As athletes prepare to start this year’s Tour de Ski on Thursday, plans are taking shape for the next four editions of the race that would vary its length and location.
According to FIS Cross-Country Race Director Jürg Capol, the Tour will almost certainly be making a stop in Switzerland next year, and for the three years afterwards.
The event will alternate between venues in Münstertal—the small valley that claims Swiss superstar Dario Cologna as a native—and Lenzerheide, which Capol says is best known as a center for biathlon.
From its inception, the Tour de Ski was intended to make stops in three nations, but an initial foray into the Czech Republic didn’t pan out. Since last year, the Tour has been limited to stages in Germany and Italy.
The Swiss, Capol said, have committed to hosting the Tour for the next four years. The change must be ratified by the FIS committee that handles scheduling for cross-country, but Capol said that discussions there shouldn’t be contentious.
The committee will also take up a proposal that would limit the Tour to a mere six stages over eight days in its 2014 edition, to give athletes more of an incentive to participate in an Olympic year.
Typically, a handful of top athletes have opted out or dropped out of the Tour during years with Olympics or World Championships, to avoid illness or fatigue that could detract from their performances in the season’s marquee event.
In 2014, there’s the added problem that the Olympics start early, on February 7, reducing the amount of time that athletes have for recovery between the Tour and the Games.
The idea to shorten the Tour has already been discussed in committee, Capol said, and while it still must be voted on, he said that approval would be a formality.
As for Tours in non-Olympic years, he said that the format would likely remain the same: 10 races in eight days in years with a World Championships, and 11 races in nine days in years when there are no other championships.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.