Beitostolen, Norway – World Cup racing continues tomorrow with a 4×5/10km relay. Canada will field both a men’s and women’s team, while the US will represent in the men’s race.
The Beitostolen realy is the only such event prior to the Olympics, so there will not be another opportunity to see how team’s measure up.
Canada is missing a key member of their squad – George Grey. Grey is recovering from an injury and will be replaced by Graham Nishikawa. Devon Kershaw will scramble as usualy for the Canadians. He will be followed by Ivan Babikov, and then Akex Harvey. Notmally Grey would ski the second leg, and Harvey the anchor, but tomorrow’s lineup will give the Canadians the best opportunity to stay toward the front for as long as possible.
Canada did not have a great day today, with Babikov posting the top result – 28th.
The US will be led by Kris Freeman in the scramble leg. Freeman has a history of strong results in relays, and tomorrow should be no different. He will be followed by sprinters Torin Koos and Andy Newell before Lars Flora brings it home.
With Andy Newell coming off his best international distance result last weekend in an FIS race, the US will be shooting for a mid-pack finish – though most likely the team will be toward the back.
The favorite, Norway, will run Eldar Ronning, Martin Sunrud Johnsby, Ronny Hafsaas, and Peter Northug. Hafsaas, a strong biathlete, won today’s 15km skate. If he can repeat that performance, expect Norway to top the podium.
In an interesting variation, Germany has moved Axel Teichmann out of the anchor spot. Tobias Angerer will close and Teichmann takes the second leg. This means Teichmann will not match up with Northug – most ski fans will remember how Northug abused Teichmann in the World Championship relay last year.
In addition to the Germans, there are anoth half dozen teams who could challenge for the win on any given day. Italy, Finland and France all should be strong. Sweden, with two young and inexperienced skiers in addition to veterans Johan Olsson and Marcus Hellner are an unkown quantity.
And any of the other three Norwegian teams could definitely be compettive for a podium finish.
On the women’s side, Canada fields a team of Perianne Jones, Chandra Crawford, Sara Renner, and Madeleine Williams. Crawford was the only Canadian woman to race today as she works her way back into shape after missing last season. This race will serve as a good race opportunity, but Renner is the only member with a history of strong distance World Cup results.
The US, with only three women in Europe, will not start the race.
Finland, with a team of veterans Pirjo Muranen, Virpi Kuitunen, Riita-Liisa Roponen, and Aino Kaisa Saarinen are the favorites, but Norway, with Marit Bjoergen skiing very well, will be a threat. The key will be a strong leg from scramble skier Vibeke Skofterud.
Sweden, coming off a day with Charlotte Kalal in second, and Anna Haag in third, cannot be counted out. It will be Anna Olsson and Sara Lindborg to stay close in the classic legs.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.