With the dawning of December comes the flood of races that characterizes the winter season. The US SuperTour moves a bit north to Bozeman, Montana, the World Cup heads to Germany for a weekend of high speed sprints, World Cup Biathlon continues in Sweden, and the US Nordic Combined team makes its 2010 World Cup debut.
Women’s Ski Jumping gets underway midweek next week in Finland.
Last season the Bozeman SuperTour (and the Park City SuperTour following) was canceled due to a lack of snow. This year, conditons will not be an issue. With cold temperatures and plenty of snow on the ground, both races should go off smoothly.
Saturday features a freestyle sprint at the downtown venue of Lindley Park. Lindley is the ideal spectator’s course, with the entire loop visible from the stadium area. The course is technical, with many transitions and corners, but lacks significant climbs. This usually makes for tight, fast racing.
Action continues on Sunday with a 10/15km classic race at Bohart Ranch, 20 miles up Bridger Canyon. The Bohart courses are relatively high, and the 5km loop presents a tough first 2.5km – climbing gradually out of the stadium up to the biggest climbs of the course, before quickly descending back to the start.
The fields for both races should be strong and deep – though some of the collegiate racers who participated in West Yellowstone will be absent.
Düsseldorf, Germany is a regular stop on the World Cup circuit, and traditionally features downtown sprint events. This year it is all freestyle with an individual sprint on Saturday, and a Team Sprint on Sunday.
Some top racers will skip the weekend to prepare for the next distance World Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Petter Northug (NOR) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) will both be absent.
The US will bring a full sprint team, but Kris Freeman and young distance skiers Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola, as well as Kris Freeman, will focus on training.
Kikkan Randall will start her first freestyle sprint of the season. The silver medalist in the event at last year’s World Championships, Randall has skied very well well in two distance starts this year, but was disappointed with her performance in the classic sprint last weekend.
Andy Newell will look to improve upon his 7th in the classic sprint in Kuusamo, and Torin Koos attempts to crack the heats for the first time this year. Newell and Koos will team up on Sunday, but Randall, without a partner, will sit out.
Canada, coming off a rough weekend in Kuusamo, Finland, will start sprinter Chandra Crawford only. This is a big test for Crawford, a dominant skate sprinter in the past. This will be her first freestyle sprint since missing all of last season due to injury.
Favorites? Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) can be considered nothing else at this point. A win by any other skier would be an upset. On the women’s side, Petra Majdic (SLO), though a stronger classic skier, is probably the safest bet.
Newell in 5th.
Team Sprint Predictions:
Nordic Combined World Cup
The US team skipped the season opening event in Kuusamo last weekend, but should be ready to go tomorrow in Lillehamar, Norway. World Champion Billy Demong leads the way for the Americans. He is joined by Johnny Spillane, Brett Camerota and Bryan Fletcher. World Champion Todd Lodwick is not racing racing this weekend.
Skiers race identical competitions on Saturday and Sunday, the Gundersen HS140/10.0 Km.
World Cup Biathlon
World Cup biathlon action continues on Saturday with a 7.5/10km sprint event on Saturday and a 4×6/7.5km relay on Sunday in Oestersund, Sweden. American Tim Burke will try to follow up yesterday’s 2nd place finish with another strong result. The US men can contend for a top-6 relay result if all goes well.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.