The men’s 30km pursuit and women’s 15km pursuit are set to start in Whistler this morning. The men start at 9:00AM and the women at 12:45. Nordic Combined jumping will take place in between. 42 Women are scheduled to take to the line in the mass start event, including eight Americans and nine Canadians. Sarah Renner (CAN) is the only seeded athlete of this group. Favorites include a strong Italian contingent of Arianna Follis, Sabina Valbusa and Marianna Longa, as well as top-seeded Justyna Kowalczyk (POL). Kowalczyk finished second yesterday and fared well in this event last year in Canmore.
With a relatively small field, Renner has an oppourtunity to better her season-best ninth place finish.
The American squad is relatively young and inexperienced in World Cup competition, though a number of the starters have raced at World Juniors and/or U23 Championships, including Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola. Arritola was one of the bright spots in this event for the Americans last year in Canada, finishing an excellent 24th. Another athlete to watch is Caitlin Compton. Compton has not started a cross-country World Cup race before, but raced such events, as well as the World Championships, as a biathlete last season.
The only American not to start yesterday’s race, and ski today is Nicole DeYong.
Canada has seven repeat athletes from the sprint; Brooke Gosling and Milaine Theriault will also race today.
In a rare occurence, the men’s field is smaller than the women. Only 37 men are scheduled to start, absurdly low for a World Cup event. This creates an excellent opportunity for World Cup novices to break into the points. Between Kris Freeman (USA) and Canadians Devon Kershaw and Ivan Babikov, North America has a very real shot at making it to the podium. Both Babikov and Kershaw have stood on the podium this year in a World Cup distance race, and Freeman has been inside the top-20.
They will battle Italian veterans Giorgio DiCenta and Pietro Piller Cottrer and Frenchman Jean Marc Gaillard. Other skiers to watch include Canadian George Grey, Italian Valerio Checchi, and Russian Ivan Alypov.
No Americans who raced the sprint yesterday are racing today. The only Canadians who did not race yesterday, but are on the start list today are Ivan Babikov, Graham Nishikawa, and Dan Roycroft.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.