Saturday, December 19, 2009

More Rogla

Tobi Angerer on a sprint podium, huh? Okay. It's happened before on the World Cup: two freestyle individual-sprint bronzes in 2003 at Reit im Winkl and 2007 Rybinsk (both in freestyle) and freestyle team-sprint medals in 2006 at Sapporo, 2004 at both Duesseldorf and Oberstdorf, and in 2003 again at Duesseldorf. On top of that, he has a silver in the team sprint at Liberec this year. Not shabby, and more importantly a good sign he'll be in fightin' shape 29,800 meters into Sunday's classic race of many laps (12, to be exact about it) - though it seems very, very likely that he'll trail at least one particular dude over the finish line. My picks:

men's classic 30k mass start
1. Northug
2. Angerer
3. Jauhojärvi

Freeman: top 10; Harvey: top 15

Speculation elsewhere about the Russians showing up in force seems misplaced: Legkov and Shiraev are men you want in freestyle races, not classic ones. Vylegzhanin, maybe...

As the women take their six laps of the short, sharp course at Rogla, I think there will be plenty of time for Petra Majdic to think through her disappointing third-place finish in Saturday's sprints and figure out how to get on the podium, either by out-descending the others on the second half of the last lap or just overpowering others on the way to the line. I don't think she's got the goods for the win, though...

women's classic 15k mass start
1. Bjørgen
2. Kowalczyk
3. Majdic
Renner and Randall: top 30

A few notes:
1. It's going to be pretty cold at Rogla for the race (5°F/-15°C), though apparently sunnier than on Saturday.
2. These distance races - like the last long races, those at Trondheim last spring - will include opportunities to gain additional World Cup points: at the 5k and 10k marks in the women's race, and at the 7.5 k, 15k, and 22.5 k marks in the men's. The first three racers over those lines get 15, 10, and 5 points, respectively, which means that someone who sweeps all the points and wins the race could garner 130 points in the women's race and 145 in the men's. Not a bad incentive, though arguably last spring Petter Northug raced himself off the Trondheim podium and out of the World Cup overall title by challenging for all the sprint points in the race at Trondheim.


xc-skier said...

What a race! Good on the Russians for giving the race the 'extra gear' in the....well throughout the whole race, 5-6 guys all up front and controlling the big group. Nice to see Swedes taking the lead, Vittoz was up there, Angerer, even the Italians showed up today!

And now to Northug. I don't care if he wins every single race from now on and sweeps the olympics, he will not get much respect from me as far as his tactics are concerned. The only time before the finish line that he lead was the start! He was just sitting in a rocking chair all day and then all of a sudden jumps and outkicks everybody again. Same old crap and showing no respect to other racers, the highest he has placed during the race was 17th or 18th. I realze it's hard to be up there in the lead for a long time and not everyone does it, but I have seen just about all of the top guys taking turns in different races in different stages of a mass start race over the years and have very seldom seen Northug take the lead. The one time he did that was last year in Liberec in the 50km, and even then he just came up and slowed the pace to a standstill.

Ridiculous and unsportsmanlike, in my opinion. He should learn from fighters like Daehlie and Alsgaard who never hesitated in taking leads in relays or particularly Alsgaard in mass starts in the latter stages of his world cup career.

Colin R said...

Northug is the best villain the ski world has ever seen. I hope he continues to ski without pretense of honor.

Christopher Tassava said...

I agree that Northug is a great villain and someone who is very hard to root for. But it would be a great lesser-of-two-evils dilemma if the Russians - most of whom are prEtty susPiciOus - have the manpower and sheer audacity to try and wear him down. I dunno if it can be done, but it'd be entertaining to see.

Only 9 Pull-ups said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Only 9 Pull-ups said...

I don't understand all the vitriol poured on Northug for his performances. There's nothing in the rules that says that you have to grind away at the front the whole race in order to be a worthy winner. If the skiers at the front don't want Northug 'sandbagging' then they have every right to slow down and make him take the lead. If he doesn't take the lead, then stop whining and grind him down by upping the pace. If you can't drop him by upping the pace and you can't outsprint him than you really don't have a right to criticize him, do you? People complained about Northug's tactics last year in the relay at Liberec, but you never hear anything about how Northug made up 14 seconds on Tiechmann in the first 2 kilometers before outsprinting him at the end. He is a supremely fit athlete- it's not like you can unleash a sprint at the end of a 30km race unless you have the fitness to do so. Northug is blessed with a rare combination of finishing speed and endurance and you can't fault him for aligning his tactics with his strengths. What's more, how many of the athletes that featured in the classic 30 km went through all the heats of the marathon sprint race the day prior? Gee, Northug may have been a touch fatigued after that and only had the energy to hang on to the blistering pace of a lead pack for 30km the day after. Further, Northug won the individual start 15km in Kuusamo in his weaker technique classic, closing in the last few kilometers. I suppose his win is invalidated because he sped up in the last few kilometers and to win nobly you have to keep perfectly even splits without. When I hear bitching about Northug's tactics, all I hear is a bunch of haters blinded to the fact that this is a fitness sport, and Northug has the fitness to stay with the lead pack going all out plus an extra finishing gear to put them away. Until someone else can match his finishing speed or grind him down it's put up or shut up. Let yourself witness greatness.

Christopher Tassava said...

Ah, but where's the fun in that? One of the core elements of fandom is being a hater. It's fun rooting for the Packers; it's more fun to root against the Vikings. It's fun to watch the World Cup races; it's more fun to watch and see if anyone - ANYONE! - can solve Northug. It appears not, but a guy can hope!

(I also say "howdy!" to to 9 Pull Ups, who's apparently on the far side of the Cannon River from this blogger.)

Colin R said...

I can only do 8 pullups right now, so I'm not sure I can contribute here. But it seems like the real problem is not that Northug is the best sprinter who can hang with the top group in a distance race, it's that the other skiers are reluctant to change their tactics to address this.

As usual, look at bike racing, and look at how a known exceptional sprinter will be treated by his breakaway group in the final k. He'll be attacked repeatedly and each time forced to close gaps, because everyone know that bringing him to the line is giving him the victory.

Meanwhile, in skiing, none of this happens. Whomever is at the front, in the win, just skis tempo and hopes other guys will drop off. How many more years of Northug winning will it take to address this?

I don't know what's more annoying, Northug, or his competition's inability to adapt to him.

This is probably a good subject for an article in the future.