The Valtellina ski area (Italy) is hosting the 2008 FIS World Cup Grand Finals this weekend. Bormio is already a regular host of World Cup Alpine skiing competitions, and is now making a welcome return to the cross-country World Cup. This same event was held in 2000 with a series of races that witnessed successes by athletes such as Bente Skari Martinsen, Erling Jevne, Julija Tchepalova and Italian Stefania Belmondo.
Three days of cross-country skiing will take place in Santa Caterina Valfurva — the town that brought us the finest female Italian ski champion of all time, Deborah Compagnoni. The 2.5 and 3.3 km freestyle prologue is scheduled for Friday, March 14th, the 10 and 20 km classical mass starts on Saturday, March 15th, and the 10 and 15 km freestyle pursuits will be held on the Sunday — the last World Cup races of the 2007-2008 World Cup season.
A â€œspecialâ€ race formula has been designed to create a type of â€œminiâ€ Tour de Ski. The lead times registered in Friday’s races will be added to those from Saturday’s races to create a starting order (handicap) for Sunday’s race. So the first to cross the finish line on the last day will be the winner of the â€œmini tour.â€ No WC points are awarded for Saturday’s competition, but Sunday’s points will be doubled, and the points for Friday’s prologue will only be awarded to the athletes that cross the finish line on Sunday. This is a slightly unusual formula, but it will certainly jazz things up a bit for this season’s World Cup cross-country skiers.
The competitions will use the same track as 2000, but with a slight variation — a mid-course climb. It’s a tough course with a height difference of 180 meters over 5 km.
There’s already a type B uphill section 200 meters out from the start, with a 30-meter height difference and an average gradient of 13-14%, followed by a flat stretch and then another uphill section of 37 meters with various interruptions. This uphill section is gentler than the first, but with peaks of 18%. The trail then proceeds into the woods before reaching the final 38-meter uphill section, which has an average gradient of 9%. This technical ascent is broken up by a short downhill section. The athletes then head off towards the finish line: the final part of the course is fairly free-flowing, even slightly monotonous. This looks to be a selective course and will definitely be challenging.
The only American scheduled to compete is Kris Freeman. We have not confirmed which, if any, Canadians will be racing.
Official website: http://www.grandfinals2008.com
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