Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Long Race: 50km

I love that the Worlds (and the Olympics) end with the 50. I mean, it's logical, from a fitness and attrition perspective, but it's also just right that the last event is the toughest, longest race. And the Liberec 50 has a chance to be a memorably brutal race. Temperatures have been rising through the last few days: it was about 40 degrees F for the women's 30km today, warm enough that FIS nordic chief Joerg Capol ordered that the course be salted in an effort to improve conditions. The forecast for Sunday shows about the same temperature, plus rain or snow.

That's ugly enough, but the course itself is going to be brutal. Though the Liberec organizers haven't (as far as I can tell) published any good course maps, one can extrapolate from the results sheet for the women's 30km to generate some scary information about the 50km: something on the order of 1,600 meters of total climbing over a thirteen or fourteen lap course. Expect a lot of DNFs and lapped racers. (The women's race had two lapped racers, five DNFs [including Kuitunen], and six non-starters [including Renner, who got sick].) Interestingly enough, racers will be allowed to change their skis during the race, which should ensure good wax.

A number of big names are missing from the start list, including Axel Teichmann and Dario Cologna (who are atop the distance World Cup) and Lukas Bauer (disappointing the Czech fans, no doubt). On the other hand, I'm a bit surprised to see both Petter Northug (who isn't renowned for his long-distance skills) and Anders Soedergren (who was too sick to race the relay) on the list. I wouldn't be a bit disappointed if the marathon podium shared two-thirds of the racers as the pursuit podium - with the other third occupied by anybody by the dirty Norwegian. And of course I'd especially like "Sodo" to win. The guy's just a few months past a testicular-cancer scare (and operation), but has the balls to write on his blog, "Anyone who wants to beat me can prepare for hard tempo and pain." Nice. Nonetheless, my picks from among the 72 starters:

men's 50km freestyle mass start
1. Pietro Piller Cottrer
2. Giorgio di Centa
3. Anders Soedergren
Babikov: top 10


Luke S said...

Looks like they had a fairly pedestrian pace and a sprint to the finish from my preliminary reading of the results

keeron said...

Yeah, they sure did. Lame pack of 25 men until around 1km left, when there was a bit of a break by 6 guys. Pretty awful when the 50km is won by Northug. I'm guessing Sodo's illness kept him out of the race, and therefore no one actually had the guts to make a break. Yet again, the course needed more punishing uphills to break the pack open.

Colin R said...

It should be noted that the one time there looked to be a break of any consequence - Vittoz was up by 9 seconds at 32km - Northug was the only guy who went with it. While there was much lameness, to be sure, this at least shows Northug was vigilant throughout the race instead of dicking around until the final sprint.

Luke S said...

I haven't been able to watch it yet, Universal hasn't posted it. Is it worthwhile?

Colin R said...

Luke -- it's probably not the best way to spend 2 hours of your life. Last 5k is worth a watch, of course.

Christopher Tassava said...

The last 5k is great, if only to see someone trying - really trying - to stick it to Northug. I'm going to fire Behle if he doesn't put Angerer against Northug from now on.

And though it's not quite reason enough to watch the preceding 1:50, it was interesting to see Gjerdalen control the pace to help Northug, especially after His Cockinesss's last ski change.

Speaking of ski changes: racers could change skis as many to four times! This seems ridiculous. I can see doing it once, at halfway, but four times?!?!? World-class athletes can't ski on bad skis for 12.5k? I ski on bad skis every k.