Thomas Gifstad has had a strong performance during the rollerskiing season. The Norwegian Pro Tour skier, who races for Team Robinson Trentino, performed well at some of the most competitive summer races and feels ready for the upcoming season.
After focusing his career on biathlon, Thomas Gifstad stepped into the long-distance circuit when the German Team Forever Nordic invited him to join its ranks. Since then, the 30-year-old skier has achieved many Ski Classics top 30 results and has been fighting with the leading group in almost every race.
But it is during the summer season that the Norwegian athlete has shown his strength. This summer, Thomas Gifstad conquered impressive results in some of the most challenging rollerskiing races, having finished 3rd at Tanumsloppet, 17th at Totenrullen, and 29th at Alliansloppet, all Ski Classics Challengers events.
ProXCskiing talked to Gifstad to understand how these events have helped him find more motivation for training. And we learned that with his team, Team Robinson Trentino, and primarily due to its director Bruno Debertolis, Thomas Gifstad had found new motivation and a new 2nd home – Italy.
How is your motivation for the upcoming season after such a good performance at Tanumsloppet?
“After the race at Tanumsloppet, I was both happy and disappointed. I was happy because my shape seemed pretty good and was disappointed because I felt good and wanted to fight for the victory, but I struggled with the heat and dehydration and collapsed at the last uphill.”
“Then I’ve done Topprullen and Alliansloppet, which gave me good motivation by keeping up with the leading group at both races.”
Why did you decide to focus your skiing career on long-distance skiing?
“Before I went into the Ski Classics circuit, I was a biathlete. I was decent in the tracks, but it was always like bingo at the shooting range. And outside the season, I did races like Skarverennet and Alliansloppet, where I saw that longer races suited me well. And after 5th place at Alliansloppet in 2015, I got an offer from the German team “Team Forever Nordic” and decided to leave biathlon and join the Ski Classics Pro Team.”
How is your summer training going? Where and how have you been training?
“I got Covid 5 days before my main goal last season, Vasaloppet. Then I struggled with my lungs for several months and got sick a couple of times when I started training again. But from the beginning of June, my body started to respond to training, and since then everything has gone as planned. With my new coach Lasse Aulin, who has brought a lot of new types of training into my program, I now feel strong and looking forward to the winter. We focus on getting my capacity higher this year, including some tough intervals, more running and cycling than the last years, and of course a lot of double poling.”
“I struggled with a lot of injuries the last few years, but with close follow-up from my brother, Henrik Gifstad, a physiotherapist, I can now do my training according to plan without taking a break. And consistency is the clue for every athlete who wants to see progression each year.”
“Except for one training camp in Val Di Fiemme and many competitions in Sweden, most of my training takes place in Norway. I work a full-time job next to my skiing career, and I am based in Hurdal, Norway. Therefore, most of my training is done here. I often get up at 5 am to get a session in before work and a second workout in the evening. On the weekends, I often travel to my family’s cabin in Halden. Here I go rollerskiing behind my father on a bicycle or go rollerskiing with my friend, Johnny, who just turned 70 years. But most of my training is alone. During winter, I also ski with my girlfriend in a rope behind me so she can keep up with me for 2 hours. I guess all these things combined make training fun for me. Doing everything by myself would get boring in the long run.”
You have changed to Team Robinson Trentino. How is this change impacting your career?
“After a few years with some lack of motivation, it all came back stronger than ever when I got the offer from Pro Team Director Bruno Debertolis to join Team Robinson Trentino. With huge support from Gianni Casadei, our Team President, we are able as a team to compete at the same level as the biggest teams with great service at each race.”
“Bruno is always making sure we as athletes have everything we need, and he is genuinely interested in our training and how we are outside of sport. Absolutely a perfect Pro Team Director who inspires me in any way. This combined, I’m sure Team Robinson Trentino can help me reach my goals.”
“At training camps and some Ski Classics races, we have been living with the talent team (many young Italian talents). Together with them and all the service personnel, we now feel like a small family, and Italy feels like a second home.”
What are your ambitions for Season XIV?
“For the upcoming season, I hope for a podium at Vasaloppet and to keep up with the leading group in Marcialonga until the last climb. From there, anything can happen.”
Finally, what are your best memories related to skiing?
“My best memory related to skiing must be in 2018 when I came 10th at Vasaloppet. Just proving to myself that I’m not just a rollerskier but can also be good during winter. And this year, I hope to make new memories.”
With a new coach, team, and more motivation, Thomas Gifstad is getting ready for the coming season, where the goal will be a podium at Vasaloppet and fighting for a good position at Marcialonga.
Photo: Team Robinson Trentino