Friday, March 13, 2009

Trondheim 30km and 50km

Quiz: how many times since 2000 has the regular World Cup season included a mass start race over 30km and 50km?

The answer: zero.

Actually - and leaving aside the traditional March races at Holmenkollen, which have always been run as individual starts, just as Thor intended - there have been three longer mass-start classic races this decade - all Marathon Cup/Worldloppet races being run for World Cup points.
- In 2002, the 58km Birkebeinerrennet was a World Cup race. Predictably, Norway dominated, taking the top five places in the men's race, with Thomas Alsgaard, Anders Aukland, and Frode Estil on the podium. Anita Moen and Vibeke Skofterud took the top two spots in the women's race.
- In 2004, the 70km Marcialonga was a World Cup, with Anders Aukland narrowly winning the men's race over Giorgio di Centa and Gabriella Paruzzi easily taking the women's race.
- In 2006, at the Vasaloppet World Cup, Marit Bjorgen won the 45km women's race ahead of Hilde Pedersen and Petra Majdic, while Worldloppet stars Daniel Tynell and Jerry Ahrlin showed up the World Cuppers by going 1-2 in the men's full-length 90km.

But aside from those Marathon Cup/World Cup double dips, all the hot classic mass-start action over 30,000 and 50,000 meters has been at Worlds. The relevant data points:

Sapporo 2007
50k: 1) Hjelmeset (2:20:12.6), 2) Estil (2:20:13.0), 3) Filbrich (2:20:17.1)
30k: 1) Kuitunen (1:29:47.1), 2) Steira (1:29:54.0), 3) Johaug (1:31:09.9)

Obersdorf 2005
50k: 1) Estil (2:30:10.1), 2)Aukland (2:30:10.8), 3) Hjelmeset (2:30:11.5)
30k: 1) Bjorgen (1:27:05.8), 2) Kuitunen (1:27:14.7), 3) Baranova-Shiskina (1:27:16.1)

Looking at all that, I'm going to go out on a cracked ski pole and say we're going to see some Norwegians on the podiums after Saturday's distance races at Trondheim - and not just becase the men's and women's start lists are larded with home-country racers who are insanely fast and completely unknown.

The courses - 4 x 7.5km for the women, 6 x 8.33km for the men - have two significant climbs on each lap, big but not, it appears, crazily steep enough to break open the field. As a novelty, the races also feature several points at which racers can garner sprint points: three such spots for the women, five for the men, with seconds doled out 15-10-5 for the first three over the preem lines. Judging by the course maps, these sprint lines are about two-thirds of the way up the longer of the two climbs. A nice touch. Still, the long up/long down profile means the races will be like polka: lots of accordion. Even worse, both feature long downhills to the stadium. Read: Bunch sprint. Read: Northug.

men's 50km (no Giorgio di Centa or Martin Johnsrud Sundby)
1 Angerer
2 Northug
3 Soedergren
4 Teichmann
5 Veerpalu
alternates: Jauhojaervi, Bauer

women's 30km (no Virpi Kuitunen)
1 Saarinen
2 Kowalczyk
3 Steira
4 Longa
5 Johaug
alternates: Kalla, Tatjana Jambaeva

Bonus pick: Betty-Ann Bjerkreim Nilsen will beat her sister, Inger Liv Bjerkreim Nilsen, by at least one minute.


1 Teichmann
2 Olsson
3 Angerer
4 Jauhojaervi
5 Northug
(alternates, haven't seen a start list)
6 Soedegren
7 Filbrich
8 Svartedal
9 Veerpalu

1 Saarinen
2 Kowalczyk
3 Longa
4 Kalla
5 Steira
6 Johaug
7 Medvedeva
8 Majdic

Commentary: Wow, there are a ridiculous number of plausible choices in the men's race. I changed my top picks 3 or 4 times, and I like all four alternates as well. I think the reduced drafting from classic, plus the fact that Northug is a better skater, will finally cause him to not win a mass start, but I still think he'll pull out a good result, fighting for the World Cup on home snow and all. Despite my disgust with Teichmann, he's the best classic skier, on average, in the last five years or so and can actually sprint pretty well. I'm really hoping to see Northug in the lead group at the end to see if Teichmann can avenge the relay in a double-pole sprint, but then again, he'll probably just lead him out for 10k instead.

Anyway, we haven't seen a mass start classic, especially not a 50k, in so long, I have no idea what will happen.

For the women -- same old, same old, although I'm hoping I'm the only one who noticed that Kristin Steira has gotten a lot better at classic skiing recently.


ADS said...

1. Justyna Kowalczyk
2. Aino Kaisa Saarinen
3. Valentina Shevchenko
4. Petra Majdic
5. Longa

Alt: Steira

1. Petter Northug
2. Johan Olsson
3. Sami Jauhojaervi
4. Dario Cologna
5. Andrus Veerpalu

Alt: Angerer

Kieran said...

And the real men's result from today defies prediction and drops jaws. Check that FIS results list again, - did Alex Harvey really just come 30 in a 50 km classic? Unbelievably awesome. I smell a new blog post.

Anonymous said...

Results of this round of predictions:

(You may have to click on the "Trondheim" link at top.)

Masako?? *swoons* Petra? *double swoon*