“Young Briton Beat Northug.” “Andrew Musgrave Outdistanced Norwegian Cross Country Elite.”
So read the headlines in Norway on Thursday after Andrew Musgrave (GBR) snuck his way into second place in the opening event of the country’s national championships in Voss, Norway to Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR), who took the win by 1:07.1 in the 15 k individual freestyle. Ansnes Ron Frederick (NOR) placed third (+1:22.5), and in another noteworthy finish, 40-year-old Thomas Alsgaard (+1:23.3) finished fourth.
As Musgrave isn’t Norwegian, he was not awarded the silver medal, and Alsgaard notched a Norwegian Championship bronze for the second year in a row.
Musgrave lives and trains out of Lillihammer for most of the year, speaks fluent Norwegian, and was as surprised as anyone by his performance in the 15 k. After a whirlwind of interviews with the Norwegian press, we caught the 22-year-old on the phone for a quick chat about what it’s like to upset some of the biggest names in skiing on their home snow.
FasterSkier: Second place at Norwegian Nationals—how are you feeling about that?
Andrew Musgrave: It was not bad at all, I can’t complain. It was a bit of a weird day. The results were weird; like, I was second, but still a minute-plus behind. It was just awful weather, a real howl and gale. You just had to keep going and not stop when the wind blew really hard against you.
FS: Did you know you were having a good race?
AM: Yeah, Petter [Northug] started behind me, so my race tactic was—well, I thought he’d go quite fast, and since it was windy, if he caught me up then it would be easy to stay behind him. So my first lap I took quite easy. I think I got splits I was like sixth or seventh.
Then after the first lap [Northug] caught up a bit on me, but he wasn’t making that much ground on me, so I thought I’d go quite a bit faster on my own. So I did that, and then on the second lap I started to go a bit faster. Then there’s a long hill, and by the top of the hill I was in second place and I just stayed in second the rest of the race. So I knew it was going pretty well.
(Petter Northug [NOR] has been feeling ill recently, and reportedly coasted for much of the race once he knew it wasn’t going to go well. He wound up in 40th.)
FS: How familiar were you with the course?
AM: Voss is quite a long way from where I am in Lillehammer, so I’ve never been here before. There was a Norwegian Cup race here last year, but I didn’t do it, so I didn’t know what the course would be like. It’s a nice stadium and course, I just couldn’t see that much of it—it was just so windy.
FS: Are you surprised to have done so well?
AM: I was quite surprised. My goal was, if it went really well, I’d come in the top five, but to come in second is pretty cool.
FS: Yeah, the field is pretty strong.
AM: Yeah, a lot of good people skied really slowly. I’m not really sure what they did. I think I had good skis, and I’ve been in quite good shape. I don’t know, some people maybe didn’t do well in the adverse conditions. Everything went quite well for me, that must be it—the combination of things.
FS: What’s the atmosphere been like?
AM: Considering it was quite bad weather today there were a decent amount of people out on the track watching. Much more than a normal race. I think on the weekend there will be more people watching.
FS: As a non-Norwegian, do you feel a little out of place at the Championships? Do people think you’re this outsider taking glory away from their skiers?
AM: Lots of people think it’s funny, I don’t know. Most people think it’s a bit cool that someone different did well today. I don’t feel out of place at all; I think of it as a normal race, and try and get as good a finish as I can.
FS: You beat Alsgaard, too. Though fourth isn’t too bad.
AM: Yeah, he was third here last year, and he’s the third Norwegian this year, so he gets another Norwegian Championship medal—not too bad for him… I think people were quite surprised. Lots of people thought he was going to do well, then lots of people didn’t think he would do well. Then he did well! [laughs] There was a split opinion beforehand on whether he’d go fast or not.
FS: Have you had to do a bunch of interviews with the Norwegian press?
AM: Quite a few; they’re a bit mental that some British guy came second in their national championship. It’s been pretty funny. I’m pretty fluent in Norwegian—I live with a Norwegian guy and we speak Norwegian at home. So my English has gotten worse, probably.
FS: What races are you doing for the rest of the Championships?
AM: I’m not doing the classic sprint, because I’m useless at classic. I’m doing the pursuit and the relay. The team I ski for, Team Hovden, hopefully we’ll get a good finish. I think we should have a pretty good team.
We did petty well [today], I was in second, then we had a guy in 13th, 21st, and then we had one dude who did rubbish, but he went the wrong way.
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Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.