The 2010 men’s World Cup field should be as deep and competitive as always. FasterSkier previews the top men in the world, and makes some predictions.
Petter Northug (NOR)
He can do it all and has the best finish in the game. Some question the sportsmanship of his tactics, but regardless of morality, they work.
Prediction: After being left off the ’06 Olympic team, he has something to prove. He will go for a sweep, winning the Tour de Ski, Olympic Gold, and the overall World Cup.
Dario Cologna (SUI)
The defending overall World Cup and Tour de Ski champion is an impressive all-around skier, strong in all techniques and disciplines. He won just two races last year, but his health and consistency put him over the top.
Prediction: Cologna was set back by a leg injury this fall, and that will be enough to fall behind Petter Northug. After missing out on medals in Liberec, Vancouver should go better.
Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR)
A sprint specialist, Hattestad put on a clinic last season, winning 6 of 9 sprint starts and finishing 2nd in two others. This led to a remarkable 3rd place in the overall World Cup.
Prediction: Given the variables in sprinting, Hattestad will not repeat his performance. He will be good for Olympic gold and the World Cup sprint title, but not another 3rd overall.
Sami Jauhojaervi (FIN)
Jauhojaervi is just entering his prime and is strong in all events. He had four podiums and an impressive victory in the Trondheim 50k last year.
Prediction: Jauhojaervi will have an excellent season, finishing 3rd overall.
Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA)
A distance specialist, Piller Cottrer will be focused on the Olympics. He was not a fan of the Olympic courses in Whistler, but that didn’t hold him back, as he won the pursuit in the pre-Olympic World Cup. That was his only victory, alng with two seconds.
Prediction: Expect an Olympic medal, and strong performances throughout the season. His lack of sprinting will keep him from ever challenging for the top spot overall.
Axel Teichmann (GER)
His rivalry with Petter Northug, and his obvious distaste for the brash Norwegian, often steals the headlines. But Teichmann is one of the top skiers in the world. He took third in the Tour last season, and was 6th in the overall World Cup. He won four events, though all were I the half-point realm of the Tour de Ski and the World Cup Final.
A stronger distance skier, Teichmann can crack the top-30 in a sprint, and a good day can get him in the top-20.
Prediction: He will be gunning for Olympic gold after Northug abused him in the World Championships. He won’t get it, and his inconsistent sprinting will hold him back in the Tour and the overall.
Lukas Bauer (CZE)
Bauer had an inconsistent season in 2009 after winning both the Tour and the overall in’08. His ’08 performance was all the more impressive given his lack of sprinting speed. He did win a race last season, and finish 2nd in another.
Prediction: Bauer will also be focused on the Olympics. No gold for him, but expect more strong distance races throughout the season. He will not be able to overcome his sprinting if he races in the Tour.
Giorgio Di Centa (ITA)
Another distance focused Italian, Di Centa has 15 consecutive seasons scoring at least one World Cup point under his belt. While longer is generally better, he did score 100 points in sprints last year. He has contemplated retirement on several occasions, but just keeps going fast.
He had only one podium last season, but in the deep men’s field, top 3 finishes are not necessary for a strong overall ranking – 8th in Di Centa’s case.
Prediction: More of the same – good solid racing. He won’t defend his 50km Olympic gold, and his best shot for a medal will be the relay.
Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA)
The inconsistent Frenchman had results ranging from 2nd to 67th. A 6th in the Tour de Ski helped him to a 7th place overall finish in the World Cup. He is hampered by his sprinting, but continues to start the short races, and popped a 3rd place in the first Tour sprint.
Prediction: Gaillard will continue to show mixed results – good for a solid overall ranking, but victory will elude him.
Devon Kershaw (CAN)
Kershaw cracked the top-20 overall last year, and has had strong results in all formats and disciplines. He cracked the top-10 six times, including a podium.
Prediction: Kershaw will continue to improve, but his focus will be on the Olympics on his home soil. A medal is a long-shot, but don’t count him out.
Alex Harvey (CAN)
The young Harvey skied faster and faster as the season went on. He went from NorAms to the Red Group, ending the season with four top-10’s in five races. His most impressive performance may have been his 3rd place finish in the 50km in Trondheim
Prediction: This kid is the real deal, and will be a big time World Cup skier. This season he may have some growing pains, and will likely focus on the Olympics. Expect some more top performances, but not another podium this season.
Other Skiers to Watch:
Eldar Roenning (NOR) – Gets it done at any distance – as long as it is classic. Olympic relay medal is a good bet.
Tobias Angerer (GER) – Veteran should be a key component of the German relay team. Capable of popping one, but not a consistent threat.
Alexander Legkov (RUS) – Top Russian was 3rd in World Cup final. Don’t expect to see that again.
Johan Olsson (SWE) – Medal dark-horse. Expect him on the podium at least once this season.
Vassili Rotchev (RUS) – Faster than Legkov, and is a medal threat. Should match last year’s Tour 5th.
Martin Sundby Johnsrud (NOR) – Excellent distance skier will be hampered by sprinting. A podium or two is reasonable – and maybe a relay gold.
Vincent Vittoz (FRA) – Ageless Frenchman will be focused on the Olympics. Don’t count him out in the pursuit and 15km.
Ivan Babikov (CAN) – A hill climbing machine, Babikov will be solid with a few stellar results.
Andy Newell (USA) – Sprinter will stay on his feet and make it to the podium. Tour de Ski entry will give him a shot at a strong overall sprint ranking.
Kris Freeman (USA) – A podium is in the cards.
Overall World Cup Predictions
1. Petter Northug (NOR)
2. Sami Jauhojaervi (FIN)
3. Dario Cologna (SUI)
4. Axel Teichmann (GER)
5. Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA)
6. Vassili Rotchev (RUS)
7. Giorgio DiCenta (ITA)
8. Lukas Bauer (CZE)
9. Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA)
10. John Kristian Dahl (NOR)
Tour de Ski Predictions
1. Petter Northug (NOR)
2. Dario Cologna (SUI)
3. Sami Jauhojaervi (FIN)
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Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.