The first mini tour of the 2016/2017 International Ski Federation (FIS) Cross-Country World Cup season will be held in Lillehammer, Norway, Dec. 2-4, but don’t fret, Ruka in Kuusamo, Finland, remains the season opener Nov. 26-27.
FIS recently approved its schedule for the upcoming World Cup season, with the usual classic openers in Ruka (two races as opposed to sometimes three), followed by a three-day mini tour in Lillehammer (classic sprint, 5/10-kilometer freestyle and 10/15 k classic pursuit).
The circuit then moves to Davos, Switzerland, another staple for December races, for its famous 15/30 k freestyle individual races followed by a freestyle sprint Dec. 10-11. La Clusaz, France, hosts the next World Cup Dec. 17-18 (skiathlon and a relay) to wrap up Period I.
Period II kicks off with the 11th annual Tour de Ski, starting in Dario Cologna’s hometown of Val Müstair, Switzerland (skate sprint and 5/10 k classic mass start Dec. 31-Jan. 1). Athletes have one travel day before the Tour resumes with two stages in Oberstdorf, Germany (10/20 k skiathlon, 10/15 k freestyle pursuit), followed by another rest day and the final three stages in Italy (Toblach 5/10 k freestyle and Val di Fiemme’s 10/15 k classic mass start and final climb).
After that, the regular World Cup season picks up again back in Toblach with two days of skate races (sprint and team sprint) Jan. 14-15. Then, it’s onto a brand-new venue on the World Cup as Ulricehamn (near Gothenburg), Sweden, hosts the 10/15 k classic and a relay Jan. 21-22. Skiers stay in Sweden for the next weekend of racing in Falun, with a skate sprint and 15/30 k freestyle mass start Jan. 28-29.
The first weekend of February marks the pre-Olympic World Cup (i.e. venue and course preview) in PyeongChang, South Korea, with three races Feb. 3-5 (classic sprint, skiathlon and freestyle team sprint).
Period III entails just one World Cup before World Championships, and it’s being held in Otepää, Estonia, Feb. 18-19 (skate sprint and 10/15 k classic).
The 2017 World Championships will take place in Lahti, Finland, Feb. 21-March 5.
Period IV will be held entirely in Norway, with the Drammen classic city sprint on March 8 followed by the Holmenkollen men’s 50 k classic on March 11 and women’s 30 k classic on March 12.
World Cup Finals are being held in Tuymen, Russia, with four races March 16-19 (3/5 k freestyle prologue, classic sprint, 10/15 k classic mass start, and 10/15 k freestyle pursuit).
In addition to releasing its calendar, FIS Cross-Country outlined its most-important decisions made at its 50th Congress earlier this month in Cancun, Mexico.
For starters, juries across the sport may designate and mark zones where double poling is not allowed “in order to preserve the classic technique,” but “as a consensus, it was agreed that this rule will not be applied at the World Cup, World Ski Championships and Junior World Ski Championships level.” In other words, this is going to be tested at lower levels of racing.
There’s also a new age requirement for all FIS competitions: athletes must be at least 16 years old before the end of the calendar year (Jan. 1-Dec. 31).
FIS points will be doled out at all FIS long-distance events (i.e. marathons) spanning 50 k or more (or 42 k if they’re at an elevation of at least 1,500 meters, roughly 5,000 feet) to encourage higher levels of participation.
And an equal quota of eight men and eight women per nation at U23 World Championships has been approved (note that four of each gender are allowed to start per race).
On the World Cup, the start quota for competitions has been reined in, reducing the number of athletes each nation is allowed to enter per race to 15 (and 10 for the Tour de Ski). For team sprints and relays, all nations are allowed to enter up to two teams.
In addition to each nation’s calculated start quota (awarded based on team standing from the previous season; see below), the defending overall World Cup champions (Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Therese Johaug) don’t count toward their nation’s quota, and last year’s overall Continental Cup winners earn Period I World Cup start rights for this season. National group quota remains unchanged (i.e. when a nation hosts a World Cup) at 10 athletes.
In terms of format, the heat selection tested in individual sprints (the 30 qualifying athletes per gender can choose their quarterfinal heat) has been approved and will be used at the World Cup, World Championships and Olympics.
In regular-season team sprints, the top-four teams from each semifinal will now automatically advance to the final, and the remaining seven teams can qualify based on time. But at World Championships, the qualifying system is as it was before — with two teams from each semifinal automatically advancing and the next six-fastest teams qualifying as well (putting the pressure on to finish first or second).
Interval starts will be mostly conducted the same, except in men’s races, 40 athletes will start in front of the seeded group (instead of 30) and the top-15 athletes can chose their start bib in that order (first to 15th).