Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Original Plans for the Tour de Ski

A couple days ago, I dug up an old video of the men's relay at the 2005 Oberstdorf World Championships, which is a great race* but which also included a little preview by Jürg Capol (then and now the race director for FIS cross-country skiing events) of what was still being described as a ski version of the Tour de France. Said Capol:
I guess today it's a little bit difficult to find out who is the best - really the best - cross-country skiers. Is it the one who goes fast in the sprint, or is it the 50k man, or whoever it is? And as we can see in cycling, they have this Tour de France which extends over all the rest of the season as the biggest highlight. And there you can see all the big names, if it's Mr. Zabel [who] takes part or Mr. Armstrong… [The ski tour] will mostly be some several stages... Now the plans [are] that we would have a prologue, a kind of a prologue in Munich with a a 3 to 5 kilometer prologue. And we would have a team event in Reit im Winkl. We would have a kind of pursuit here, in Oberstdorf. We would go to Zurich for a skate sprint. We would have a king-of-the-mountain in Davos, that means an Alpe d'Huez… where the finish is higher up than the start line. We would go to Italy and have some mass starts and another sprint. And then we end up on the last stage as we can start in all pursuits [sic] with the first coming to the finish, he will win the overall tour.
Capol added that the FIS planned to award the top 30 finishers of each stage the same number of points as a regular World Cup race, and that he expected women to race a total of about 4.5 hours over the entire tour, men about 5.5 hours.

The former prediction sorta came to pass. In the first year of the TdS (2006-2007), racers only received WC points at the end of the Tour, based on the final overall standings (at a rate of four times the usual points, so that first place yielded 400 points, 2 yielded 320, etc.). In subsequent years - including this one - finishers have received half the usual WC points for each individual event and then more points at the end of the Tour based on overall ranking.

Capol's latter prediction sure didn't come to pass. The three Tours de Ski so far have all put the athletes through far fewer hours of racing than Capol's original expectation:

2006-2007 - six stages
Angerer: 3:29:49.7 (last finisher: 3:51)
Kuitunen: 2:20:15.3 (last finisher: 2:44)

2007-2008 - eight stages
Bauer: 3:38:07.4 (last finisher: 4:11)
Kalla: 2:43:01.0 (last finisher: 3:11)

2008-2009 - seven stages
Cologna: 2:56:05.4 (last finisher: 3:24)
Kuitunen: 2:06:41.4 (red lantern: 2:19)

*The 2005 Oberstdorf men's relay was very entertaining. A sizable pack held together for about half of the first leg, at which point Hjelmeset made the race's big selection by trimming the lead group down to just four: himself, Filbrich, Pankratov, and Di Centa. Early in the second leg, Estil and Rotchev cut the group in half, establishing a 1-minute lead over four chasers. On the third leg, Berger and Dementiev stayed out front until late, when Berger accelerated to open a narrow 2.7s gap for Hofstad (remember him?) over Russia's Bolchakov. Hofstad methodically and easily extended the lead to take the win by 17.7s.

The real race happened behind Hofstad. Teichmann started his anchor leg 95s down to Berger, 93s down to Bolchakov in second, and 39s down to Zorzi in third. But Teichmann pushed and pushed, and on the last lap around the 3.3km track, he caught Zorzi on the biggest climb, and then closed on Bolchakov as they entered the stadium. There, in front of thousands of cheering German fans, Teichmann outsprinted the Russian to take the silver - Germany's first medal at the home-snow Worlds. So overcome with emotion was Axel that he subtly pumped his fist as he crossed the line. (The next day Teichmann paired with Angerer for silver in the team sprint.)


Anonymous said...

Hofstad is still racing and was part of Norway's relay team during the world championship. But he has been struggling with injuries/disease.
He seems to be doing that a lot so thats why he has not raced.

Btw will there be match ups made for the tour de ski in fantasy nordic ?

Christopher Tassava said...

Yeah, TRH won a gold on the Liberec relay, but he's not a prominent part of the Norwegian effort any longer. (Inge Bråten, who was doing color commentary on the Oberstdorf relay, said something about how Hofstad could race the anchor in Norway's relays for as long as he wanted. Err, no.)

The Tour de Ski matchups are now live in the fantasy leagues.