Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rčng In the Lnd of Fw Vwels

Cheery little Zlodej here is the mascot of the upcoming World Cup races in Rogla, Slovenia. The World Cup has
only visited Slovenia proper once before, for a men's 15k skate race at Bohinj in January 1993. (The podium: Smirnov,
Mogren, Daehlie.) Before that, the World Cup had staged a few other events at Bohinj and at Sarajevo in the 1980s and 1990s, back when both places were loc
ated in Yugoslavia. These events included the 1984 Winter Games, where the XC events were dominated by Sweden and Finland. Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi took golds in all three of the individual women's races.

This year, the racing will feature Slovenes somewhat more prominently than those Cold War races did, with the native daughter and current World Cup leader Petra Majdic (who appears here and there in the Rogla organizers' program) a favorite in both Saturday's classic sprints and the 15k mass-start classic race on Sunday.

The courses at Rogla - which Andy Newell described as "basically in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain" - are woven into the side of that mountain.

The sprints - 1400m for women, 1500m for men - are longish and undulating, with at least three significant climbs and descents. The distance course has a profile that resembles last weekend's up-and-down Davos courses. The difference here is that the Rogla course is just 2500 meters long, which means laps aplenty. The downhill run into the stadium should ensure that there's a a very big pack until the last few hundred meters of the race, at which point a short, sharp uphill will probably help with the selection.

Against the context of the whole Olympic season, the Rogla events could be quite significant. The sprints are second of four classic sprints that build toward the classic sprints in Whistler on February 17, and the mass-start classic races are first of just two such events before the Olympic classic marathons on February 27 and 28. (The other mass-start classic events are the World Cup the 10k/20k races at Val di Fiemme during the Tour de Ski in early January.) In other words, it's here that the classic specialists, especially over the long distances, need to impress their coaches with Olympic fitness.

While all that might liven up the short-course racing on Sunday, the sprints on Saturday should put the usual suspects on the podiums. My picks:

women's classic sprint
1. Majdic
2. Prochazkova
3. Saarinen
Randall: semifinals; Renner: heats

men's classic sprint
1. Hattestad
2. Kriukov
3. Dahl
Newell: finals; Koos & Harvey: heats (Kershaw tweeted that he's out sick)


keeron said...

1. Majdic
2. Bjoergen
3. Kowalczyk - though I really hope not
Randall top 15, Crawford/Renner Top 40, no heats.

1. Kruikov
2. Roenning
3. Dahl
Newell/Koos/Harvey heats

Anonymous said...

To long sprints needs to be shorter