Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Relay Day 1: The Women

I am really, really looking forward to seeing what happens in the women's relay at Val di Fiemme. While Norway is obviously the top team, anything can happen in the relay, and the cluster of teams one tier lower than NOR includes the American squad, which will start two Val di Fiemme gold medalists, along with Liz Stephen. Finland, Sweden, and maybe Germany and Russia are right there in the hunt.

My picks:

  1. Norway (Weng, Johaug, Steira, Bjorgen)
  2. USA (Bjornsen, Randall, Stevens, Diggins)
  3. Sweden (Ingemarsdotter, Wiken, Haag, Kalla)

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Interval of Individual Start Racing

The last of the (semi) old-school races, the individual start distance races will be dominated by the usual suspects - almost. Petter and Justyna will have to wait for a chance at medals.

picks from

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Team (USA) Sprint: The Randall & Diggins Show

I just rewatched today's women's team sprint at the Val di Fiemme World Championships. I don't think skiing has raised the hair on the back of my neck more since the American nordic combined boys medaled in Vancouver. Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall were not just the gold medalists today; they were far and away the smartest, most aggressive, most tenacious, and fastest skiers on the snow.

Photo stolen from Audrey Magnan

The peak moment was Randall winning by a country mile, but the previous lap was the clincher. First, Diggins decisively took the lead just out of the stadium. A minute or two later, as she crested the big climb, lost her pole to the Finnish racer in second place. In the slo-mo replay, you can see Diggins shout for a replacement, but she hardly slowed down: she charged hard for 150 meters on one pole, keeping contact with the Finn and separating from the Swede in third.

It was an astounding moment of ski racing, and Diggins followed it up a minute later when - re-armed with a pole that looked longer than she is - she charged the last hill and took the inside line on a tricky uphill left-hand hairpin. The aggression put her back into a lead which she didn't relinquish and which Randall then extended in her amazing effortless style all the way to the line. Gold, set, and match.
Photo stolen from Audrey Magnan at

It's inarguable at this point that the naissance of the American women's team is due to Kikkan Randall. Over the last decade, she has showed everyone that there's no reason that the U.S. can't produce world-class - and now, world champion - skiers. I think the clearest evidence of this is Jessie Diggins: she doesn't know that she shouldn't be the best, so in fact now she is, racing with breathtaking heart and skill. I can't wait to see what the full relay quartet does on Thursday. The American women know they're among the world's best. Now they can show it again.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Team Sprint! USA! USA!

The team sprint is always an odd event, since it is relatively rarely contested on the regular World Cup and since it has an especially manic character, what with the super-high sprinting speeds and the constant exchanges. I'm looking forward to this one.

1. USA (Diggins, Randall)
2. Sweden (Kalla, Ingemarsdotter)
3. Finland (Sarasoja-Lilja, Lahteenmaki)


1. Sweden (Hellner, Joensson)
2. Norway (Golberg, Northug)
3. Canada (Kershaw, Harvey)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Worlds Skiathlon

I hope the Val di Fiemme skiathlons live up to the great spectacle of the races in Oslo. That was great stuff. I am bummed that Kikkan Randall isn't racing on Saturday; I'd have expected her to finish very well, but she's clearly saving her legs to win the gold on Sunday in the team sprint. This is acceptable.

My picks for the skiathlon's top-five places, which I hope are actually wrong in interesting, unpredictable ways:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

World Champs Sprints

The Val di Fiemme World Championships are finally here, opening with classic sprints. My XC Predictions picks, including some North American "outsiders" that I think are gonna show up on the Italian snow:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Davos Tune-Up

I clearly have not been paying enough attention to the World Cup this year: I was surprised to see today that the World Championships start in just five days! This weekend's events in Davos are thus the final tune-ups for Worlds. My picks for Saturday's classic sprints:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Sochi Re-Shuffle

The World Cup had the weekend off for some obscure reason*, which resulted in some serious depression for ski racing fans. Especially after the last few weeks, where we have been bombarded with World Juniors, U23's, World Cup medals galore (although not in La Clusaz - I've seen more exciting paint dry), and are getting pumped for World Championships!

Here are some mid-season story lines worth paying attention to:

 - We should be concerned about Russia. The courses go straight up and straight down. The athlete accommodation is a prison. They have stolen ALL the worlds cranes. It’s like the plot of a James Bond movie.

- I think everyone should walk to Russia, based on the air travel.

- The American World Champs team was named. All the American men were promptly shredded to bits by commentators.

The Canadian World Champs team was named. Eric Bjornsen had his boots filled with concrete by commentators.

 Finland named it’s World Champs team, and – what the hell, how come Torin Koos didn’t make it, he won, like, two of three races at US Nationals, and he beat Eric Bjornsen in an arm wrestle, and looks way better in a headband than Tad Elliot, and did I mention that he once was second in a classic sprint qualifier? What’s that? The USST doesn’t take anonymous internet commenter’s  into consideration in selection criteria? Oh. My bad.

- Sorry, was Torin Koos involved in some sort of controversy this year?(Ed. Note - Last USST selection/Torin Koos joke of this post, I swear.) 

-  The USST made a cover music video to some Taylor Swift song. Three good reasons to watch it: 1. You actually like the song despite trying really hard to deny it. 2. Jessie Diggins is one cute blond girl. 3. You can spot Noah Hoffman a mile away with that red hat. Does he sleep with that thing on? 

Every single Canadian made the Red Group for Period III. No, that’s not a joke

- Therese Johaug is really enthusiastic about her new Fischer skis. I’m actually on my way to the shop to get a pair now. Aside from that, the Norwegian women are really fast, as 5 are in the top 10 in the World Cup Overall. And Vibeke Skofterud has packed it in for the season.

Alex Harvey dislocated his shoulder, but didn’t really give a shit. No really, it didn’t even make the FIS Cross Country news page. 

 Justyna Kowalczyk sucked in Sochi, but didn't blame the down hills, her wax techs, or Marit Bjoergen. On second thought, maybe she just hasn't been interviewed about it yet. And yes, she is still 400 points ahead in the World Cup Overall (snooze).

- 33% of the Canadian women's World Cup Team ended their season early. The other 66% combined for a medal. Perianne Jones is now the worlds best team-sprint specialist ** Statistics are all about the presentation.

Next week, the World Cup reconvenes in Davos, Switzerland for some killer racing, killer scenery, and a gigantic inflatable... sheep? Goat? Should be good.

*The airline lost 93 pieces of baggage on the World Cup charter planes return to Europe from the Sochi World Cup. Coincidentally, it was the entire Red Groups baggage, and every single ski and pole came out broken.
** Statistics may or may not be clouded by authors bias. But probably not.