Nations Cup Ranking: 7th (2477 pts)
Men: 6th (1864 pts)
Women: 9th (613 pts)
2010/2011 A Team
Jean Marc Gaillard
What you may have missed last season:
Maurice Manificat, or Maurice the Magnificent, absolutely exploding onto the World Cup. Manificat could very easily be labeled the most improved skier last season. It’s tough to believe that in 2008 he scored only seven World Cup points, yet in 2010 finished fifth in the overall standings. He skied a very strong World Cup Final, as well as an impressive Tour de Ski. At only 24 years of age, Manificat has made it clear that he wants to be counted among the next generation of top skiers on the World Cup, and included in the conversation whenever the likes of Hellner or Cologna are mentioned.
And France reaped the rewards of Manificat’s jump, which gave them three men in the top 11 of the World Cup overall. Vincent Vittoz, a legend in French cross-country skiing, is aging surprisingly well, ending the season in ninth, but at 35, one cannot keep expecting him to keep posting top 10 results indefinitely.
Meanwhile, another French national team fixture, Jean Marc Gaillard, skied well all season, only to receive a bad blow to his points total on the very last race weekend of the season. In the 20 k pursuit at the World Cup finals, Gaillard was skiing well, battling at the front with Petter Northug for most of the race and picking up a pile of crucial bonus seconds. However, he briefly forgot that pursuit meant one technique and then the other, not both at the same time, and he received a dishonorable DQ for skating in the classic portion – losing out on a spot in the top 10, if not higher.
On the sprint circuit, the French deployed two Cyril’s, as well as the big guns. Cyril Miranda, and Cyril Gaillard (for those keeping track at home, he is the brother of Jean Marc), both skied well on occasion, but they failed to qualify consistently – the only way to become a successful sprinter.
As for the women, France did surprisingly well with very little. Karine Laurent-Philippot skied quietly, never finishing higher than sixth, and finishing in the top 10 a scant three times. Aurore Cuinet was a strong sprinter who started out slow, but gained momentum over the season. Six other women chipped in to help, but none of them are at a level where they’re competitive week in and week out.
What You Should Know For This Season
In keeping with the theme of picking apart the French women’s personal lives, Aurore Cuinet married biathlete Frederic Jean last spring, and is sporting a new name: Aurore Jean.
Vincent Vittoz is apparently quite the drama queen, and gets some good mileage out of his Twitter account. Check this tweet that came after the Team Sprint at the Olympics.
The French women will struggle mightily this season, while if Manificat can build on his breakout 2009-2010 season, the men could have one of their best seasons ever. However, as a team, the French need to improve their classic skiing – both Manificat and Gaillard are better skaters, as is Emmanuel Jonnier, who anchored the French Olympic 4x10k relay.
That relay team proved that you can’t count out France, as the four men finished fourth at the Olympics. The one thing they are lacking is speed on the anchor leg, as Jonnier displayed when he lost the sprint to Petter Northug and Martin Koukal. Jonnier is 35, and compared to the other men now on anchor duty for the other top-tier countries, he lacks the closing speed. On the plus side, he does have a very entertaining blog, complete with pictures of skulls.
Who You Should Watch
Robin Duvillard can’t classic ski or sprint to save his life, but he is surprisingly good at distance skate races. He seems to hit 15 k freestyle out of the park on a regular basis, notching a sixth in Davos last year, and he also had a top 20 finish on the brutal Alpe Cermis in the Tour de Ski.
And if you’re familiar with Adam Sandler, Duvillard is a dead ringer.