With the release of the 2010/2011 Cross-Country World Cup schedule, Oystein Pettersen groupies will begin making their travel arrangements, while most of North America can peruse all the races they will not be watching on television.
The calendar is structurally similar to last year, with several location changes and a shift in the lineup starting at the end of Period II. The one major alteration is the addition of a mini-tour on the second World Cup weekend in Kuusamo, Finland.
As usual the season kicks off in the dark north. Gällivare, Sweden continues to alternate years with Beitostolen, Norway as the site of the World Cup opener, hosting a 10/15km freestyle and a relay.
This relay is one of three non-championship relays on the schedule.
Kuusamo is next, and features the one major addition to the schedule. The weekend of racing in Finland has been upped to three days and will be run as a “mini-tour” stage race. A classic sprint on Friday, a 5/10km classic on Saturday, and a 10/15km freestyle handicap on Sunday form the new event. While specific rules have not been published, it is likely that the series will be scored as other Tour events – half World Cup points for individual races and double points for the overall standings.
This mini-tour brings back the individual start 5/10km event, which has been absent from the World Cup since 2003.
Athletes head to Dusseldorf, Germany for the annual city sprint weekend. Both the individual sprint and team sprint are in the skate technique. In past years many distance-focused skiers have skipped these races, taking the opportunity to train, often traveling early to Davos, Switzerland, the site of the next two World Cup events.
World Cup Period I wraps up in La Clusaz, back on the schedule after a year off. The La Clusaz replaces Rogla, Slovenia in the pre-Christmas slot.
Period II starts with the Tour de Ski on the 31st of December. After terrible conditions in Prague last year, the second stop on the tour is Obertsdorf, Germany for both a sprint and the pursuit.
Just six days after the Tour Final Climb in Val di Fiemme, World Cup action continues in Liberec. The final three weekends of Period II were not well atteneded last year. Many skiers were resting following the Tour, and then focusing on the Olympics. The Rybinsk World Cups featured fields so small, that every finisher was guaranteed World Cup points.
With World Championships scheduled a week later than the Olympics, there is an extra weekend of racing. After Liberec, the World Cup hits Ottepaa and Rybinsk. Since the World Championships are in Oslo, meaning less travel, it would not be surprising to see more complete fields in the these later Period II weekends.
Period III consists solely of the pre-Championship tune-up races in Drammen, continuing the protocol of holding races the week before Championship events in the same geographic area.
World Championships wrap up on the 6th of March, leaving time for just the Lahti races before the annual World Cup Finals mini-tour in Stockholm and Falun.
Traditionally, Oslo hosts a sprint and a 30/50km at Holmenkollen, but with World Championships taking place at the venue, the calendar was pushed and Liberec slotted in after the Tour de Ski instead.
The break down of the schedule is below. These numbers include World Championships and all told there are 40 races on the calendar. 2010 races are in parentheses. The minor changes are due almost entirely to the addition of the Kuusamo mini-tour.
Relays: 3 (3)
Individual Sprints: 12 (12)
Team Sprints: 3 (3)
Distance Races: 21 (21)
Individual Start Distance Races: 7 (8)
Mass Start Races: 8 (8)
Handicap Starts: 5 (4)
Freestyle Races: 16 (17) (does not include relays or pursuits)
Classic Races: 15 (16) (does not include relays or pursuits)
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.