Written by: Mario Facchini
Photo: Magnus Östh
We met Mauro Brigadoi at the Congress Center in Cavalese, in Fiemme Valley, seat of the race office Marcialonga. He is always smiling, imagine his sunny face when he told us that he is about to become a dad- and he had just come back from a 100 km training session on roller skis!
Before getting to the heart of the matter, we asked him what the name of the child would be…
"First of all, we don’t want to know whether it would be a boy or a girl, it will be a surprise. The name? Well, if it's a boy - laughing - I'd call him... Tord Asle (as Gjerdalen) or Petter (as Eliassen), but Veronica doesn't agree. If it's a girl Mia or Nathalie”. (Let's not forget that Cristian Zorzi called his son Harald, in honor of his Norwegian opponents!).
"The snow season is coming, I've been training for all the time I've had, I'm very satisfied. I think that in Livigno - at the beginning of Visma Ski Classics - I will be in good shape. Now I train 24 hours a week split between gym, roller skiing, running and cycling under the control of my coach Mirko Filippi. However, my life as an athlete is different from that of professional athletes, especially the Scandinavian ones.
I work as a chimney sweep in the family business, and in summer I also work as a gardener. In winter my father allows me to skip several days of work, but normally I always work at least 40 hours a week. I start around 6 a.m., finish around 5 p.m. and then I train. Sometimes I have a one-hour training session in the morning before going to work. In Italy our sport has not great success, only those who are in the military teams can be real professional athletes, there are no sponsors that allow you to live on sport. However, we of Team Trentino Robinson have achieved good results both in Visma Ski Classics and in other cross-country races. We have given good emphasis to the brands that support us, but the figures are always mediocre".
But if you found a big sponsor, what would change?
"Of course, it would be great to quit my job and dedicate myself to training. Then we would need a masseur and a physiotherapist. There is another big difference between us and the Scandinavian athletes. We usually train alone, they in group, and that's how you can improve, you can keep a higher pace and make longer training sessions. Fortunately, this year we too have managed to train sometimes in group with our team ‘Team Trentino Robinson’. With me there are Francesco Ferrari, Simone Varesco and Mattia Defrancesco. But they have to work too, and we don't always manage to schedule group sessions. From September I will reduce the training session in order to train in quality".
You are the only Italian athlete and one of the few non-Scandinavians to get interesting results?
"I think that we Italians are not so bad in the end. Without training and without munificent sponsors I was able to enter even in the top ten. If I could be a professional athlete full time, and train more intensely I think, but I'm not sure, that I would have a good chance of fighting with the best athletes. I think that it would be better if I could work part time. But in any case, I'm happy this way. As soon as I started competing in the Visma Ski Classics, my goal was to finish in the top 30 and I succeeded, then I was able to finish in the top 15, and I reached another goal arriving in the top ten. The next step is to get even closer to the podium!”
We see you on the snow, in a white world, but your world is often tinted with black, what do you think when you're up on the rooftops sweeping chimneys?
"When I work I think about my work, I try to do it well and I don't think about anything else. When I train I just think about getting in shape. I'm always very focused.”
Let's talk about your Visma Ski Classics season?
"With the team I haven't decided yet which races I will take part in. I will certainly be at the start of the two opening races in Livigno. It will be my first time in the season on skis, unlike my strongest opponents. Luckily it's two short races. Starting the races so early in the season is not positive for me. I arrive after the training done only on roller skis. And it's not even nice to have a race at the end of the season like the one in Levi. I had to train on my roller skis for that race. On the following Tuesday at 7 a.m. I was already sweeping chimneys".
Then there is Marcialonga, the race that passes through your valley?
"Needless to say, Marcialonga is important to me. But it's also a difficult race. The first 65 kilometres are pretty flat; I'm used to always up & down tracks. In Scandinavia the tracks are different from ours. Then there's the "final climb", it's a race within a race. I'm training specifically for Marcialonga, I've already covered three times the final climb of Cascata on roller skis. On January 27th I'd like to get a good result, but I know that I can't aspire to much. Getting in the top 15 (31st in 2018’s edition) would really be a success for me”.
We are curious to know who your idol is?
"Initially it was Cristian Zorzi, he lives nearby, we went to admire him both in training and in races. Now I don't have a specific idol, but I really like Pedersen’s skiing technique”.
How do you see the Visma Ski Classics races this season?
"This year I think it will change little, apart from the return of Eliassen. The protagonists will probably be Gjerdalen, Nygaard and Chernousov. It also depends on the materials. I've changed skis, now I'm skiing with Madshus, my team has always prepared some "missiles" for me, this is probably a point in which we don't have any gap with the professional teams".
Finally, a greeting to the many champions of Visma Ski Classics:
"Goodbye, see you in Livigno, indeed, I'll wait for you in Val di Fiemme at Marcialonga!”