Welcome to FasterSkier’s World Cup Preview, where we check in with the top-10 teams from last year’s FIS Cross Country World Cup tour before the season starts. The World Cup begins with a classic sprint in Ruka, Finland on Nov. 24th.
Overall in Nations Cup Last Year: 7th
Women’s Ranking 2017/2018: 12th
Men’s Ranking 2017/2018: 3rd
French to Watch: Subdued, understated, but right there when it counts. That would encapsulate France’s men’s team – a group never demanding your attention, but certainly deserving of it.
Maurice Manificat, at 32 years old, placed 5th in the distance rankings last season. When the technique was freestyle, Manificat became a top-10 lock. Of his eight distance top-10’s last season, only two involved classic technique: he placed 9th in a 15 k classic pursuit and 5th in a 30 k skiathlon. Otherwise, it was all skate. In particular, if the race format is a 15 k skate, keep Manificat within your sights.
His Olympics impressed for their consistency and hardware. A fifth place in both the 30 k skiathlon and 15 k skate kept Manificat in the medal hunt. He helped deliver Olympic bronze in the men’s 4 x 10 k relay — he actually skied the second classic leg — and the team sprint which suited his skate skiing endurance.
Thirty-eight-year-old Jean-Marc Gaillard lends stability to the French distance team. He posted several top-20 results and finished 7th overall in the Tour de Ski. Sitting 18th in the distance cup and 21st overall, Gaillard may not podium, but he takes pressure off Manificat and plays a key role when it comes to championship relays – he was part of France’s bronze performances in the 4 x 10 k relay in PyeongChang and Sochi in 2014 as their scramble leg starter.
The speed is also reliable for France’s men. Lucas Chanavat, Baptiste Gros, and Richard Jouve form a reliable trifecta of sprint qualifiers that can move through the heats.
Chanavat posted four podiums last season all in skate. Gros earned seven top-20’s. Jouve sported five top-10’s including a 4th place in Dresden’s skate sprint. Jouve also earned Olympic hardware with Manificat in the team sprint.
This season, France does not have an “A” level women’s team according to a team announcement. The “B” team will feature several younger skiers with limited World Cup experience. However, Anouk Faivre-Picon, at thirty years old, was a steady top-30 distance skier for France last season. She notched a season-best 13th place in the Olympic skiathlon. Maybe this year will see an uptick in results and organizational commitment from France which did not bring a women’s team to the 2017 Lahti, Finland Nordic Ski World Championships.