Whistler, British Columbia – And so it all comes to an end. Two weeks after the first 2010 Olympics cross-country ski race, the final event is just over an hour away – the men’s 50km classic.
The weather is better today – but only in relative terms. Instead of the heavy downpour of yesterday, the rain can be characterized as a light drizzle. Conditions are slow again, and ski switching will again play a major role.
The 50km is one of the hardest races to predict, so much will come down to who has the most left after a packed racing schedule.
Lukas Bauer (CZE) is a good bet for a top spot. He did not race either of the sprint events, so should be in good form. He has been skiing well since the beginning of January, and was held back in the pursuit by slow skis in the skate portion.
After that it could be just about anyone from a group of 10-15 men. This is one race where Petter Northug (NOR) is not a runaway favorite. 50k is pushing the upper limits of his endurance, and the slow conditions will not play to his strengths. It is unlikely that there will be a large group together for the final kilometers. If Petter wants a medal he will need to match the attacks that will break up the pack relatively early.
An interesting case is Andrus Veerpalu, the Estonian classic distance expert. Veerpalu has not raced in these Olympics, remaining home until just recently, with the hope of being the most rested and ready. His focus should pay dividends and he will be one of those pushing the pace early.
No other Norwegian has much chance for a medal, and Sweden’s best hope is Anders Soedergrenn. Soedergrenn doesn’t think much of large packs cruising slowly, so look for him to make a move if the race is settling. His teammate Johan Olsson could be a dark horse candidate for the top-5 as well.
Like Northug, the 50km classic is not Marcus Hellner’s best event, and he will be hard pressed to match his gold medal performance from the pursuit.
The Germans, with Tobias Angerer, Rene Sommerfeldt, and Axel Teichmann will be in the mix, with Angerer currently skiing the best of the group.
Other skiers to watch include Dario Cologna (SUI), Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA), Maxim Vylegzhanin (RUS), Sami Jauhojaervi (FIN) and Vincent Vittoz (FRA).
The US starts two skiers – James Southam and Kris Freeman. Southam missed the relay due to illness. This race has been his focus all along. If he is fully healthy, a top-30 is in reach.
Freeman is a questionmark at this point. These Olympics have been a struggle, and at this point expectations are low.
The Canadian team starts the big four of Babikov, Kershaw, Harvey and Grey. Each is very capable of the top-10, and medals are possible. Look for Babikov, with his fierce determination to lead the charge, and Alex Harvey, a World Cup podium finisher in this event, to be close behind.
- Lukas Bauer (CZE)
- Andrus Veerpalu (EST)
- Vincent Vittoz (FRA)
- Tobias Angerer (GER)
- Maxim Vylegzhanin (RUS)
- Ivan Babikov (CAN)
- Pietro Pilller Cottrer (ITA)
- Petter Northug (NOR)
- Alex Harvey (CAN)
- Anders Soedergrenn (SWE)
15. Devon Kershaw (CAN)
23. George Grey (CAN)
26. Kris Freeman (USA)
33. James Southam (USA)
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.