Last night saw millions of people around the world slip into turkey-induced comas; I was one such person. However, today is a new day and we’re now only six days from the start of the fourth edition of the Tour de Ski. This years Tour is starting a day later than years past, on New Years Day as oppose to New Years Eve. There will be eight stages in ten days ending in the climb up Alpe Cermis. Another big change to this years race is that athletes will not be penalized for dropping out before the Tour is done like in years past. Athletes will now be able to keep all the points they have earned in each race. I suspect we will see many more sprinters vying for points in the first half of the Tour due to this rule change. Since it is an Olympic year, some big names will not be partaking, including the likes of Bjørgen and Kalla. Regardless, the field will still be packed with contenders for this years title.
The FIS finally released viewing numbers from last years Tour a few days ago. A whopping 52 million viewers saw Cologna capture the title as the athletes climb the Alpe Cermis last year. I must say those numbers are mighty impressive when compared to the 37 million that watched the World Cup Finale in Falun last year. Hopefully, these numbers can grow even further in the years to come as the sport becomes more and more global.
Russian, Ivan Alypov won the Krasnogorsk 15km and has earned a spot on the Russian team for Tour de Ski. He’s currently in good form as he has placed in the top 10 in every Eastern Europe Cup in both distance and sprint races he has entered. The Russian team has looked exceptionally strong this year and it will be a tall task for Alypov to live up to the bar set by his counterparts.
The Swedish team announced their selections for the Tour de Ski with 13 athletes (seven men and six women). The selection has some notable names missing which made me realize how deep the Swede’s are this year. The likes of Johan Olsson, Charlotte Kalla, Anna Haag, will not be participating as they will be preparing for the Olympics, but the team still has an ample amount of talent such as Hellner, Modin, Ingemarsdotter, Brodin and the return from injury of Emil Jönsson and Anna Olsson. While the women’s side have an all-rounder in Kalla, the men’s side is missing that athlete that is a threat in every race he enters, whether it be sprint or distance. Someone like Norway’s Northug or Finland’s Jauhojaervi.
It’s old news, and you’ve all surely heard it by now, but it definitely deserves another mention; Brian McKeever’s win of the 50km in Canmore on the final day for Olympic qualifying. By going to Vancouver to represent Canada, he will be the first winter athlete to ever accomplish competing in both the Paralympics and the Olympics. There have been five other athletes to compete in both, but they are summer athletes. So congrats to Brian, and here’s hoping that he shows the same form we saw from him in Sapporo!
-Over at SkiTrax, they’re having a Fantasy FIS Tour de Ski 2009/2010. It’s fun, it’s free and the grand prize is a Rossignol ski/boot package with a pair of OneWay DS10 valued at $1,500US! Sign-up is open until December 31st.
To end off, here’s a great commercial from DnB NOR in Norway featuring Petter Northug which will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit.
Til Next Time, enjoy indulging in turkey left-overs.