Friday, March 1, 2013

The Big Distances

The relays were amazingly fun to watch, more so than in many years thanks to the strong performances by the American women (so close: how many days till the Sochi relay?) and the insane hijinks on the anchor leg of the men's race. And while the relays are great spectacles, I love the long-distance finales. Back in 2005, I started paying attention to ski racing again after seeing the great 30k and 50k at Oberstdorf: Marit Bjørgen skied the rest of the field off her tails to win the women's race, and Frode Estil blew up a big pack in the last 5,000 meters to drag Odd-Bjørn Hjelmeset and Anders Aukland to the podium. Great races, through and through.

I hope the Val di Fiemme equivalents will be half as good. I think Johaug is just too strong right now for anyone to beat. Bjørgen might do it, of course, but I expect a replay of the Olso Worlds: Johaug relentlessly working the hills and getting away fairly late. Not even Kowalczyk will keep up.

On the men's side, the race will almost certainly come down to a sprint finish which you-know-who will win. Before that, though, I think some hard men like Olsson and Harvey will try to get away - only to be reeled in by Northug.