Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Ode To Kristin

One of the greatest things about fantasy sports is that it allow you to develop a bizarre, one-way bond with an athlete, where you spend an entire season being a superfan all because you put down more imaginary money next to their name than anyone else. If this athlete happens to be an attractive member of the opposite sex, all the better -- and if you'd like to argue with my definition of "attractive" you should know that I consider scary fastness to be really hot.

Anyhow -- two years ago I spent a whole season developing a bizarre affection for Kristin Steira, as she carried my fantasy team to a season win, and this affection was in no way reduced by this video. This year, I gloriously predicted Justyna Kowalczyk to win the World Cup Overall (let's not forget my co-blogger picked Astrid Jacobsen) and put my money where my mouth was with a huge fantasy bid for her.

So Saturday's pursuit was basically the happiest I've been watching a ski race in years.

Here's the thing -- Kristin Steira can't sprint. She is a female version of Anders Soedegren. Her sprinting claim to fame is finishing 56th/60 in a Tour de Ski Sprint in 2006. So when the lead group of five transitioned onto skate gear in the pursuit, she knew the only way she was going to win a world championship gold was to reduce that group to one person.

Steira went to the front and drilled it. For 7.5k. A rarity, in the new hey-let's-all-draft-till-the-finish style of mass start racing. No one came around her, and it wasn't that they were being clever and forcing her to work -- they just couldn't.

After 2.5k, all four were still there. She opened a gap on the big hill, prompting Kowalczyk to move all the way from fifth up to second to close it (what were you doing back there anyway, Justyna??) but eventually it all came back together. Some people -- for example, anyone in the men's field -- would have given up at this point and started being "tactical," which is to say "boring."
Kristin instead decided to try punching everyone else in the face again to see who could really hang. Maybe her coaches told her that everyone was in difficulty last time she did that, or maybe she just knows that people don't generally like chasing the lightest person in the race up the steepest hill in the race. In any case, on lap two Shevchenko and Longa were immediately evicted from the front group, with Saarinen hanging on by the thinnest of margins. Only Kowalczyk (whom I predicted would be very good this year, in case you forgot) seemed to be handling Steira's pace.
On the third lap, Steira kept the hammer down and put away Saarinen easily, whittling the group to two. Kowalczyk continued to look relatively comfortable, but Kristin didn't care; she just stayed in front and kept the pace as high as possible for as long as possible.

On the second to last climb, Justyna made a play for my heart by attempting to come around, but Kristin was so determined to lead -- even faced with the reality that Kowalczyk was feeling at least as strong as her -- that she would have none of it, any drag raced the Pole side by side to the top.
In the end, Kowalczyk won, because she has more than zero fast twitch muscles in her body AND she was the only woman in the whole field that could even stay in Steira's draft. Had it been an interval start, I assume Steira would have won -- but it wasn't, so she didn't, but at least gave us a hell of a show in the process.


Christopher Tassava said...

It's good of you to describe the origins of your loyalties, personal and athletic, so openly.

Not only do I lack your forthrightness, I lack your ability to make good predictions for the World Cup overall title. Until I acquire either ability, I'll distract myself with the Johaug blog.

ADS said...

Sounds like Colin has a new girlfriend.:)

Colin R said...

I was unimpressive with the blog-o-'haug until I found this.

I would make further jokes but I hate it when guys on the internet get all creepy over famous women. Let the record show that I also like the men on my fantasy team far more than is healthy, and yes, I do have Ola Vigen Hattestad, thanks for asking.

Luke S said...

Let the record show that I put big money down on Jacobsen, and she sucks a lot this year. Last year, Johaug carried my team to whatever minimal success it had. I love that girl.