Stage 7 Preview

doogiskiJanuary 8, 2010

Today’s rest day announced the second of two rest days that the athletes have welcomed with open arms. Most of them will be sleeping copious amounts and eating as much as is humanly possible to refuel and top up for the final two stages of this years Tour. The course profile for tomorrow looks very undulating on the 3.3km map. This will be great for spectators but six laps for the men will be a little monotonous. The odds on favourites are Kowalczyk (2.10) and Northug (1.50) for the mass starts. Yesterday, I mentioned how it’ll be nearly impossible to gain any time in the mass start races; however, I completely forgot about the bonus seconds that are up for grabs, which turns my comment around 180 degrees. The races tomorrow will have a make-or-break mentality for many of those racers within two minutes of the leaders. It is also the last time that athletes will have a say in who skis away with this years Sprint bib; currently Østensen and Majdic are the holders.

It appears that Johaug is not starting tomorrow’s race , but will be staying in Italy to train for the rest week and fly home with the team when they finish the Tour. It’s unfortunate the amount of negative press Johaug has got due to her performances from the past week, but hopefully she’ll have a clear head by the time Otepää comes back and shows the energizer bunny that we’ve all come to know and love. has reported that part of the Finnish team (Heikkinen, Saarinen, and Jauhojärvi) will be wearing a new ski suit tomorrow. It is thinner than the conventional ski lycra and resembles a bicycle suit. Personally, I think that it will make such a miniscule difference it won’ matter in a race such as a mass start where you tend to be going the groups pace rather than your own for the majority of the time. Perhaps, in the wind tunnel and all the testing they do, it showed enough advantage that it was be quite advantageous for individual start races. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Prediction time:

1. Justyna Kowalczyk
2. Aino Kaisa Saarinen
3. Marianna Longa

1. Petter Northug
2. Axel Teichmann
3. Lukas Bauer

A little follow up from yesterday’s Toblach races. Upon writing yesterday’s post, I was still unsure about what had happened to Devon Kerhaw in the final portion of the race. Well, it appears his luck over the past two weeks has been absolutely brutal. When I read his summary of the past few races, I was laughing to myself. Not a “this is hilarious” laugh, but a “I can’t believe this could all happen to one person” laugh. First, he contracted bronchitis over the Christmas break which hampered his Tour preparations. Then in the Prague sprints, his pole broke 20 seconds into the race and he had to ski at the back of the pack for the next half until he got a new stick. Then yesterday, in the words of Kershaw himself

Then – the unthinkable happened. I came out of a tuck, did a kick double pole stride. To my surprise my ski was launched behind me – and was no longer attached my boot. In total shock, I stopped. Turning around, I skied back to my ski (about 20 m behind me). I looked down, and noticed right away that I no longer had the front my binding on the ski anymore (the part that is attaches my boot to the ski), and it was completely ripped out of my ski. I was in real trouble, the Tour de Ski overall quickly evaporating…

I began to scooter up the longest/toughest hill with only one ski and was yelling at everyone I saw for a “Salomon binding ski.” Nobody I passed had one. Not the Norwegians, Finns, Germans, French, Italians, Swiss, etc… had a ski.

I skied for over 1 kilometer up the longest uphill from the bottom to the top with only one ski. I then descended on one ski, and started up the last climb of the course – still with one boot “sans-ski.”

Finally, one of our staff was at the top of that climb (about 1km from the line) and had a ski. I put on the ski, and sprinted for my life – but there was only 1 kilometer to go, and the massive, debilitating damage had been done…

…We (our team) switched over to the latest Salomon binding (which is much better than the old “pilot classic”) at the beginning of the season, and all I can think of is that perhaps in changing the binding the bond between screw-binding-ski was compromised in some way…

I’m sure the “what ifs” are killing him right now, I know they’re running through my brain. I’m sure if this string of unfortunate events hasn’t happened, he’d be sitting comfortably inside the top 10 overall. However, it ain’t over til the fat lady sings and Kershaw has shown that he’s in good form in the Tour, now hopefully no more sickness or freak equipment failures will happen and he will finish the Tour very strongly.

Kershaw wasn’t the only one that had frustration built into their race yesterday. Vincent Vittoz also had a good race going and was hot on the heels of Northug who started a lap in front of him. Coming into stadium, Vittoz was concentrating so hard on the Norwegian in front of him he accidently followed him into the lap lane instead of the finish lane. He quickly realized his error but the damage had been done and lost some crucial seconds and ended up in 13th. He was only eight seconds out four seconds out of a top 10 placing.

Til Tomorrow.

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