The sixth annual Bysprinten took place over the weekend in the small town of Mosjøen, Norway. The town is home to less than 10,000 residents, yet the event manages to attract some of the biggest names in cross-country skiing every year from both Norway and elsewhere in Europe. This year, Petter Northug (NOR), Laurien Van der Graaff (SUI), Øystein Pettersen (NOR), Heidi Weng (NOR) and Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) were among the biggest draws of the weekend, in addition to a sizeable youth competition, live music, and the fact of a ski festival being held in the town streets at the end of April.
Keene Valley, New York native Liza Goodwin was among the small group of entrants. Goodwin has been living in Norway on and off since first spending a few post-graduate years with the Northern Norwegian Ski Gymnasium in Nordreisa. She came back and skied for Montana State University for the 2009-2010 season before deciding to go back to Norway. She currently lives in Tromsø, where she is studying physical therapy.
Skiing has recently taken the backseat to her studies, but Goodwin decided to enter the Bysprinten race for fun, much like the rest of her competitors. She ended up finishing 13th in the 1.5 k freestyle sprint. We sent her a few questions about what the experience was like.
FasterSkier: What was the scene like in Mosjøen? Is this event big deal there?
Liza Goodwin: The scene in Mosjøen was really awesome. The town has done an impressive job of making the event a big deal locally. They say that there were several thousand spectators there lining the entire course, which makes for a great atmosphere. Being a competitive skier is an identity that most Norwegians have a lot of respect for. The ski culture of Norway makes the best skiers huge celebrities, and people of all ages don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see these famous people live.
There was also a kid’s race the evening before, and a youth race the morning of. Much of the event is to inspire kids to be skiers and the kids love being able to get autographs from all of the “big racers” (including myself!). The event might not be a big deal for Norway, because Mosjøen is a small town in Northern Norway, but it represents the passion Norwegians have for skiing and the role that elite racing has in Norwegian culture.
FS: Overall, how did you think the race went?
LG: I didn’t have big expectations going into the race. I have stopped competing at the national level here in Norway and haven’t been training very much. I’ve been missing my speed on skis for over a year now, and the Bysprint was no exception. I am just not as powerful as I used to be and feel pretty slow. The course was also pretty uneven and I struggled to find enough balance to get into a good rhythm. I made a graceful belly-flop in the “Losers Heat” that cost me one place. The racing as a whole was OK, but the main goal of the event for me personally, and for the other racers and organizers, was that the race was supposed to be fun!
The 700 m prologue was one lap. There were then four to five people in each quarterfinal, semi and final. The heats used two laps, which included using the U-turn at the end of the course, also on the second lap. That meant that there was a 180-degree turn about 25 meters from the finish line!
Everyone who didn’t go to the finals was in a “Losers Heat”. This was just one lap and the winner got to join the others in the final.
During the prologue, the police used their radar gun to measure the speed of each racer during the first 100 meters. The top three men and women from the speed measurements then competed individually in a 100 meter timed race.
FS: I know you were just having fun with it, but was lining up next to some big names intimidating?
LG: Of course it is intimidating lining up with Heidi Weng and other racers, but after racing in Norway for a few years, I’ve gotten used to that. I am used to competing against women who are the best in the world. My expectations are adjusted accordingly, but the actual racing isn’t that intimidating. I was more nervous about being in the whole group atmosphere and trying to consider myself as somewhat of an equal. The girls are really nice and it is pretty much the same atmosphere as being around any other skier girls at a race.
FS: Besides entering races with Norwegian national team members, what are you up to now?
LG: My first “PG years” were spent at the Northern Norwegian Ski Gymnasium in Nordreisa. After competing for Montana State for one year, I applied for the physical therapy program at the University in Tromsø. Last year I focused a lot more on skiing that school, but now that has changed. Skiing in now on the side of my studies. I am currently in the middle of a seven-week clinical period at the hospital in Mo I Rana. This is the reason I asked to be a part of the Bysprint, since Mosjøen is just a little over an hour away from here. Otherwise, I am living in Tromsø and enjoying life as best I can. The skiing and training (playing?) opportunities are endless.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.