Golberg Shifts Priorities, Alters Goals and Aims for the Overall Sprint World Cup 

Inge ScheveOctober 2, 2015
Americans Andy Newell (21) and Simi Hamilton (30) chase Norway's Pal Golberg up the first of two climbs in the men's 1.5 k classic-sprint quarterfinal on Jan. 17 in Otepää, Estonia. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
Norway’s Pål Golberg (1) leads Americans Andy Newell (21) and Simi Hamilton (30) up the first of two climbs in a classic-sprint quarterfinal last January at the World Cup in Otepää, Estonia. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

“I had a lot of good sprint races last season, and there are no championships this season, so winning the overall sprint World Cup is what motivates me the most,” Norwegian national-team member Pål Golberg said in a recent interview with FasterSkier at the Madshus factory in Biri, Norway.

Getting there requires a lot of hours, and the 25-year-old World Cup racer pointed out the importance of soaking up valuable training experiences and focusing on increasing one’s engine capacity. Golberg’s top training tip is to believe in your plan.

“There are so many training strategies you could try, but you have to decide on one plan and believe in that. That’s the most important part. Everything else builds on that,” he said, pointing out that this is true regardless of ambition level.

So how does he go about that?

The men's 1.5 k freestyle sprint podium on Friday at the World Cup mini tour in Lillehammer, Norway, with Norway's Pål Golberg (c) in first, Russia's Alexey Petukhov in second (l) and Norway's Finn Hågen Krogh in third. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
The men’s 1.5 k freestyle sprint podium at the 2014 World Cup mini tour in Lillehammer, Norway, with Norway’s Pål Golberg (c) in first, Russia’s Alexey Petukhov in second (l) and Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh in third. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Getting sick with a virus at the end of last season forced Golberg to change his training program significantly.

“I’ve done a lot of things differently this season compared to previous years,” he said, adding that it has been tough at times.

“I’ve had to change my priorities. I have to listen more carefully to my body and adjust my training plan accordingly. The result is that I logged quite a bit less volume than I planned to through the summer and early fall, and that’s disappointing,” he explained. “But you have to keep things in perspective. It just means that I can’t expect to be among the podium contenders in the early race season. However, I plan on being back in the mix by New Year.”

Best known as a sprinter, Golberg is not planning on racing the Tour de Ski this season. He’ll focus on a full recovery instead.

“There are a lot of other races that suit me better, and by skipping Tour de Ski, I get solid training periods on either side of Christmas,” he said.

At the same time, Golberg enjoys the thrill and excitement of multi-stage races, and is aiming for the Ski Tour Canada at the end of the season.

“Tour du Canada suits me and my strengths a lot better than Tour de Ski, because there are more sprints and more classic races,” he said, adding that he expects a fierce battle for the team amongst his Norwegian teammates.

“It will be a tight selection. I think everyone wants to race Tour du Canada this year,” Golberg said.

Capacity Over Brute Strength

More tours and mini tours have been a trend on the World Cup schedule in recent years, and Golberg welcomes that.

An emphasis on double poling is another trend in cross-country skiing, which started on the Ski Classics long-distance circuit. But even on the regular World Cup, more skiers are considering tossing the kick wax and muscling through a classic race on skate skis. Some analysts argue the double-pole trend will intensify unless the International Ski Federation (FIS) takes action regarding World Cup course profiles and technical requirements that favor diagonal striding. Accordingly, upper-body strength and double-pole technique has become an ever-so important part of elite training programs.

Canada's Devon Kershaw (r) attempts to catch a ride from Norway's Pal Golberg in the World Cup 15 k classic today in Davos, Switzerland. Devon passed Golberg shortly thereafter when Golberg "exploded."
Pal Golberg of Norway leads Canadian Devon Kershaw in the World Cup 15 k classic last December in Davos, Switzerland.

Golberg explained his concern about the double-pole trend, and how it may come at the expense of traditional training.

“A lot of skiers put more emphasis on double poling, but I think many of them forget to put in enough time on improving their capacity, which is the limiting factor for cross-country skiing,” he said. “It’s one thing to prioritize double-poling a little more than before, but the overemphasis we are seeing now is something else. You will still ski most of the events with kick wax, and then it’s counterproductive to forget that all through the dryland season.”

Capacity is built via traditional bounding drills, moose hoofing, plyometrics and running, he explained.

“Double poling has to come in addition to that, on top of that solid aerobic foundation,” he added, pointing out that was particularly true for developing athletes.

“Capacity is particularly important for young skiers and juniors. This is the age at which you really need to focus on expanding the engine. It’s important to double pole, and it’s more important than it used to be, but I feel that it’s through those hard, ski-specific intensity workouts that you really push your limits to the max, and that’s where you get better,” he concluded.

Going the Distance

Golberg’s favorite workouts are over long distances in the mountains, with or without skis. For him, skiing is more than a career, and workouts are about more than simply getting faster and stronger.

He is passionate about being outside, and the mountains are where he feels the most at home. Those experiences fuel his workouts and keep him motivated through the tough days when the weather is wretched and the doorstep mile is particularly long.

“In the late winter, from February to March and through the spring until the snow melts, when days are longer and brighter, that’s when the mountains are at their best, and nothing beats long skiing workouts then,” he said. “Similarly, in the summer and fall, those long runs in the mountains deliver the best experiences. Those days deliver a little extra, and I just enjoy every minute.

“You have to hold on to those memories and sunshine moments, and save them for later,” he added. “It’s a lot easier and more fun to work out when it’s sunny and you’re not getting drenched to the bone. Earlier this fall there was a long, wet and cold period when it was raining sideways. That’s when I really have to dig deep to find the motivation, and I pull out those sunny memories.”

On the other hand, he finds a unique silver lining in those less-than-desirable days.

“It’s always nice to come back inside after cold and rainy workouts when you’re dreading to get out there,” Golberg said.

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Inge Scheve

Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.

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