By André Santos
It is not often that people living in the Iberian Peninsula see someone training on roller-skis. It is even more rare to see someone who is a top long distance skier. Sure, we all know that a lot of top athletes travel to Mallorca or Canary islands during the months of September and October, but that is not as usual in other parts of the peninsula. This summer, Øyvind Moen Fjeld traveled to the region of Asturias and Catabria in the north of Spain and took some time to train on the region's beautiful mountains, enjoy the old cities and taste the wonderful local food. Now as the summer is over and the beginning of the season is almost there, Øyvind Moen Fjeld recalls his summer experience and talks a bit about the new developments in his skiing career.
After 4 years training and racing for Team Santader/Team Ragde Eiendom, how would you describe the impact that it has had on your career?
It has had a big impact. Training, living and competing with Anders and Jørgen Aukland, Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Andreas Nygaard, Justyna Kowalczyk, Johan Olsson and many other strong skiers. And having Magnar Dalen as our sports director meant that I could learn from the best in the business from day 1. That was a huge advantage and a great opportunity that I will thank Jørgen, Anders and Nils Marius Otterstad (manager for Team Santander at the time) for giving me.
Now that you are training with another team, how has it been so far? What are your expectations for the next season?
The people at Lager 157 Ski Team have welcomed me with open arms. The change has gone smooth so far. Of course, there are some differences between the teams, but nothing that has surprised me much. No matter where you come from or who you are the recipe for skiing fast is to train hard and rest much. I hope that the training I do this summer and fall will make me a little bit stronger than last winter. If I can achieve that objective, I am sure that I can get some good results. Hopefully a podium finish or maybe even a victory.
How has your summer training been? We know you spent some days in Asturias, what do you think about the training conditions there?
So far, my summer training has gone as planned without any injuries or sickness. For me, that is the most important thing. I enjoy cycling and/or roller-skiing up steep hills. For the past summers, my girlfriend and I have traveled to both the Alps, Pyrenees and Jura mountains to get good climbs. That is great training for the winter and at the same time you get to experience many new places. This year we figured that we would try out the Cantabrian and Asturian mountains. We stayed for some days in Oviedo, Cangas de Onis and San Sebastian. The training conditions were really good. The roads have great pavement for roller-skiing and there’s not too much traffic and good climate compared to other parts of Spain (I now understand why the region is called “Green Spain”).
In Northern Spain, people are not used to seeing someone roller-skiing. What was the reaction of the people you encountered along the way?
Many people were curious, so I got a lot of attention from the people alongside the road. Roller-skiing makes a bit of noise as well so it was difficult to go through a village without causing some raised eyebrows. In addition, the Spanish dogs were not so found of the sound of the poles hammering the asphalt and were often quite vocal about their opinion. Luckily, they (usually) were on the other side of a fence. In general, the reaction was positive, and I got a lot of “thumbs up”!
What about food in Spain? Did you try any local dishes? What do usually you eat before and after training?
The Spanish food is really good. When we were in San Sebastian, we went to the old town to try the Pintxos. That is difficult not to like, because you have so much to choose from. I don’t have to put much focus on what I eat. The most important thing is to get enough food, during and after training. Without eating enough, the body won’t recover as fast as it should. During my workouts it is all about sugar and fat. I enjoy a Mars, Snickers or some other sort of chocolate. After training it is good to have some proteins in addition to carbs and fat. My favorite is pizza, maybe with some Iberico ham.
Nowadays, a lot of amateur athletes from Spain are getting interested in long distance ski races. Do you think it would be possible for someone coming from countries like Spain, France or even Portugal to compete at the same level as Nordic athletes do?
Physically, there are no reasons why southern Europeans can’t be as good as Scandinavians on skies. And in France, there are some examples of good skiers. The problem is the lack of snow. Cross- country skiing is technically quite demanding. Almost all the good athletes start skiing at a very young age. How many Spanish or Portuguese children start skiing 3-4 times a week from December to April every year? In Scandinavia, and especially in Norway, cross-country skiing is something almost every child tries. Out of these thousands of children, the best of them continue and reach a level of professionalism. In the same way, Spanish football is much better than Norwegian one, because that is a sport which almost every Spanish child tries (and your football fields do not get covered in snow during the winter). In the same way as Norwegians live and breathe cross-country skiing, you have a much stronger football culture. That being said, skiers like Juan Jesus Gutierrez, Diego Ruiz and Irineu Esteve Altimiras have shown that it is possible to become good skiers when being born on the Iberian Peninsula.