Friday, December 5, 2008

La Clusaz Predictions

After two years away the World Cup returns to La Clusaz, France, the home town of French star Vincent Vittoz, for 15k/30k freestyle mass starts and relays (the second sets of relay events in three weeks). When the World Cup visited La Clusaz in December 2006, the podiums looked like this:

women's 15km freestyle mass start
close sprint finish
1. Virpi Kuitunen (FIN)
2. Riitta Liisa Roponen (FIN)
3. Arianna Follis (ITA)

men's 30km freestyle mass start
tight sprint finish
1. Tobias Angerer (GER)
2. Alexander Legkov (RUS)
3. Eugeni Dementiev (RUS)

women's relay
1. Germany (13-second win)
2. Sweden
3. Czech Republic

men's relay
1. Russia (24-second win)
2. Norway
3. Germany

This year, some good female racers are missing. Of the women in the top 20 of the distance rankings, Marit Bjoergen, Petra Majdic, Vibeke Skofterud, and Katerina Smutna aren't racing the 15km; Marthe Kristoffersen is also absent. Among the men in the distance-ranking top 20, Eldar Roenning, Andrus Veerpalu, and Vassili Rotchev are not racing the 30km.

Of course, this means plenty of racers are ready to mix it up in the first mass-start race of the year, and a good test for the 30km/50km mass starts at Worlds. My predictions:

women's 15km freestyle mass start
breakaway win in the last 2,000 meters
1. Charlotte Kalla (SWE)
2. Justyna Kowalczyk (POL)
3. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (FIN)

men's 30km freestyle mass start
another bunch sprint finish
1. Marcus Hellner (SWE)
2. Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA)
3. Giorgio di Centa (ITA)
(Kershaw, Babikov, and Freeman: all in the points, but outside the top 10 and the main finishing group.)


Luke S said...

Freeman had a pretty weak race, 41st or something. Babikov was right in there, 8th. You neglected Northug to win the bunch sprint...Hellner was back in 16th or so I think. Astrid Jacobsen also wasn't racing, she hasn't been producing very many points after I paid a premium for her in fantasy.

Christopher Tassava said...

Babikov was in the mix, all right. Anybody know if he has any serious late-race sprinting ability? Is he a Dementiev or a Soedergren?

Speaking of Anders, he acquitted himself nicely, finishing 6th. I'll go on record here saying he wins the Trondheim marathon later this year.

I discounted Northug's ability to win because 30km is a long way, and he's not shown that much long-distance ability yet. Yeah, a pursuit win, but he phoned in the first half of that race. I'm dining on that crow now.

Re. fantasy - I halfheartedly put money on Babikov and got him on both my teams. Not bad production for his first week!

Luke S said...

Babikov can bust a move. He put a LOT of time on the Birke field in the last K last year, yeah I know thats not a WC, but he still put a hurting on them. I almost put money on Babikov but just wasn't sure when he would show up on the circuit.