It’s time for the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) 11th Tour de Ski. The 2017 edition takes place in three countries and four different venues. Racers will compete in seven stages over the course of nine days. The grueling Alpe Cermis — a 9-kilometer freestyle hill climb in Val di Fiemme, Italy — will be featured again as the final race to determine the overall Tour de Ski (TdS) results.
Directly leading up to the multi-stage event, all four venues reported good snow conditions, even if it’s mostly manmade. In its third year of hosting the Tour, Val Müstair, Switzerland, is opening the TdS for the first time with the first two stages. Oberstdorf, Germany, reported good conditions for two stages on a 2.5 k loop, as did Toblach, Italy, which will hold the fifth stage. The perennial host of the Tour’s final stages, Val di Fiemme has coped with a lack of natural snow, but its course and final climb are ready, with the Alpe being open since Christmas.
- Saturday, Dec. 31 (Val Müstair): freestyle sprint (heats start at 8:50 a.m. ET)
- Sunday, Jan. 1 (Val Müstair): 5/10 k classic mass start (7/10 a.m. ET)
- Tuesday, Jan. 3 (Oberstdorf): 5/10 k skiathlon (6:15/9:15 a.m. ET)
- Wednesday, Jan. 4 (Oberstdorf): 10/15 k freestyle pursuit (5:30/6:45 a.m. ET)
- Friday, Jan. 6 (Toblach): 5/10 k freestyle (4:45/7 a.m. ET)
- Saturday, Jan. 7 (Val di Fiemme): 10/15 k classic mass start (8:30/9:30 a.m. ET)
- Sunday, Jan. 8 (Val di Fiemme): 9 k freestyle pursuit (hill climb) (5:30/9:30 a.m. ET)
Ingvild Flugstad Østberg continues to prove that she can compete for a win in any distance and after finishing second in last year’s Tour (to Norwegian teammate Therese Johaug, currently out with a provisional suspension), Østberg will be back this year to vie for her first TdS title. Her teammate Heidi Weng placed third last year but is already off to her strongest start yet, with three individual victories so far this World Cup season.
Also on a roll this season, Americans Jessie Diggins and Sadie Bjornsen have been consistently placing in the top 10 and top 20, respectively, and finished 10th and 14th overall in last year’s Tour (with Diggins notching her first individual World Cup win in the 5 k freestyle stage in Toblach, and U.S. teammate Sophie Caldwell winning her first World Cup race as well in the Stage 4 classic sprint in Oberstdorf.)
Last year’s men’s champion, Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway returns to defend his title all the way to the finish in Val di Fiemme. Sundby is in good form, with two individual wins and four podiums so far this season. Also returning is Sundby’s teammate Finn Hågen Krogh, who raced to second last year and is coming off his first victory of the World Cup season in the 15 k freestyle in La Clusaz, France. Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov will be aiming to move up on the podium after taking third last year, and Norway’s Petter Northug continues to miss the World Cup action as he is looking to rekindle his usual level of energy, according to multiple reports.
Six Russian skiers have been provisionally suspended as of Dec. 22, after being tied to doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in the McLaren report, according to a FIS press release on Friday. Following the investigative actions of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the FIS Doping Panel “made the unanimous decision today [Friday]” to uphold those provisional suspensions of Evgeniy Belov, Julia Ivanova, Alexander Legkov, Evgenia Shapovalova, Alexey Petukhov, and Maxim Vylegzhanin. The athletes had originally appealed to FIS to compete in the Tour, expediting the FIS Doping Panel’s decision-making process, but ultimately, those six will not be able to compete in the Tour nor any competitions or national-team activities.
“The reasons for the Panel’s decision will be communicated directly to the athletes in due course,” the FIS press release stated.
So who does that leave for Russia, and which other athletes will be competing? Let’s take a look at some of the TdS rosters.
Women: Yulia Tchekaleva, Polina Kalsina, Elena Soboleva, Alisa Zhambalova, Olga Tsarevets, Mariya Guschina, Anna Nechaevskaya (as leader of the Continental Cup)
Men: Sergey Ustiugov, Alexander Bessmertnykh, Andrey Larkov, Andrey Melnichenko, Petr Sedov, Ermil Vokuev, Alexey Chervotkin (as leader of the Continental Cup)
Women: Jessie Diggins, Sadie Bjornsen, Liz Stephen, Sophie Caldwell*, Kikkan Randall**, Rosie Brennan
Men: Simi Hamilton*, Noah Hoffman, Erik Bjornsen
* Caldwell and Hamilton intend to stop the Tour after Stage 2, according to U.S. Ski Team (USST) Head Coach Chris Grover.
** Randall may stop after Stage 5, according to Grover.
As for the rest of the team, Andy Newell and Ida Sargent are currently in the U.S. and plan to leave for Europe soon. They will join Caldwell and Hamilton at an OPA Cup in Planica, Slovenia, during the last week of the Tour (with all four planning to race the sprint on Jan. 6 and 5/10 k freestyle on Jan. 7).
The six U.S. skiers planning to complete the Tour will recover afterward at Seiser Alm, Italy, for a post-Tour camp Jan. 10-17. The team’s sprinters will race at the regular-season Toblach World Cup Jan. 14-15, and Period 1 Continental Cup leaders Matt Gelso and Liz Guiney will convene with the team the following week in Sweden, according to Grover.
As for how the USST picked its six women for the Tour, Grover wrote in an email that it weighed several factors, including:
- “Results in Period 1 of World Cup
- History of top performances in the TdS
- Current trends in fitness; who is skiing faster each weekend
- Who are our strongest distance skiers? There is only one sprint in this year’s TdS and it is the opening stage. Sprinters will stop after 2 stages.
- Who needs the multi-day racing format of the TdS to help create top-end fitness for the second half of the season?”
“Ida was originally scheduled to start the TdS,” Grover wrote. “However, we had more women wanting to start than are possible in our quota of 6. … The hardest part of this decision was weighing the impact that a sprinter like Ida might have in the opening stage of the Tour versus the impact that an all-arounder might have in the complete Tour.”
Men: Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, Len Valjas, Graeme Killick
No women’s team, as most of its members are training in Canmore, Alberta, gearing up for U.S. nationals/U23 World Championships trials at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah. According to Canadian World Cup coach Ivan Babikov, its veteran athlete, 27-year-old Emily Nishikawa, is also at her training base in Canmore for a training block.
All four men are planning to finish the Tour.
“It’s very good race program at the Tour this year and most of the races suit these guys very well,” Babikov wrote in an email. “But for Len sprint is #1 priority, but he is also very excited about short distance and mass starts, but like I said, even Len is focusing on finishing the Tour.”
Men: Dario Cologna, Toni Livers, Curdin Perl, Jason Ruesch, Jonas Baumann, Erwan Käser, Jovian Hediger, Roman Furger, Roman Schaad, Philip Hälg
Women: Nathalie von Siebenthal, Nadine Fähndrich, Laurien van der Graaff, Heidi Widmer
Women: Nicole Fessel, Victoria Carl, Julia Belger, Steffi Böhler, Katharina Hennig, Sofie Krehl, Elisabeth Schicho, Sandra Ringwald, Hanna Kolb and Antonia Fräbel
Men: Thomas Bing, Lucas Bögl, Jonas Dobler, Sebastian Eisenlauer, Andy Kühne, Valentin Mättig, Florian Notz, Tim Tscharnke and Thomas Wick
Women: Anne Kyllönen, Laura Mononen, Kerttu Niskanen, Krista Pärmäkoski, Riitta-Liisa Roponen, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen
Men: Matti Heikkinen, Perttu Hyvärinen, Ristmatti Hakola, Martti Jylhä, Ari Luusua, Iivo Niskanen
Women: Anna Haag, Charlotte Kalla, Stina Nilsson, Maria Nordström, Maria Rydqvist, Emma Wikén
Men: Jens Burman, Axel Ekström, Calle Halfvarsson, Marcus Hellner, Daniel Richardsson, Victor Thorn
Women: Ingvild flugstad Østberg, Kathrine Rolsted Harsem, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, Ragnhild Haga, Maiken Caspersen Falla, Martine Ek Hagen, Heidi Weng, Lotta Udnes Weng.
Men: Hans Christer Holunder, Finn Hågen Krogh, Simen Hegstad Krüger, Emil Iversen, Didrik Tønseth, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Niklas Dyrhaug.
Men: Maurice Manificat, Jean-Marc Gaillard, Clément Parisse, Alexis Jeannerod, Renaud Jay, Lucas Chavanat
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