Welcome to World Cup Windup, where we check in with the top-10 teams from last year’s FIS Cross Country World Cup tour before the season starts with the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 24.
Overall in Nations Cup Last Year: Eighth
Women’s Ranking 2016/2017: 15th
Men’s Ranking 2016/2017: Fifth
Maurice Manificat, the fastest man up the Tour de Ski final climb last season, and a World Cup race winner previous seasons as well; Lucas Chanavat, a finalist in several World Cup sprints and third in the U23 standings; Richard Jouve, third in the sprint at World Cup finals and fifth in the U23 standings; the World Cup podium relay team of Manificat, Jean Marc Gaillard, Clement Parisse, and Alexis Jeannerod, as well as Robin Duvillard, a member of the World Championships relay team and the 2014 Olympic bronze-medal relay team (soon to be silver), and Baptiste Gros, who won a World Cup in 2016.
A women’s team. Not a single French woman scored World Cup points in the 2016/2017 season. France didn’t even send a women’s team to 2017 World Championships. That’s right, there were no French representatives in the cross-country ski races at World Championships. French women competed at only two few World Cups: the home races in La Clusaz and the sprints in Toblach, Italy.
In early November, Lucas Chanavat won both the qualifier and final in a King’s Court style sprint in Davos, besting Italy’s Federico Pellegrino among others; Richard Jouve and Alexis Jeannerod were second and third, and Aurore Jean won a lightly-attended women’s race.
More recently, the French attended FIS races in Saariselka, Finland, where Maurice Manificat tore it up, winning the 10 k classic and, in a surprise, also winning the classic sprint ahead of his sprint-specialist teammates.
In the year or so after the 2014 Olympics, where the French women finished fourth in the relay, the women’s program lost its best skiers. Three started families, and Celia Aymonier became a biathlete (she now has several World Cup top-tens and a World Championships bronze medal in the relay).
For two seasons, the French women were nearly completely absent from the World Cup, but that may change this year, in part because the Olympics always bring out efforts to get each country represented. The three new moms are back training: Coraline Thomas-Hugue, Aurore Jean, and Anouk Faivre-Picon, who in the meantime won some big Worldloppet races like the Engadin Ski Marathon. Several younger skiers are also joining them. It’s not straight into the thick of things; the team will do some FIS racing throughout the season. There is the possibility of a few participating in the World Cup sprint in Ruka, Finland, but none will go to Lillehammer and instead a group will focus on competing at the third World Cup in Davos, Switzerland.
“The atmosphere in the group is very good and it’s nice to see positive girls and a team in training,” coach Alexandre Rousselet told ski-nordique. “We will have a quota of four girls each [World Cup] but they will not be filled. We are waiting for the girls to have encouraging results at OPA Cup and FIS events before they register… We will first work on this 10 k skating goal. to try one or more qualifications for the 2018 Olympics. The relay and the other races would be a bonus… The Olympics are in their heads but for the moment, at this stage of the winter, it is still far away.”
(And yes, he refers to them as “les filles” rather than “femmes” or “dames”.)
In Saariselka, the women showed their stuff: Coraline Thomas Hugue won the 10 k skate over Anna Shevchenko of Ukraine, with Aurore Jean third, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk fourth, and Anouk Faivre Picon fifth. They did not fare as well in the classic technique, with Jean leading the group in fifth in the 5 k classic and Delphine Claudel finishing seventh in the classic sprint, where none of the team made the final.
Best Social Media Presence:
This year’s “One of Those Nordic Days” videos has been posted, featuring skiers acting silly and doing stunts on skis. It is made by Team Valoche and former biathlete Alexis Boeuf, and features many national team members as well as biathletes Martin and Simon Fourcade, the Italian women’s biathlon team, and alpine skiers Julien Lizeroux and Tessa Worley.
Maurice Manificat is fairly prolific on Twitter, posting content from his own Instagram and Facebook pages as well as re-tweeting content from other French sports personalities and engaging in conversation. His handle is a good way to keep track of what’s going on in nordic sport in France.
Richard Jouve posts beautiful photos of wherever he happens to be, both on his Twitter account and on Instagram.
And Lucas Chanavat also posts crisp photos of training and racing, and also shots of him upside down in different places.
For the day-to-day-to-day of training with the French team, follow Robin Duvillard.
And Anouk Faivre Picon is among those documenting life as a high-performance mom.