Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quebec Gold - And World Cup Storylines!

Just like my co-bloggers, the NCP-Canadian connection has been quiet over the last few months. Personally, I spent the summer getting promoted (whoo-hoo!), dusting Fasterskier staffer Nat Herz in rollerski intervals, and hanging out in Canmore secretly videoing Devon Kershaw doing everything so I can sell his secrets to the Russians.
But back to the show. This week, the World Cup comes to Canada – and due to the fact that I’m Canadian and into skiing, it's going to be pretty exciting. And that's the understatement of the season.

Although let's clarify something, the World Cup is in fact in Quebec, not just in Canada. That means mountains of support for Alex 'Quebec Gold' Harvey, including screaming young girls. He's like the Beatles, One Direction, and The Backstreet Boys of cross country skiing. It means old buildings, the National Assembly (not to be confused with the Parliament Buildings, which are in Ottawa, the capital of the country), cannons, and enthusiastic Frenchmen. It means poutine, beer, and maple syrup. If nothing else, the Quebecers will put on a show!

Also I would like it noted that I called the Quebec World Cup years ago. A buddy of mine and I were on a trip to the East Coast, and we stopped for a tour of 'Le Veuille Quebec'. After poking around some old buildings, stirring up classic English-French rivalries, and exposing ourselves as terrible uni-lingual Canadians, we settled down for a pint along 'La Grande Allee' just down from the Assembly. Being mostly obsessed with cross country skiing, it took us about 10 seconds to decide that covering the streets with snow and watching Alex Harvey shred Emil Joeenson and Alexei Petukhov needed to happen. Four years later - BAM! - no thanks to us, we get our wish!

Now, despite the fact the World Cup season is already two race weekends in, just like my co-blogger, I have some serious storylines that I am interested in seeing develop.

11. Will the Germans be half decent? Last year they skied like a pile of sick, with the exception of one prologue during the Tour de Ski. As a nation, they seem to be taking a beating in the cross country arena, but will they reverse the decline? (In a word, no. Not even close.)
22. Kikkan Randall. Last years’ Sprint Cup winner, and distance skiing improving dramatically all the way. Late-fall injury dampened expectations, only to have her explode out for two distance podiums in the first two weekends. The one big question - can she put it together for a major event or championships? (Yes. I’m looking at the Tour de Ski.)
33. The Swiss sprint team, featuring Eligius Tambornino and Laurien Van Der Graaf, among others, took a huge step forward last year, especially in the first half of the season. Anything that rocks the Sweden-Norway-Russia stranglehold on sprints is great, but can they continue to rise? (Yes. Especially Van Der Graaf.)
44. Canadian World Cups – will the turnout from Euros be any good? (No. Except for Emil Joensson.)
55. Will the women’s World Cup become something other than a two-horse (Bjoergen and Kowalczyk) showdown? (Yes. But no. Bjoergen will still be unstoppable, but the competition for 2nd-6th will be that much more difficult. Johaug vs. Randall vs. Kalla vs. Kowalczyk?)
66. North American teams are getting deeper, and much more talented, but can they translate that to relay success? (Yes, big-time. I know I’m calling it late, since one relay has already happened.)
77. Will the young North Americans please step up? Every time the World Cup comes to Canada, continental skiers get a chance in the limelight – think Garrot Kuzzy, Phil Widmer, Chandra Crawford, and Torin Koos. Allright, maybe I should have said ‘sprinter’, but you know what I mean. (Yes!)
88. What is the over-under at now many times the British Eurosport announcers mention Andrew Musgrave? (I think it’s set at about 9 million, and they may have exceeded that already.)
99. Will any of the men try something new to break up the monotony of distance races? (No. Petter Northug will wait around in the pack, and then sprint to the finish. He may not win, but it’ll only make the last 1 km of the race exciting.)
110. Has Alexey Petukhov figured out how to pace his sprint races so he can win instead of fading like a champ? (No. He’ll still get beat at the line.)
112. Will Dario Cologna ever show emotion? (Definitely not.)
113. I’ve made various bold statements regarding my ability at WhoWins. Can I back up my non-stop trash talk? (No. Especially if I keep picking skiers that don’t start…)

Half-Arsed Predictions

While I refuse to make predictions for Saturday, as the start list hasn't been revealed, I don't mind making a leap for the team sprint. I realize that I just basically predicted all the favorites. However, as a caveat, I think the tight fast course matched with several inexperienced teams will result in a gong show. Over/under on number of crashes is set at around 20. It's going to make NASCAR look like a walk in the park.

1. Norway I (Gloeersen/Brandsdal)
2. Canada I (Kershaw/Harvey)
3. Sweden I (Joensson/Peterson)

1. Norway I (Caspersen Falla/Brun-Lie)
2. USA I (Randall/Diggins)
3. Canada I (Gaiazova/Crawford)


Cole said...

Umm I think the turnout from euros is pretty good at least on the sprinter side. Jonsson, Peterson, Bransdal, Gloersen, Morilov, Goldberg? That sounds like a pretty stacked world cup final...

Kieran said...

That may be a strong final, but I would argue depth is just as important. For Canadians, to qualify for World Champs you need to finish in the Top 12 on the World Cup, but CCC criteria says that's dependent on the strength of field. IE: if the top 6 guys are close, but you're 12th and 5 minutes back, you won't make the cut.
I'm just hoping for the best possible races, with the best competition.

Christopher Tassava said...

Nice post. As our respective posts have said, this year's World Cup has an insane number of things to track - not only the TdF and Val di Fiemme Worlds, but an unusually wide open pool of racers, and interesting venues for racing. With Randall setting the tone for the North Americans already, it's gonna be especially fun to see this season play out.