Friday, January 21, 2011

Otepää Check-In

Tomorrow the World Cup visits Otepää, Estonia, one of the traditional stops on the circuit. The Otepää races are almost always classic individual-start events - as old school as it gets - and this year is no different. The Otepää races are also the venue at which Estonian racers tend to do well, for whatever reason. Last year, Jaak Mae took third and Andrus Veerpalu took second behind Lukas Bauer. (The rest of the top ten was completely Russian and Norwegian.) Neither Mae or Veerpalu had made a top-level podium for a while before that race (Veerpalu: first in the 15km classic at the Liberec Worlds; Mae: second at Otepää in 2008), and neither has done it since. Just as I had my doubts about the origins of their surprise placings last year, I have my doubts that either will finish in the money tomorrow. I suppose one should never doubt the magical water at the Tehvandi Sports Complex!

Checking on Veerpalu and Mae in the FIS database, it struck me that Estonia is oddly akin to Italy and Germany, two far more broadly successful ski-racing countries, in having very few distance-race podium finishes from its men in recent years. EST is a small country, of course, which makes the recent GER and ITA lapses all the more surprising - a point I made in a slightly different context last month. Looking at distance races...

1. Who was the last German male to reach a World Cup podium (i.e., not the Worlds or Olympics), and when?

2. Who was the last German male to win a World Cup race (i.e., not the Worlds or Olympics), and when?

3. Who was the last Italian male to reach a World Cup podium (i.e., not the Worlds or Olympics), and when?

4. Who was the last Italian male to win a World Cup race (i.e., not the Worlds or Olympics), and when?

1. The last German podium finish was Tobias Angerer's second place in the 10+10km pursuit in the Falun season finale in March 2010. (Honestly, though, Angerer and Axel Teichmann did well at the Olympics, with the latter winning a silver in the 50km classic mass start and the two of them winning a silver in the team sprint.)

2. The last German win was Axel Teichmann's first place in the 3.3km prologue in the Falun finale in March 2009. Looking at real distance races, the last win was Angerer's first in the 15km mass-start skate race at Rybinsk on January 30, 2009.

3. The last Italian podium finish was Pietro Piller Cottrer's second place in the freestyle 50k at Holmenkollen in March 2010. (He had won a silver in the 15km skate race at the Olympics in the previous month.)

4. The last Italian win was Giorgio di Centa's first place in the Canmore 15km skate race in February 2010. (Piller Cottrer finished second in that same race.)

Though I guess some of these gaps aren't that long (ten months since Angerer's second place, eleven since di Centa's win), some are - almost two years since a German victory! And all of these finishes happened in markedly weak or otherwise odd races: the prologue is a weird event, and the fields were notoriously weak at Rybinsk and Canmore. (Obviously, the good Olympic results for Teichmann, Angerer, and Piller Cottrer are counterpoints.) If the Italian and/or German men rip it up at Otepaa tomorrow, I'll be as surprised as I won't be if Veerpalu uncorks a podium finish. My picks:


Nat Herz said...

Um, not to be a weenie, but isn't there a Scola involved somewhere in those Italian results?

Christopher Tassava said...

You're right - I added a couple words to clarify that this is supposed to be about distance racing.

yvesson said...

Hej, you have to be suspicious about someone with almost as many world champs and olympic gold medals than world cup wins... and the two estonians are in that category.
Also you have to wonder how come italy did always so well at the olympic relays, when they are so weak on the world cup.