Race report – FIS Race – Sprint Skate – Gala, Norway – Al Dargie updates things on the Cross Country scene

The British team returned to racing this weekend in Sjusjoen, Norway for the first round of the Scandinavian Cup after a weekend off following successful races in Norway and Sweden. Although one step below world cup the winners at Scandi Cup are frequent World Cup winners and include current world champions. This Scandi Cup has 3 days of racing over the weekend with a skate time trial on Friday, a Skate sprint on Saturday and a classic mass start race on Sunday.

The course at Sjusjoen is like a second home to the British team who have frequently been based at Sjusjoen for training and racing camps for several years. Even though they know the course well it is a very testing course with steep hills and very few recovery sections on the course. It is a fantastic facility that puts a lot of effort in to getting early training snow from the start of November and you frequently see the very best skiers in the world there in the build up to the World cup circuit.

Friday saw a 15km Skate time trial race for the men with Britain having Andrew Musgrave, Andrew Young and Alex Standen on the start line. Andrew Musgrave continues his fantastic form and came home in 6th place incredibly had he managed to ski 12.7 seconds quicker (only 0.5%) he would have placed 2nd in the race beating a gold medallist from the last World championships. If he can carry this form through to the World Championships in February I think a realistic top 20 or even better is possible. Andrew Young came home in 43rd place with good FIS points and Alex Standen came in 169th continuing his return to racing after a season out injured.

Also on Friday saw the British women Posy Musgrave, Fiona Hughes and Sarah Young racing over a 10km skate course. Posy was the first of the British finishers coming home in 42nd place only 3 FIS points off world cup qualification standard, Fiona Hughes finished 51st in her first skate race of the year as she studies full time at university and Sarah Young came home in 56th place. The females race also had many members of the Swedish, Finish, Norwegian and Estonian National teams dominating the front of the field.

Saturday saw skate sprint races in stormy conditions with the same 6 athletes representing Great Britain. Posy Musgrave qualified quickest of the British Women in 19th place, but failed to qualify past the quarter finals, however gained valuable experience from the knock out stages. Fiona Hughes came 56th and Sarah Young 62nd both failing to make the knock out stages.

In the mens races both Andrews qualified for the knock out stages with Musgrave ranked 13th and Young qualifying in 22nd. Both sadly failed to progress beyond the quarter finals, sooner or later they will progress beyond the quarters as they clearly have the form in them. Alex Standen placed 126th in a respectable time, the top end of the field is very tight where 1 second can jump you up 13 places in the field!

Tomorrow brings mass start classic races, which are an incredible spectator event with over 150 skiers starting head to head in the mens race. Starting in a large number of lanes, with skiers placed according to world rankings they have to battle for position as the lanes reduce down to 4 and then later to just 2 classic tracks. Not only do the athletes have to battle for position on the course, the coaches have to battle for the best position for spare poles to make sure any athletes get replacements as soon as possible in the inevitable crashes. Fingers crossed for the British team tomorrow!

 

© Al Dargie 2012