Andrew Young about WC and training for sprint
The guys on Team Synnfjell often make fun of me that I’m “born with world cup status”. It’s not quite that simple but as a British skier I do get a lot of opportunities to race world cup. I’ve raced the last 2 weekends of world cup racing in Toblach and Davos with the British team. The results were fantastic and much more than I could have expected.
I’ve been focusing on sprint racing for the past few seasons. But I’ve always had a bit of problem with sprinting, especially at the highest level on world cup. I would end up between 35 and 50 in prologue in almost every single sprint. Constantly 1 to 2 seconds behind the magical number 30 and getting to race in the heats. When I was in great shape I could make the quarter finals and even put together a pretty good quarterfinal. I couple of times I was pretty close to making the semifinals.
This year my goal setting was fairly simple: 1, make the quarterfinals more often, simply be better in the prologue. 2, make at least 1 semifinal this season. Of these two goals the first one is more important. If you make the heats more often then your opportunities to make the semifinals increase. So this year I set about increasing my prologue speed. After two sprint races in the world cup so far this year I have a 3rd and 4th place from the prologues. So the training I did on the prologue has worked.
Quite simply you get good at what you train at. So I trained at prologues. Especially in skating, as there are a lot of skate sprints this year. When Jostein started coaching Team Synnfjell this spring he designed a session format for me to use to train at prologues. We cut out traditional “sprint” sessions where skiers race head to head and instead did prologue sessions where we raced alone against the clock. This threw tactics completely out the window and meant we had to push at full pace all the way through the session. I also knew that in a prologue I loose most of my time in the start, in the first 100m to 200m. So I also worked at my start speed. I did this 2 ways. Firstly I did speed training and then I also tried to accelerate really fast and get up to completion speed in these prologue sessions.
On top of these pure sprint sessions I did a lot of endurance work in the off season. This was to increase my speed endurance, to be able to do a fast prologue and then do it again in the heats. I have trained a lot of sessions that were over 3 hours long, and even sessions up to 6 hours long. In total this season, since May, I’ve already trained 645 hours. A huge volume that many skiers won’t even manage in an entire season. Of course I’ve had to build up to this volume over several years of carefully planned training.
Although I knew the training had worked well even I was surprised at just how well it had worked. I had a pretty good prologue in Davos, finishing 4th. The heat was fast but I managed to stick with the pace and qualify as lucky looser for the semifinal. My semifinal wasn’t as good but I’d felt as if I’d skied to the best of my ability and finished 5th in the semifinal and 9th overall.
After Davos I was ecstatic. I’d had a pretty amazing day and achieved my goal of making the semifinal in my first attempt at world cup this year. Heading to Toblach I wasn’t expecting the result to be as good. I had appreciated that Davos was an exceptional day and I didn’t think it was possible that everything would come together two weekends in a row. In Toblach I’d set my self the goal of qualifying and hopefully making another semifinal if everything was going well.
I felt tired in the prologue and like I didn’t have much punch. Just after the halfway point I got a split that I was in 9th. I kept pushing to the end and crossed the line in 3rd. It cost me quite a lot, after the heat selection and a cool down jog I was still feeling the effects of the effort. My warm up for the heat went well and I started to feel better. In the heat I had amazing skis. I positioned my self well and thanks to the skis I could just cruise to the finish to win the heat.
The semifinal was probably my best race of the day. I had a good clean heat and could ski exactly as I wanted. Again my good skis helped me in the finish and I cruised the finish straight to win the semifinal.
As I’d won the semifinal I was ranked 1st for the final and go to choose my start lane first. I had a good start and tried to attack at about halfway. I got the front and in all honesty at the moment I thought I was going to win. Simi Hamilton and Pelligrino came past on the final climb. They were obviously much fresher than I was, having come from the 1st semifinal and having 6min longer recovery. I couldn’t match them. My legs pretty much gave out for the last minute of the race. I managed to somehow keep it together and hold on for a podium.
Jostein was in Toblach helping the British team with waxing, testing and coaching. I think he was maybe even more shocked than I was by the result!
My last world cup race of 2015 was the 15km classic in Toblach on Sunday. This was quietly a very good race for me. I’ve never been inside the top 50 in an individual start distance race, so to get 49th was actually quite a good result. I was absolutely shattered from the day before, and I didn’t exactly sleep that much. So when I consider the circumstances the result was even better.
I’ve now headed to Livigno, Itlay, to train over Christmas. I’ve come down with a “skiers” cold. I’m not really ill but I’m not 100% either. This means I can’t train for a few days. But hopefully I’ll bounce back quickly and be ready for Lenzerheide and the start of the Tour De Ski.