FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2013 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, is brought to you by the generous support of Fischer Sports.
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy — The sprint course that will be used this week at World Championships is ideally set up for races of this caliber, primarily because no one has ever skied it at full speed before in a pack of six before. As a result, World Cup athletes don’t know every contour as well as the trails they see every year on the regular circuit, and there is not yet a standard script written for these 1.2 k and 1.5 k loops. When athletes don’t know what to expect from their competitors in a tactics-driven sprint heat, an exciting race is sure to follow.
“I think the course is pretty good,” said American sprinter Andy Newell after previewing the terrain on Wednesday. “No one’s raced here before so it’s a little unknown, but from my perspective it’s straightforward: two good hills for the guys and a double-pole finish. I think they’ll be plenty of opportunity to pass, and depending on if you’re looking to go hard, a ton of hills or flats to put some moves in.”
The course, which the Canadians liken to their home course in Canmore, offers a variety of challenges: Climbing. Transitions. Double-pole flats. After the double-pole zone the tracks leave the stadium by way of a quick, sharp wall that continues at a steep angle. The course keeps climbing as it passes under a bridge until a brief plateau, before dropping quickly down a sweeping right hand turn.
Another quick climb gives the course enough height to send skiers back down to the finish at high speed for a long straightaway to the line. Depending on conditions, it could be fast enough to shoot them over the blip of a hill before the last stretch without getting out of a tuck.
All of which, in combination with the unknown tactical element, should equate to an interesting race. On Wednesday during afternoon training, athletes seemed excited at the prospect of racing on it.
“I really like the course,” said Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad-Oestberg. “It’s a tough uphill in the beginning and I think it will be close, some tough fights until the finish. The last 200 meters is a long finish.”
Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla believes the course is fair terrain for World Championships.
“I think it’s fair and I think there are good conditions right now,” the Swede said on Wednesday. “I hope there will be no snow tomorrow so I look forward to competing in it.”
For Kikkan Randall, the Val di Fiemme loop is ideal for someone like herself who can pick up the pace at the end of a heat.
“I think it’s a good championship course,” the women’s World Cup sprint leader said. “It’s going to challenge all aspects of sprinting and I think it should be a good course for me, with a lot of work in there. That’s good for me because I tend to come on stronger through the race, and hopefully my double-pole finish will be good.”
If the precipitation in the local forecast becomes reality on Thursday morning it would certainly diminish course speeds, but one way or another two new World Champions will be decided by the afternoon. Sprinters and distance skiers alike have been focused on Val di Fiemme all season, and now that the championships is here there’s nothing for each of them to do but ski to the best of their own ability. The day before the kickoff event of the next six races, Kalla was uncertain of what to expect.
“It’s always a bit curious the day before, what kind of shape you will have,” she said.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.