Canadian National Ski TeamGeneralNewsRacingUS Ski TeamWorld CupSeven-Stage Tour de Ski Starts Saturday

FasterSkier FasterSkierDecember 30, 2016
The women's mass start seen from above in Val di Fiemme, Italy (ITA). (photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)
The women’s mass start, seen from above in Val di Fiemme, Italy, at last year’s 2015/2016 Tour de Ski with American Sadie Bjornsen and an Italian in the foreground and Jessie Diggins switching lanes. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

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.

The Races: 

  1. Saturday, Dec. 31 (Val Müstair): freestyle sprint (heats start at 8:50 a.m. ET)
  2. Sunday, Jan. 1 (Val Müstair): 5/10 k classic mass start (7/10 a.m. ET)
  3. Tuesday, Jan. 3 (Oberstdorf): 5/10 k skiathlon (6:15/9:15 a.m. ET)
  4. Wednesday, Jan. 4 (Oberstdorf): 10/15 k freestyle pursuit (5:30/6:45 a.m. ET)
  5. Friday, Jan. 6 (Toblach): 5/10 k freestyle (4:45/7 a.m. ET)
  6. Saturday, Jan. 7 (Val di Fiemme): 10/15 k classic mass start  (8:30/9:30 a.m. ET)
  7. Sunday, Jan. 8 (Val di Fiemme): 9 k freestyle pursuit (hill climb) (5:30/9:30 a.m. ET)

The Players:

2016 Tour de Ski overall runner-up Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (l), champion Therese Johaug (c) and third-place finisher Heidi Weng (r) celebrate Norway's sweep of the podium at Sunday's Stage 8 final climb in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
The all-Norwegian 2016 Tour de Ski overall podium, (from left to right) with runner-up Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (l), winner Therese Johaug (c) and third-place finisher Heidi Weng (r) after the final climb in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Johaug is not competing while serving a provisional suspension. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

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.)

A victorious Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway at the top of Alpe Cermis on Sunday after winning his third-consecutive Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Photo: Fiemme World Cup)
A victorious Martin Johnsrud Sundby at the top of Alpe Cermis after winning his third-consecutive Tour de Ski last season in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Photo: Fiemme World Cup)

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.

 

RUSSIA 

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)

 

USA

Jessie Diggins realizing she won the 5 k freestyle at the sixth stage of the Tour de Ski on Jan. 8 in Toblach, Italy. (Photo: Salomon/NordicFocus)
Jessie Diggins realizing she won the 5 k freestyle at the sixth stage of the Tour de Ski on Jan. 8, 2016, in Toblach, Italy. (Photo: Salomon/NordicFocus)

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.”

 

CANADA

Norway's Petter Northug (center) won Sunday's Tour de Ski 15 k classic pursuit in Oberstdorf, Germany, over Alex Harvey of Canada (left) and Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden (right). (Photo: Marcel Hilger)
Canada’s Alex Harvey (l) on the podium in second place at the 2015 Tour de Ski two years ago, with Norway’s Petter Northug (c), who won the 15 k classic pursuit in Oberstdorf, Germany, and third-place finisher Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden (r). Northug is not competing this year. (Photo: Marcel Hilger)

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.”

 

SWITZERLAND

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

 

GERMANY

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

 

FINLAND

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

 

SWEDEN

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

 

NORWAY:

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.
FRANCE

Men: Maurice Manificat, Jean-Marc Gaillard, Clément Parisse, Alexis Jeannerod, Renaud Jay, Lucas Chavanat

***

Follow FasterSkier’s live updates during the races on Twitter and check our home page for comprehensive reports. 

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