Astonished Swedish Cross Country ski teams looked on in amazement as the nine-strong British Nordic Ski Team took podium places not once, not twice but five times over the weekend (5-6 December) at the races in Idre, Sweden.
Close to the Norwegian/Swedish the border the races took place in mild and dull conditions - rather reminiscent of a British winter. Saturday was devoted to classic sprints, whilst Sunday saw the skiers doing several dizzy-making laps of the 2.5km course to complete the 10km (women), and 15km (men) free-technique distance races.
British podium winners were nineteen year old Andrew Musgrave (Insch - 2nd Junior Sprints, 1st Junior 15km ) and seventeen year old Andrew Young (Huntly - 2nd Sprints and 1st 15km in 17/18's) and Callum Smith (Inverurie - 2nd 15km in 17/18's).
Roy Young, British Nordic Ski Team Head Coach said "We certainly gave the Swedish announcers plenty of opportunity to practise their English! The Swedes were very interested in our team, and seemed to enjoy our apparently unexpected success".
On Saturday, the men's junior final sprint result was never in doubt with a fast young Swedish skier going unchallenged over the 1.4 km route, leaving Andrew Musgrave to settle for a clear 2nd place early in the race. In the 17/18 final Andrew Young was well in contention, his skis almost touching the leaders, until a good tactical charge by the winner left him struggling to get back in touch. However, Andrew continued to fight and going into the final straight it looked like he would almost get there, only for the winner to give one final push and move away for the win.
There was a very strong technical display from the whole British Team in Sunday's distance skate races. In the Senior men's race Simon Platt (20, Kendal) in his first race of the season, found the last half of the race tough and slowed to 88th senior, just edging out Biathlete Dave Lamb who was skiing with the team for the first time. Marc Walker had his best cross-country result with 56th place and a great score of 112 FIS pts.
It was a close run thing in the women's Senior 10km race between Sarah Young (20, Huntly) and Posy Musgrave (23, Insch) as the former slowed during the race while the latter sped up. In the end Sarah pipped Posy by 10 seconds for her best distance result of the season. Meanwhile Fiona Hughes (19, Huddersfield) racing in the Junior 10km took a respectable 6th place, despite her race time being slightly slower than her team mates in the senior women's race.
In the men's Junior race the result was never in doubt, with Andrew Musgrave skiing with an air of determination to first place and a lead of 1 minute and 40 seconds over his nearest rival. His time in this race gave him the equivalent of 9th place in the Senior men's race and some good FIS points well within the BOA's Olympic selection criteria.
Olympic selection points were also on the minds of younger races Callum Smith and Andrew Young, both racing in the 17/18 distance category. Here it looked as if Andrew Young also had an unchallengeable lead for the first five laps, but his fortunes changed in the last 2.5 k when he tired and suffered from cramp. This saw his comfortable lead whittle away to just 10 seconds over his team mate Callum Smith who had an excellent race and maintained a steady pace over the whole 15km. Both Andrew Young and Callum Smith recorded their best ever FIS points (both within the Olympic qualifying standard). Notably, as well as dominating the 17/18 category, their race times gave them 4th and 5th respectively in the Junior category.
So the Scandinavian tour ends for most of the team who travel to Italy this week to race at Alta Badia. Andrew Musgrave will be racing in Norway until mid January when he hopes to join the rest of the team at the World Juniors.
Coach Roy Young says "It has been a hectic and at times frustrating tour, especially when the points have not been truly representative of the racing; but we head south having had a good month on snow and an exceptional start to the season. Yet again the team has impressed the very knowledgeable Scandinavian crowd. We will be back".