Thursday, March 19, 2009

Falun Prologue Predictions

The freestyle prologues at Falun - 2.5km for women, 3.3km for men - are going to be interesting. They're akin to the Tour de Ski prologues in Oberhof on December 27 (which were run over 3.7km for men and 2.8km for women) with the lung-busting difference that the Falun races are essentially just out-and-back climbs up the Mordarbacken. (men's course map - women's course map) You remember last year's pursuit at Falun, right? The Mordarbacken figured prominently in the results, which were analyzed right here on this blog.

Beyond the intrinsic interest created by the climb, the prologue kicks off three straight days of racing at Falun, during which a waxing bus's worth of points are on offer to the racers still vying for overall titles: Dario Cologna and Petter Northug on the men's side, Petra Majdic, Justyna Kowalczyk, and - maybe - Aino-Kaisa Saarinen on the women's. Just to maximize the number of PDFs you have to try and keep open in one browser if you're going to really follow the racing, the FIS is publishing men's and women's standings sheets for the World Cup Final. The start lists of the men's and women's prologues are just the current standings, inverted so that Petra has a whole bunch of people to pass when she plummets down the back side of the Mordarbacken on Friday afternoon. I don't doubt that the Swedes, especially Kalla and Anna Olsson, are going to show up in a big way at Falun, but sadly enough, Anders Soedergren is not skiing this weekend, which means that the Swedish women will have to keep the crowds happy.

Let's not kid ourselves about what happened here. I talked some trash about knowing my World Cup, and Mr. Tassava has put me in my place. Well played, sir. Your crappy early-season predictions tricked me.

Anyway -- with the final weekend in Falun, I'll need a small miracle to win, and if I make a bunch of high risk, high reward picks I'll probably get overtaken by fellow blogger ADS. Tough choice.

The only blueprint we have for a ~3k prologue comes from the Tour de Ski this year, which featured a win by Teichmann and a podium with Cologna and Northug. But then it gets weird, with the legendary Aivar Rehemaa in 4th, and Devon Kershaw 5th. Still though, looks like picking the best-sprinting distance guys is the way to go. And after 3 straight good weekends from Maxim V, I'm ready to call him the real deal*, at least for the rest of this season.

As for the women -- I'm a sucker for Kalla in Sweden in a skate race. Plus two other skate-sprint-specialists (Muranen and Follis) and that leaves us with Saarinen, Majdic, and Kowalczyk from the big 3 unpicked. They can't all make the podium, and Saarinen was the slowest of them in the last prologue and DNS'ed Lahti. I'm not sold on Petra's distance skating but I would be terrified of her in a 3k race with the overall World Cup on the line. Sold.

1 Northug
2 Angerer
3 Cologna
4 Legkov
5 Vylegzhanin
6 Piller Cottrer
7 Hellner

1 Kalla
2 Follis
3 Majdic
4 Muranen
5 Kowalczyk
6 Saarinen
7 Kristoffersen

*"Real deal" means consistent performer, and is not a statement in either way on the cleanliness of his performances.

men's 3.3km F prologue
1 Northug
2 Legkov
3 di Centa
4 Angerer
5 Bauer
6 Piller Cottrer
7 Cologna

women's 2.5km F prologue
1 Majdic
2 Kalla
3 Sachenbacher-Stehle
4 Kowalczyk
5 Follis
6 Saarinen
7 Muranen


Colin R said...


Kieran said...

For real with Hellner as an alt? Sure, he's Swedish, but he also hasn't raced really well in a month aside from the sprint at World Champs. I've heard rumours of health issues, ranging from broken ribs to the flu. Now, I'm sure the obligatory swipe coming is asking me to replace Hellner with Kershaw in there. I'll back down on my love affair with Devon - he's been rough the last little while.

ADS said...

1. Justya Kowalczyk
2. Pirjo Muranen
3. Marthe Kristoffersen
4. Petra Majdic
5. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen

6. Marianna Longa
7. Charlotte Kalla

1. Tobi Angerer
2. Dario Cologna
3. Pietro Piller-Cottrer
4. Alexander Legkov
5. Petter Northug

6. Jean-Marc Gaillard
7. John Kristian Dahl

Colin R said...

Keeron, you're right. What happened was that I saw Hellner did well in TdS, and that Soedegren wasn't starting, and I have an obsession with picking the home team, so I threw Hellner in without really looking at his recent performances. Whoops.

Christopher Tassava said...

Colin: All right, all right. Don't get your pole straps in a twist. I still haven't seen your picks, so I'll change a couple of mine in the hope of getting some divergence. I'm not changing my dead-on locks, though. PETRA!

ADS: Thanks for the picks!

Keeron: Why not put your loonies where your comments are and post some predictions? Don't you wanna ride the Harvey train?

Kieran said...

Allrighty, here are my loonies. I must say that I now hate prologues. Too much to think about, weird distances, anything can happen.
But regardless...

5.Di Centa
Harvey (surprise!)


Christopher Tassava said...

That's the spirit! (No, I just hope neither my invitation nor my rearranged picks backfire and make me look stupid.)

Christopher Tassava said...

That's the spirit! (No, I just hope neither my invitation nor my rearranged picks backfire and make me look stupid.)

Kuan said...

Kowalcyk will win this one on brute strength alone.

Christopher Tassava said...

NRK is still running the final standings of the women's race, and I'm here with the Challenge results. The main lesson here is, "In women's prologues, always bet on black (Adidas unis)."

Colin: 23 (burned by Muranen)

Christopher: 13 (I flipped a coin to choose between Evi and Claudia. Goddamn coin.)

ADS: 28 (burned by Muranen and Saarinen)

Keeron: 21 (no help from Saarinen)

On to the men!

Kieran said...

And Kershaw and Harvey leave me crying in my cornflakes yet again, but for different reasons.

Christopher Tassava said...

Don't forget - one and all - to post your predictions for the pursuits. (That post also includes a little recap of the Challenge so far.)