Club news - 12/5/8
GB XC Development Squad - achieve lowest FIS points in years

By Alastair Dargie, Team Coach

Both Andrew Musgrave (18) and Andrew Young (16) gained world cup qualification - something no one from Britain has done since 1995 and they where the best performances in terms of FIS points since 1994. Here is the latest report from the team

Following the change of dates and venues for the Junior World Championships from Poland to Italy the final race camp for the junior team originally scheduled for Poland had to be altered to an extra race camp organised at short notice. The Hiihto Cup in Finland was selected as the final race camp of the season, with the races right on the border of Sweden and Finland just on the edge of the Arctic Circle. It was going to be a tough long weekend with 4 races on 4 consecutive days, at 4 separate venues with considerable distances to travel between. The team arrived 2 days before and in the first 2 days did reconnaissance trips to each of the venues, trying to learn the course profiles and any technical corners. The team also managed to find time to fit in a trip to visit one of the stunning ice hotels.

For this camp Junior team members Fiona Hughes, Andrew Musgrave, Simon Spencer were joined by two members of the youth team attending their first ever FIS races. Andrew Young and Callum Smith are part of one of the younger training groups preparing for the European Youth Olympics next winter. The team took the decision to race Andrew Young and Callum Smith up age groups to enable them to gain their first FIS points and in turn world rankings, this meant racing athletes 3 years older than them.

The first race on 20th of March in Tornio was not only the first race for the Youth team members, but was also the first time the team had raced at sea level. The snow conditions for all of the races was good with constant cold weather, temperatures overnight below -20 and during the day hovering around -10. The cold snow conditions made a pleasant change from the wet snow the team has been racing on for most of the winter in central Europe. The first race course was the flattest and least technical of the courses, however the competition was going to be tough with the seniors competing. These included Sami Jauhojaervi (ranked 23rd in the world and fresh from 5th place in the world cup finals in Bormio), Jaak Mae (ranked 31st in the world and fresh from 2nd place in the Estonian World Cup), along with the reigning Olympic Classic champion Andrus Veerpalu. Not to mention almost a dozen other skiers with World cup starts under their belts.

Fiona Hughes started off a strong weekend of performancesd finishing 17th Junior and 20.68% off the senior winner, gaining 260.68 points. In the men's races Callum Smith and Simon Spencer had a great opening race finishing 21.66 and 22.42 percent behind the senior winner and scoring 195.38 and 201.46 points respectively. However the first astounding results of the weekend came from Andrew Musgrave and Andrew Young finishing 9.3 and 12.23% off the winner. This meant Andrew Musgrave not only smashed the 120 FIS points required for World cup selection, but cruised under the 100 point mark with 96.51 FIS points. Equally amazing was Andrew Young’s performance at the tender age of just 16 in his first ever FIS race just scraping under the qualification bar with 119.94 FIS points.

The evening after the race was a blur of phone calls between junior team coach Al Dargie and Head Coach Roy Young as results and calculations were checked, re-checked and checked again before anything was said to the athletes. When told the team were euphoric and had renewed confidence for the remaining races of the weekend. It was a unique moment in British Nordic skiing, not seen for almost 14 years and never before with athletes this young.

Following the excitement of the previous evening the team refocused for the races in Pello, a more testing track than the first day just inside the Arctic Circle. Keen to build on the previous days results Fiona Hughes improved her percent behind the winner to 18.98% and got better FIS points of 242.32. Callum Smith and Simon Spencer had slightly better performances to the previous day coming 19.02 and 20.34% behind the senior winner and gaining 223.78 and 234.91 points. The two Andrews continued their good form with slightly worse percentages behind the winner, but still highly respectable with Musgrave finishing 10.29 and Young 13.75% behind the winner. Andrew Musgrave’s result gained another world cup qualifier of 104.96 with Andrew Young a little outside with 132.67points.

For the third day of racing, the team moved further in to the Arctic Circle with races at the large Alpine resort of Yllas. The course was the toughest the team had raced on with even more climb per Km than the recent World championships. The toughness of the course clearly showed the difference between the junior and senior fields with a considerably increased spread of results. Fiona Hughes in her less favoured discipline had a good performance finishing 22.81% behind the winner and gaining 280.77 FIS points. After discussing with coach Al Dargie, Callum Smith feeling off form and fatigued decided to rest this race and to save himself for the final day of competition. Simon Spencer put on a brave performance on the long steep climbs to finish 29.24% behind the winner getting 280.77 points. Andrew Musgrave again led the British finishers finishing 9.64% from the winner with Andrew Young finishing 13.82% off the winner getting 142.26 and 175.67. This was a tiring day for the team with almost 5 hours of travelling to and from the venue and one of the toughest courses the athletes or coach had seen to date.

After a good nights sleep the team was rejuvenated for the final race at Ylitornio where the team had been staying for the week. Fiona Hughes upped her game to finish 18.94% off the winner and gained her best FIS points of the season in a skate race with 226.17 points. Callum and Simon confirmed their form for the week with finishes 19.34 and 20.54% behind the winner gaining 195.98 and 205.62 points. For a change Andrew Musgrave had to fight to be Britain’s first finisher, with Andrew Young challenging for the position finishing just 9 seconds behind Andrew Musgrave. Had it not been for a fall by Young the result would probably have been the other way round. Amazingly after 3 days of intense racing they both managed to have their best performances of the season.

Andrew Musgrave finished just 6.44% off the winner gaining 92.82 points again scoring under the 120 point qualification.
Andrew Young had a simply phenomenal performance finishing 7.12% behind the winner and this time finishing well within the World cup qualification standard with 98.25 points.

As the season drew to a close and the team packed up all the equipment for one last time it was great to look back on a truly historical year for British Nordic Skiing.

•Support to the athletes has increased by 4 times from what had been available in the past years.
•The Development group took one of its youngest and least experienced teams to the British
Championships and still had fantastic performances.
•A full team had attended the World Junior Championships gaining credible results that show we are clearly no longer a developing ski nation.
•Andrew Young became the Austrian age group champion.
•The team for next year's European Youth Olympics showed better performances in key races then the previous team who had had fantastic results last year.
•Ruaridh Newman came 1st and 3rd in the Polish national series races.
•Callum Smith and William Newman had great first FIS races earning highly respectable FIS points.
•Andrew Musgrave clearly asserted his position as Britain’s number 1 skier finishing 42nd at the world championships and gaining 3 results under the world cup qualification standard.
•Alastair Duncan continued to have great performances in both distance and sprint races and
continues to build his reputation as Britain’s best sprinter.
•Andrew Young at the age of only 16 gained 2 world cup qualifying results, an amazing achievement considering he suffered a broken ankle just 2 months before the start of the season.

The team, coaches and supporters can look back on this season with a very large smile! This year has seen many challenges and many lessons that need to be learned. Next year the support offered will once again be increased. We can look forward next year to a good season full of major championships and high level competition. The team would like to express its thanks and appreciation to its sponsors Nexen, Mcintosh plant Hire, Swix, Fischer skis, Rab clothing, Polar, High5 and Craft for their sponsorship and support during the year.

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