Friday, March 19, 2010

"Queen of Mördarbacken" Liveblog

(All times Central Standard Time, U.S.A.)

5:41: It's a warm day at Falun, and the snow cover looks thin and wet - a klister day if there ever was one. So far, only a couple racers have finished, though already some strong skiers have hit the top of the Mördarbacken climb, establishing decent times at the 1.0k mark there. So far, the best time for the full distance is that of Kristina Smigun, at 8:49.5. Olga Savialova, who has the best time at the early split, 3:57.1, is soon to cross the line, through.

5:42: Here's Savialova, crushing Smigun's time: 8:35.2. Savialova was only the 8th of the 48 starters today, but this is a good time!

5:44: Watching the women climb the Mördarbacken is interesting. Everyone is breaking into a herringbone but the fastest skiers so far have been able to stride further up the hill and then run smoothly. None of this is not surprising, of course, but it's striking. A lot of skiers of slipping and tripping badly as they herringbone, whether from fatigue, wax, or lack of practice at herringboning for a full minute.

5:46: Anna Haag comes in juuust behind Savialova's time, +1.6s. Not bad!

5:48: Kristina Størmer Steira hits the climb timecheck way outside the lead. This is just too short a distance for her - she's barely warmed up after 1,000 meters.

5:51: Being the reversed form of the finishing ranks from the Stockholm sprint, the start list might be represented as a kind of U-shape, with many good distance skiers at the top and the bottom of the list, and sprinters in the middle. Savialova's time could well hold up right to the end of the day, when Saarinen, Kowalczyk, and Bjørgen come through.

5:53: One thing that Eurosport has that NBC didn't during the Olympics is trackside audio: you can hear the athletes' breathing, the sound of their skis and poles, the coaches' instructions. It adds a lot to the race.

5:54: Johaug comes through, far off the lead. She looks pissed off about it.

5:55: Here's Kikkan Randall, who looks pretty strong going up the climb. Two minutes down the track is Virpi Kuitunen, who doesn't look to have recaptured her form of two years ago. Virpi does show a nice smooth herringbone, though, and comes through the timecheck at +4.0s.

5:59: Charlotte Kalla has just started, to a happy cheer from the crowd. She could do very well today, though she'd probably prefer a skate race.

Up the track, some of the sprinters - Magdalena Pajala from Sweden - look horrible on the climb, nearly stumbling to their knees.

6:01: Kuitunen is in the stadium, and working hard. She hits that long, famous uphill to the finish line just as Savialova's time passes. Virpi comes over at +11s, which isn't bad and sets her up well for the pursuit.

6:02: Follis comes through the finish line with a great time, just 3.1s off Savialova. She descended very well, taking back almost eight seconds on the track back to the stadium.

Aino-Kaisa Saarinen is on the climb now, and looking strong. She comes through the check in second. Behind her, though, Kalla is motoring, and sets a new best mark at the 1.0k timecheck, 3:52.5 - 4.6s faster than Savialova!

6:05: Bjørgen starts, and roars out of the stadium. She looked as relaxed as Kowalczyk, starting one minute later, looks nervous.

6:08: Kalla comes back into the stadium as Saarinen crosses the finish line, +5.3s in fifth. Kalla is working very hard, double-poling like Northug and gritting her teeth up the climb to the finish. She annihilates Savialova's time - 8:24.8, most the 10s faster than Savialova. That'll be very hard to beat, even for Kowalczyk or Bjørgen. The Pole is going to have trouble on the descent, I think. Nearly a thousand meters of fast descending does not suit her.

6:09: Bjørgen comes through the kilometer timecheck at +3.0s, but Kowalczyk comes over just a few seconds later and sets a new best time, 7.5s ahead of Kalla - that, after slipping and sliding on the climb.

6:10: Anna Olsson, the day's last starter, is doing a creditable job, placing fifth at the kilometer mark.

6:12: Bjørgen is already back in the stadium, riding her skis out as far as she can and then launching into her customary powerful striding. She hits the bottom of the finish climb with lots of time on Kalla, and sets a new best mark at the finish: 8:16.6. Bjørgen's excellent descending paid off; this time should hold up for the best or second best of the day.

6:14: Here comes Kowalczyk! She's crushing it, and knows it, relaxing with a few meters to the finish line and gliding to an easy win - 8:07.9, 8.7s ahead of Bjørgen and 16.9s on Kalla.

6:15: Olsson, the day's last starter, finishes well, taking seventh on the day.

6:16: The final standings are funny-looking: Kowalcyzk at 8:07.9 in first, 8.7s ahead of Bjørgen and 16.9s ahead of Kalla. After that, starting with Savialova in fourth, is a huge group of racers separated by a second or so from one another and ranging from about 30 to 40 seconds behind Kowalcyzk. This should lead to a big pack of racers working together in tomorrow's 10k freestyle pursuit.


Suber1 said...

Kriukov, Panzhinskiy and Petukhov DNS ...

Anonymous said...

To Suber1: yeah, the Russian team said that was the plan. I am not sure why they wouldn't this stage at least...Oh well. Looks like Morilov did.