December 16, 2010 – Canadian National Ski Team (NST) member Drew Goldsack is a veteran of the cross-country ski-racing world. Goldsack, who trains with the Alberta World Cup Academy, has been racing World Cups since 2003. He has one Olympics and two World Championships under his belt, with a top showing of 6th in the team sprint at the 2007 Championships in Sapporo, Japan.
Compared to Goldsack, National Development Center (NDC) athlete Andy Shields is a relative newcomer, though he’s quickly racking up his own impressive resume, having represented Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Hinterzarten, Germany last season.
Despite their difference in years, both athletes shared moments atop the podium at Sovereign Lakes last weekend, Goldsack winning the open men’s classic sprint and Shields taking the junior men’s 15km free event. SkiTrax had a chance to sit down with both racers after the 15km to talk about their races and goals for the future.
Goldsack, who’s won all his NorAm and SuperTour starts until now, was a little disappointed with his 5th place finish in the distance race on Sunday. “The winning streak is over, but it was bound to happen. The 15km skate is definitely not one of my strengths… so I didn’t really expect to win today,” said Goldsack.
Over 30 centimeters of snow fell Saturday night (Dec. 11), leaving the Sovereign Lake crew scrambling to eke out a raceable course, which they accomplished admirably under pressure.
“It was a hard race today, the conditions were pretty difficult; lots of soft, kind of punchy snow. It got pretty chopped up on the climbs… definitely not the best conditions for me,” continued Goldsack. He said he typically does better on hard, fast courses and the soft conditions on Sunday definitely gave the advantage to smaller, lighter racers.
Racers like the light and agile Shields who had a much easier time in the deep snow.
“I was pretty excited to ski in that kind of snow. It really plays into my hands,” he said. “The grooming was amazing too, considering how much snow fell.” Shields’ win was his first ever on the NorAm circuit.
“I’ve been second a few times, so it was nice to finally stand on the top spot.”
Waking up to over a foot of fresh powder was a shock to the racers, but both said their training center teams handled the situation extremely well.
“The team handled it really well,” said Shields. “It went smoothly for us. Eric [Bailey, NDC coach] had a good handle on it… got some really good wax on our skis, and we were all really happy with how well they were working.”
“I had three pairs [of race skis] ready to go and a couple of them were specific to soft conditions,” said Goldsack. He, too, had plenty of kind words for his wax support team even though they’ve only been working together a short while.
“It’s been a pretty painless transition [from the NST] and things are working well,” he said. “Because it’s a bigger team I end up waxing some of my own skis, which I’m definitely not used to, but it’s good for me for sure.”
Both athletes are training with national training centers. Shields is with the National Development Center in Thunder Bay, while Goldsack trains jointly with the National Ski Team and the Alberta World Cup Academy. While it might be a partnership born of NST budget constraints and a necessity, it’s one that the veteran thinks has a lot of potential.
“So far, it’s been really good,” he says. He credits both NST coach Justin Wadsworth for collaborating well with Mike Cavaliere and the AWCA coaching staff. Each coach and team has his own style and ideas, making for powerful synergy. It also allows for some unique role modeling, given the wide age spread of skiers on the AWCA team.
“It’s nice to have the young energy and excitement. The pressure to perform is less than the NST’s intense environment,” said Goldsack. He said he enjoys being able to share his wealth of racing experience with the younger athletes.
“Some of them think you have to be in bed at 8 p.m. every night and train 900 hours a year,” said Goldsack. “I thing its been good for them to see that my training’s not much different than theirs.”
Despite, or perhaps thanks to the wisdom of his years, Goldsack is smart enough to keep an eye on the up-and-comers, many of whom have their targets set on the same World Cup and World Championship races that he does. The U23 field is exceptionally strong right now, he says, with many of the world’s top U23 skiers capable of holding their own on the World Cup stage.
“Domestically and internationally the U23 field has some very solid skiers. I mean, there were two [U23's] in the sprint final in Davos.” That says a lot about the strength of younger skiers, he said. Ontario’s 22-year-old Lenny Valjas finished 17th in the Davos sprint last weekend, enough to land him a spot at the Nordic World Championships in Oslo, Norway later this winter.
Seeing younger athletes racing that fast is a huge motivator for Shields. After his win on Sunday, he’s looking ahead to the three-race NorAm mini-tour this coming weekend in Rossland BC. The first race in Rossland is a skate sprint, which is a qualifier for World Championships as well and shields said he’s excited.
“It’ll be nice to start the tour off with my best event,” he said. “I’m looking for a good solid performance there, and to ski well overall.” After that, said Shields, it’s home to Cambridge, Ontario, for Christmas to rest up for World Junior Championship trials which will be held on his new home course at Lappe Nordic, in Thunder Bay.
Goldsack is also setting his sights on the Rossland sprint on Dec. 17 and the World Champ’s spot that’s on the line.
“Best case scenario I’d like to be on the podium in Oslo. I’ve been on the verge in the pastŠso if I can get back to that form I don’t think it’s an unreasonable goal,” said Goldsack. “At this point in my career, if I’m not shooting for the podium then I don’t know what I’m doing.”