Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kuusamo Distance Races

The Kuusamo sprints were great races. You can read Fasterskier's recaps of the men's and women's races or just watch the races themselves via Norwegian TV (men's race // women's race - and a clip of an interview in English with Majdic). Sad to see that Universal Sports has already cut their coverage of the World Cup, after just one weekend.

My predictions for the sprint were excellent for the winners, terrible for everyone else, but I'll pay this little mind and fearlessly offer these predictions for Sunday's races:

women's 10km classic
Justyna Kowalczyk (Pol)
Therese Johaug (Nor)
Petra Majdic (Slo)

men's 15km classic
Tobias Angerer (Ger)
Tor Arne Hetland (Nor)
Lukas Bauer (Cze)

Thursday, November 27, 2008


This week's World Cup venue in Kuusamo, Finland, is among the circuit's best stops. The terrain is old-school in the best way, the racing is almost always run in classical technique, and the Ruka stadium provides a memorable end to both the sprints and distance races, with a hard climb into the stadium, the famous lefthand turn around a goddamn tree right in the middle of the stadium, and then a drag-race straightaway to the finish line.

Last year's sprint and the 10km/15km distance races yielded some excellent competition. On Sunday, Marit Bjoergen won the women's distance race, showing a spark of form that burned out a few weeks later, while the young Norwegian Astrid Jacobsen took a surprise second place ahead of Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland). On the other hand, the men's 15km winner, Lukas Bauer (Czech Republic), launched himself toward the 2007-2008 World Cup title with a a win over Eldar Roenning (Norway), showing some distance ability to match his sprinting prowess, and Axel Teichmann (Germany), who had won the previous week's 15k skate race in Beitostoelen, Norway. (American Kris Freeman briefly held the lead but finished fifth, about a half-minute behind Bauer.)

Saturday's sprint, run over a swoopy course with a number of hard uphill and downhill corners, featured two come-from-behind wins sealed on the uphill into the stadium: Petra Majdic (Slovenia) chased down Astrid Jacobsen (Norway) to take the women's race, while Johan Kjoelstad (Norway) surged past Emil Joensson (Sweden) in the men's race. American Andy Newell fought hard throughout the men's final race, but ultimately finished in fourth.

2007 podiums
women's classical sprint
Petra Majdic (Slo)
Astrid Jacobsen (Nor)
Alena Prochazkova (Svk)

men's classical sprint
Johan Kjoelstad (Nor)
Emil Joensson (Swe)
Mats Larsson (Swe)

women's 10km classic
Marit Bjoergen (Nor)
Astrid Jacobsen (Nor)
Justyna Kowalczyk (Pol)

men's 15km classic
Lukas Bauer (Cze)
Eldar Roenning (Nor)
Axel Teichmann (Ger)

2008 predictions
women's classical sprint
Petra Majdic (Slo)
Marit Bjoergen (Nor)
Virpi Kuitunen (Fin)

men's classical sprint
Ola Vigen Hattestad (Nor)
Emil Joensson (Swe)
Eldar Roenning (Nor)
Andrew Newell (USA): in the final

(10km/15km predictions to come on Saturday...)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ball to the Wall

Anders Soedergren: free of cancer, and one testicle lighter.

Let the Armstrong-style domination of the World Cup commence.

(I hear he's lobbying the FIS to move the last stage of the Tour de Ski from Alpe Cermis in Italy to l'Alpe d'Huez in France.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gaellivare Relay Picks

I chose only two of the six podium finishers for the distance skate races, though even then I didn't get Bjoergen and Kalla in the right spots, so here goes nothing on the relays:

women's 4x5 relay
1. Norway I
2. Germany
3. Finland

men's 4x10 relay
1. Germany
2. Norway I
3. Sweden I

(Note I: the Americans are in the #10 bibs, running Newell, Cook, Freeman, Koos.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gaellivare Picks

The World Cup season kicks off in about twelve hours with the 10/15km skate races in Gaellivare, Sweden. course map

My picks:

women's 10km freestyle
1. Marit Bjorgen
2. Charlotte Kalla
3. Claudia Nystad

men's 15km freestyle
1. Axel Teichmann
2. Tobias Angerer
3. Lukas Bauer

(Aside I: Compare these to a Swede's top-five picks...)
(Aside II: Why is Anders Soedergren not racing? [Later answer: he's having an operation that - if the online translator can be trusted - will remove a possibly-cancerous testicle. Jeebus. Get well soon, Anders! (Will this improve his sprinting? His power-to-weight ratio should improve, no?)])
(Aside III: Both Devon Kershaw and Kris Freeman will finish in the points.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fantasy Nordic

So, you think you're a nordic skiing fan. I mean, you read FasterSkier, maybe even Team Today, so you're pretty much an expert, right? You know Tobias Angerer won the World Cup. You know Petter Northug isn't going to lose a relay finish for the next 20 years. You know that Andy Newell is the first American to lead the FIS sprint points ranking in... forever.

Sure. You read the headlines. But...

1) Who scored more World Cup points in 2006-07, Torin Koos or Toby Fredrickson?
2) Tobias Angerer scored (a) 30% (b) 60% (c) 90% more points than 2nd place overall in the 2006-07 World Cup.
3) Which of the following skiers didn't win a World Cup Race in 2006-07: (a) Renato Pasini (b) Ole Einar Bjorndalen (c) Ola Vigen Hattestad (d) Tor Arne Hetland

Answers below.

Ok. At this point the random web surfer should have stopped reading. The casual nordic crowd, too. But you -- you sick freak -- you're probably wondering if I counted Bjorndalen's 15k skate victory at World Champs as a World Cup win for question 3.

I didn't. And it was Lars Berger... don't just lump all the biathletes together, jeez.

Anyway, you're a hardcore fan of nordic skiing. Me too. But it's the 2000's. Can you really call yourself a fan of something if you don't play the fantasy version of it? Come on now. At this point I'd bet your mom is playing Fantasy Football. I'm pretty sure I saw "Fantasy Tour de France" on Yahoo this year.

So you don't play Fantasy Nordic World Cup. You're not a fan -- hate to break it to you.

"But Colin," you say, "there is no such thing as Fantasy Nordic! I love the internet, I'd play it if it existed, I want Marit Bjoergen on my team soooo bad, but it Just. Doesn't. Exist."

That's where you're wrong, good buddy. Because it does now.

So if you're stoked to worry about things like "should I trade Seriana Mischol and Sara Renner for Jens Filbrich?" go make an account. If you have a bunch of nordic nerds friends you want to play with, that's even better. You can make a league, give it a password and only they can join. There's a bunch of other information on site, like how it actually works -- if your reaction to the phrase "Fantasy Nordic" is "whoa, that might be fun" go check it out. Draft starts next Monday!

So join me, in the rapture that is talking smack to someone because they overpaid for Vassili Rotchev (overhyped), Matty Fredriksson (over the hill), or any Norweigan sprint specialist.

The only rule is that you have to take the word "Beta" seriously here. Stuff is going to break. You must keep your e-composure no matter how badly you get screwed by my poor programming.

1)Torin Koos
2) (C)
3) (D)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bring on the Racing

In a convenient web-based calendar format, I mean.

With ten days to go until the season's first World Cups at Gaellivare, Sweden, I've created a public Google Calendar for many of the top-level cross-country ski racing circuits. So far, the calendar includes the World Cup, the Nordic Ski World Championships, the FIS Marathon Cup, and the Worldloppet. I'll try and add the SuperTour races later. Click here to access the calendar (and if you're using GCal, add it to your own calendar). You can also add the calendar to any iCal calendar application by clicking here, or access the XML here. Colin can explain what XML is. I think it has something to do with energy drinks.

Anyhow, let me know via comments if you have trouble with the calendar, ideas for improvements, or recommendations for other racing series to add. I hope this is useful to some of our vast readership.

And speaking of the vast readership, soon enough we'll post more stuff to actually read.