The International Ski Federation (FIS) confirmed the 2013/2014 World Cup competition schedule on Monday at the annual Calendar Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia. International cross-country ski fans can look forward to a few changes in the circuit from years past — namely, a few new or resurrected venues. As the 2014 Olympics taking place in February in Sochi, Russia, will consume most athletes’ energy and attention in the third period of the season, FIS also made adjustments to the Tour de Ski schedule directly preceding it.
Key calendar decisions are as follows:
- Northern Scandinavia has an abbreviated stint on the schedule in Period I. The season began last winter in Gällivare, Sweden, and the year before that started in Sjusjoen, Norway, but in 2013/2014 the first race series is the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo, Finland. The three-event mini-tour has traditionally fallen on the second weekend of the season — you know, to give athletes time to warm up before diving into three back-to-back races — but this November they’ll be treated to a classic sprint, a 5/10 k classic and a 10/15 k freestyle pursuit right off the bat. The Kuusamo World Cup will take place on the same weekend it always has, the last weekend of November, meaning the World Cup is starting a whole week later than usual.
- After Kuusamo, the circuit travels southwest to Lillehammer, Norway, for its first stop at the 1994 Olympic venue since 2002, replacing the usual Dusseldorf, Germany, weekend. Davos, Switzerland, hosts on weekend number three, as usual, and the last two competitions before the holiday break will take place in Asiago, Italy, bringing back the Italian venue for the first time since 2008 for a classic sprint weekend.
- With the Olympics taking up most of February and all of the World Cup field’s focus this winter, FIS brought the number of races in the Tour de Ski back down to seven competitions in nine days. The tour kicks off once again with a freestyle prologue and classic pursuit in Oberhof, Germany, before migrating to Lenzerheide, Switzerland, for stages 3 and 4. Toblach, Italy, will only host stage 5 in 2014, a 15/30 k pursuit, before the final two stages wrap things up as usual in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
- Directly following the Tour, Liberec, Czech Republic, is off the schedule and instead the sprint weekend returns to Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, this year with a completely upgraded arena. Period II wraps up in Szklarska Poreba, Poland, followed by a short break in competition. The final pre-Olympic tune-races will take place the first weekend in February in Toblach, Italy, and on February 8 the Olympics begin in all their glory with the women’s 15 k skiathlon at Sochi’s Laura stadium.
- The Olympics carry the schedule through to the end of February, after which Period IV covers the usual season-ending venues: Lahti, Finland, and Drammen/Oslo, Norway. The 30/50 k at Holmenkollen is still a mass start, so it seems athletes will have to wait at least another year for the return of the individual format. World Cup Finals no longer include the Stockholm city sprints, and will instead take place entirely in Falun, Sweden, with only three events in the mini-tour instead of four.