Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tour de Recap

During this interim between the end of the Tour de Ski and the pre-Olympic World Cups at Callaghan Valley, all the cool kids are reading recaps of the Tour, like the offical FIS brief, the blog post by French coach Pierre Mignerey, the media-saturated page from Universal Sports, Fasterskier's summary of Nordic press accounts, or the several reports on this ski blog.

So, to join in the fun, a bit of analysis and commentary.

First, big props to Ivan Babikov, who won the Final Climb stage in what amounted to a sprint against Tom Reichelt of Germany. Stealing from Le Grimpeur, a cyclist who is obsessed with the climb up l'Alpe d'Huez, I plan to post some information on the Final Climb stages (now that we've seen six of them) later, but suffice to say that Ivan's time up the climb looks to be the tenth-fastest ever. On the women's side, the skiing fairy Therese Johaug won the stage by juicing with coffee and cola. Yum. And I don't mean the drink.

Second and conversely, you gotta feel for Eldar Ronning. He skied well in the Nove Mesto sprint and the Val di Fiemme mass start, holding third place on the final morning, but then utterly blew up on the climb, giving up a whopping eleven places and winding up 14th on GC. With this detonation, he earns the dubious distinction of attaining the worst performance of anyone who starts the last stage in a podium position. Alpe Cermis is not kind to oversized classical specialists.

Third, and last, it's worth noting that the finish of the Tour saw the most competitive last stage so far. In the men's race, we saw Northug overtake three racers, including Teichmann within sight of the finish line, to finish second overall. His Brashness's attack was the climax of plans developed the previous day, in the classic mass start, when coaches refused to let Martin Johnsrud Sundby try to break away for the win, out of fear that if Cologna and Teichmann chased Sundby down, they would put a lot of time into Northug. So Sundby was shackled, Teichmann took the win, and Northug finished seventh - six seconds behind Teichmann, four seconds behind Cologna, and well within striking distance on the final day. Ahh, team tactics...

The women's Final Climb was something like a tournament. First, Saarinen and Majdic battled for second and third, with the Slovenian attacking but failing to break the Finn, then failing to counter the inevitable counterattack from "Aikku." Second, Saarinen caught onto Kuitunen, attacked, but - déjà vu all over again - failed to break away, and then letting Kuitunen pass her back and stay away for the win. Were this blog more Velonewsy, we might be able to analyze the extent to which Majdic's ill-timed attack allowed Saarinen to catch a tow up the mountain and launch her own attack on Kuitunen. Suffice to say that the video seems to show that Saarinen uses one surge to catch, pass, and drop Majdic, then extends it to catch, pass, and try and drop Kuitunen.

Only it doesn't work. I know they're teammates and apparently decent people, what with
all the un-Nordic hugging and whatnot, but I gotta think that Saarinen is just dying to beat Kuitunen in a head-to-head race. She doesn't have long to wait: both are skiing in Whistler, and the world championships women's pursuit is on February 21.


Colin R said...

As long as we're talking smack about elite athletes, was Teichmann's "response" to Northug's final sprint one of the lamest ones ever? Axel is no joke in a sprint finish -- remember him and Angerer going 1-2 in Sapporo? -- but my god, it didn't even look like he tried. Northug must have quite the rep.

Christopher Tassava said...

Yeah, Axel's response was a bit lackluster. I recall that he did try a couple V2 strokes, but then pretty much phoned it in. For me, the picture of the stage was Teichmann sitting in the snow, hands on his knees, looking down the mountain as Cologna and Northug celebrated. Surely, he's plotting revenge at Liberec... That, or he was tired out.

Skinny boy said...


Why do you keep calling Eldar 'oversized.' He's 5'8'' and 160 lbs, whereas Teichmann is 6'1''185+lbs and Petter is 6'1'' and 180lbs. I guess I don't see the connection you're trying to make between Eldar's physical size and skiing up the Final Climb. By that logic, you would think that Teichmann would have fallen right out of the Red Group!

Oh, and I go to the college on the Hill and ski for the collegiate ski team if you ever want to go kick it in the arb if you get free.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment, Skinny boy. I don't suppose you're coming over to this side of the river on Saturday at 2 for the 3x3 relay - classic only - that the Carleton team puts on each year? It'll start behind the Rec Center. I'm going to show up and ski even if I don't get a team.

I say Roenning's oversized because he seems visibly bulkier than Northug and Teichmann, who have three inches more to distribute their extra weight. Combined with his relative lack of skating prowess, Eldar - whom I love to watch in sprints - looked like a man trying to carry a barrel up a hill during the Final Climb, where the Dueling Duo (not to mention Cologna) looked about as smooth as you can when skating up a 15% grade.

More on Northug and Teichmann here: thems hates each other.