At the end of every World Cup period, the International Ski Federation (FIS) releases a new “Red Group,” consisting of the top-30 distance skiers and sprinters for each gender.
The rankings are based on World Cup points from the last year, so the standings are different from the current World Cup distance and sprint lists.
The Red Group is used for one purpose only – athletes in this select cohort have travel and lodging expenses covered by host organizing committees for the next World Cup period.
The seeded group in World Cup races is often referred to as the “Red Group,” but that is inaccurate.
Inclusion in the Red Group is a big deal for nations with smaller budgets – the difference can be thousands of dollars in costs.
Four Canadians and two Americans qualified for the Red Group for Period II.
Ivan Babikov and Devon Kershaw were both solidly in the top-30 of the distance rankings, while Alex Harvey barely squeaked through, ranked 30th with 154 points, just four points ahead of Russian Sergey Shiriev in 31st.
On the Canadian women’s side, Daria Gaiazova also just made the cut. Gaiazova is ranked 29th on the sprint list, four points above 31st.
Gaiazova rode six sprint heat appearances to the Red Group. She twice advanced beyond the quarterfinals – both times on home soil.
FIS includes Olympic and World Championship races in Red Group calculations despite the fact these events do not score regular World Cup points.
One exceptional result can be enough to catapult a skier into the Red Group and keep her there for the better part of the year. Chandra Crawford is back in 44th right now, but if she breaks out a podium finish, she should be set for some time.
On the American side only Andy Newell and Kikkan Randall are in the top-30, both on the sprint lists.
Randall, with three podiums in the last year, is ranked 6th on the sprint list, and is in no danger of losing her spot.
Newell is also 6th, powered by his consistent qualifying, and frequent appearances in the semifinals.
Kris Freeman, despite a strong start to the season, is 40th on the distance list. Freeman is hurt by a dearth of World Cup starts in the later half of last season. A solid showing in the Tour de Ski could allow him to make up the necessary 46 points to get into the top-30.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.