Friday, December 17, 2010

Clues about La Clusaz

This weekend's World Cup races - the last events before the Tour de Ski starts on New Year's Eve - take place at high altitude in La Clusaz, France. La Clusaz is Vincent Vittoz's home, but he won't be racing this weekend as he continues to recover from the injury that knocked him out of the Gällivare relay.

On Sunday, La Clusaz will stage the second relay races of the season, following on Saturday the first mass-start races of the season: a 15k free for women and a 30k free for men. Both races be run on a short 2500 meter course, which means the women will ski six laps and the men twelve. This track-meet format doesn't please some racers, such as Grumpstyna Kowalczyk: "Both Justyna and her coach have many objections to the prepared by the French route, which according to them is not suitable for performing at the highest level of competition."

Someone give Justysia a gold medal for lowering expectations, eh?

The last time La Clusaz hosted races,* two years ago, Petter Northug won a two-up sprint against Dario Cologna, while Kristin Størmer Steira won on a breakaway, finishing 13 seconds up on Aino-Kaisa Saarinen for only her second WC win. I don't think either Norwegian will win again on Saturday, though both might figure in the podiums. Here are my picks, as submitted to the excellent WhoWins prediction game over at World of XC. If you're the kind of person who reads Nordic Commentary Project, you're definitely the kind of person who'll like WhoWins - go over and enter your own picks for La Clusaz.