pursuit.
McMurtry chose the wrong pair of skis for the 15 k, and felt far better than his results indicated. He finished just over two minutes back of Swiss superstar Dario Cologna.
In the pursuit, McMurtry came out firing.
“I felt great in classic and was able to ski at the front easily and break the group apart,” he said. “I stretched the others in the lead pack.”
He then struggled on the opening skate lap and lost the group, but managed to ski strongly to finish fifth.
According to McMurtry, the most impressive part of Swiss National Championships was the overwhelming support the Swiss showed for their skiers – but mainly 2011 Tour de Ski Winner Cologna.
“I am pretty sure there were well over a thousand fans each day. It was a great atmosphere,” McMurtry said.
From Swiss Nationals, McMurtry traveled to Italy for an Alpen Cup, where he failed to qualify in the sprint, and then skied to 17th place in a 15 k classic event, finishing closely with several World Cup level athletes, including Italy’s Fabio Pasini.
McMurtry then contested the mini-tour on the OPA Cup circuit in Campra, Switzerland, where he finished 18th in the three-day weekend.
The trip was organized by CNEPH, who sent some younger races to get a taste of European racing. Led by Godefroy Bilodeau, coach of the CNEPH B-Team, the trip featured CNEPH athletes Etienne Richard, David Greer, and Phil Widmer, as well as Stephanie and Caroline Drolet.
McMurtry has now returned to Canada, where he will contend Canadian National Championships in March, in his home town of Canmore, Alberta.