Welcome to the season's first update on USSA's Cross Country SuperTour, designed to keep you updated on the latest information.
An excellent World Cup opening result in Dusseldorf for 2004 SuperTour sprint overall champion Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) has showed us that the racing season in North American isn’t far off. Andy is among a core of successful World Cup racers, who have used overall wins in the SuperTour as a springboard for entry into the World Cup. Others include Ivan Babikov (RUS/Subaru Factory Team), who was the overall winner in 2005 and later used that win to crack into the notoriously competitive Russian team, 2006 overall distance cup champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK/Alaska Pacific University), 2003 overall champion Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), and 2001 overall champion Carl Swenson (Park City, UT/Factory Team).
This season’s slate of defending champions includes David Chamberlain (Caribou, ME/Atomic) and Karin Camenisch (SUI/Rossignol). But if they are going to defend their titles in 2007, Chamberlain will have to do it with a late start. Instead of starting the season in West Yellowstone along with the other overall hopefuls, he will start with the U.S. Ski Team’s World Cup team in Gallivare, Sweden, and will continue to race on the World Cup at least until the Tour de Ski.
Based on his overall win last season, the FIS has granted Chamberlain and Camenisch their own personal start positions for all World Cups in November and December. Other FIS Continental Cup tours are awarded the same right, and Chamberlain and Camenisch are joined by the winners of the Scandinavian Cup — Petter Northug (NOR) and Katia Ruosalainen (FIN), the Slavic Cup — Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), the Europa Cup — Katrin Zeller (GER) and Loris Frasnelli (ITA).
After the completion of the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Houghton, MI, the current leader of the SuperTour (men and women) will be invited to the World Cup races after the Tour de Ski and up until Feb. 4. And finally, the overall leaders of each SuperTour classification (sprint, distance and overall) after the Owl Creek Chase in Aspen, CO, will be invited to all of the World Cup competitions in the traditional Scandinavian Tournament, which takes place throughout March.
Will There Be a New Leader in Career Wins?
At the top of the leader board with the most career SuperTour wins are Swenson and Canandian Olympic gold medalist Beckie Scott , both with 21 wins during their careers. Both have retired this season from top-level racing, although Swenson will continue as a member of the Subaru Factory Team for at least another season while he studies for his law degree at the University of Utah. —
If not Swenson, then it’s unlikely that another competitor will eclipse 21 wins this season. Third place on the career list is Rebecca Dussault (Gussison, CO), who is not competing this season because she is expecting her second child. Behind Dussault are Babikov (World Cup), Freeman (World Cup) and Wendy Wagner (Park City, UT). U.S. Ski Team World Cup coach Justin Wadsworth comes next on the list with eight wins, but he certainly won’t add to that tally. The most likely active candidate is Lars Flora (Anchorage, AK/Alaska Pacific University/Factory Team), but with only six wins so far, he would have to win over two-thirds of the races on the calendar to takeover the top position already this year.
West Yellowstone will mark the debut of the U.S. Ski Team’s Continental Cup comprised of Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID), Liz Stephen (Montpelier, VT), Leif Zimmermann (Bozeman, MT) and Tazlina Mannix (Talkeetna, AK).
Flora and NCAA champion Jana Reheema, who will be starting for the first time on the Subaru Factory Team. Bboth aiming to claim the overall titles for the 2007 season. Chad Giese and Kristina Strandberg will also be looking to defend their overall titles in the FIS North America Marathon Cup, a sub-classification of the SuperTour. They will be joined in their campaign by Swenson, Abigail Larson, and Patrick Weaver, who are all retired from elite-level racing, but are always a threat, especially in the long races. Kate Underwood and Justin Easter will also be in contention for the overall Sprint Cup.
FSx will be fielding six top competitors in the SuperTour this season. Kate Whitcomb, 3rd in the overall rankings last year will lead the team, which also includes 2006 national Team Sprint champion Zach Violett, King of the Madison sprints Zack Simons, and Colin Rodgers, 4th in the overall standings last year.
Starting for the first time for FSx this season will be Nicole Deyong and Adam Swank.
The new CXC ski team will field a strong contingent, with Laura Valaas and Caitlyn Compton on the women’s side, and Brian Gregg, Garrott Kuzzy and Bryan Cook all looking for their first-ever SuperTour victory this season. This team will be placing a special emphasis on the Midwest Grand Prix, which starts in Madison and ends with the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis, MN. In addition to the Midwest Grand Prix, the CXC Team will enjoy a home-field advantage at the U.S. Short Distance Cross Country Championships in Houghton, MI, and the Subaru American Birkebeiner in Hayward, WI, both of which will be a part of the SuperTour for the first time this year.
Four new organizers have joined the SuperTour this year; Bozeman, Sun Valley, Houghton and the American Birkebeiner.
Bozeman will organize a â€œsprinters’ onlyâ€ weekend at Lindley Park near downtown. The only other sprinter’s only weekend in the Tour so far has been hosted in Madison, and has been a major success.
The American Birkebeiner, the largest race in North America, will bring a new dimension to the SuperTour, and will help to achieve a Tour goal of extending through the end of February.
Please note that Sun Valley has changed the distance of their Dec. 9 race to 5/10km, in an effort to make the program during that week a little more manageable for the competitors.
Long-Distance/Short Distance Nationals
For the first time in many years, the U.S. Cross Country Championships will be divided into â€œLong-Distanceâ€ and â€œShort-Distanceâ€ weeks, held in Houghton and Presque Isle, ME, respectively. This arrangement compresses the program in January, which should enhance participation among the elite athletes, and will add another element of importance to the traditional â€œspring seriesâ€ races. This program also moves the national championship Team Sprint into January, where all of the top sprinters will be present.
USSA TD Seminar
This season’s SuperTour technical delegates, race organizers and other officials gathered during the last weekend of October in Reno, NV to prepare for the coming season. Led by Chairman of the USSA officials’ subcommittee and member of the FIS rules and controls subcommittee, Bob Gross, almost 40 TDs, officials and organizers gathered to learn about the latest rule updates, race formats, and race management techniques. Gross was assisted in his presentations by former USSA Technical Director Hugh Cooke, and the group was hosted by the Auburn Ski Club.
The officials at the seminar also received instruction about the ASTRO (Award for SuperTour Race Organizers) evaluation, and discussed improvements to the evaluation process for this season. The ASTRO evaluates the performance of SuperTour organizers, including areas focused on promotion of the sport.
Nordic Festival at Soldier Hollow
Soldier Hollow is taking an innovative approach to raising the profile of its SuperTour event this year by joining forces with the nordic combined family. On the same weekend, Soldier Hollow will host the cross country skiers with the SuperTour, and the Nordic combined skiers by hosting the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup B. The FIS Nordic Combined World Cup B is a worldwide tour, which begins in North America, and which is the only avenue of access to the World Cup for Nordic combined skiers, will play host to teams from almost 20 nations. This dual event will provide a unique opportunity for athletes from different sports to interact, and will create a very international atmosphere during the SuperTour in Soldier Hollow.
Changes to Overall Prize Money
Reflecting the trend toward specialization in sprint and distance — and the need for competitors to pick and choose their races wisely throughout the season, the prize money for the overall classification has been dropped this year. But taking its place — and increasing the total prize money paid out at the end of the season — are awards of $4,000 for the best man and best woman in the overall Sprint classification and the overall Distance classification. Additionally, a $2,000 prize will be awarded to the best overall man and woman in the FIS North America Marathon Cup.
Registration information from West Yellowstone, Sun Valley and Soldier Hollow has been distributed to all USSA competitors and coaches.
World Cup Sprint Format
As many of you have undoubtedly noticed, the format of sprint racing on the World Cup has changed slightly this year, with six skiers in each heat throughout the finals, and with two â€œlucky losersâ€ moving forward based solely on their times in the respective heats.
The national championship organizers in Houghton, MI will organize the national championship sprint competition with this format.
XC World Cup on WCSN
Cross country fans will be able to watch the FIS World Cup this year on the new World Championship Sports Network. WCSN.com is planning U.S. broadcasting of nearly the entire schedule of the FIS Cross Country World Cup for the first time ever through its partnership with USSA. American cross country fans are encouraged to checkout the coverage and show WSCN that there is a big interest in following World Cup cross country ski racing.