NewsRacingTour de Ski2018/2019 Tour de Ski Preview (Updated)

FasterSkier FasterSkierDecember 26, 2018
The start of the men’s 15 k classic mass start at Stage 6 of the 2018 Tour de Ski on Saturday in Val di Fiemme, Italy, with (front row, left to right) Canada’s Alex Harvey, Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, and Switzerland’s Dario Cologna. (Photo: Salomon/NordicFocus)

Beginning this Saturday in Toblach, Italy with a freestyle sprint is the 13th edition of the Tour de Ski (TdS). According to the International Ski Federation (FIS), over the course of seven stages the men will race 80.918 kilometers, the women 60.67 k. 

The TdS has become both a staple and a spectacle of the annual World Cup calendar. With a jam-packed series of races primacy is placed on both the ability to recover well and wither less as the TdS transpires.

Prognostication can be tricky in a long-form template like the TdS. So much can go astray during seven races not to mention the travel and dicey germ-avoidance. 

Last season’s winner on the women’s side, Heidi Weng of Norway, sits 18th overall in the World Cup standings (14th in distance). She has four top-20’s in the four distance events she’s contested with her best result an eighth in Lillehammer’s 10 k skate. Although featuring two sprints in the first three stages, the TdS remains a distance skier’s paradise.

Weng has skied solidly on the World Cup, but she has yet to show the form that made her a TdS overall winner in 2017 and 2018. Norway has won the last five iterations of the TdS: Marit Bjørgen won once in 2014/2015, Therese Johaug twice (2013/2014, 2015/2016), and Weng the last two years.

Austria’s Teresa Stadlober leads Norway’s Heidi Weng (2) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, American Jessie Diggins (3) and others around a downhill corner during the women’s 10 k classic mass start at Stage 6 of the 2018 Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

 

If Norway is to keep the streak alive, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, last year’s TdS runner up, could be the heir apparent. She currently ranks second in the World Cup overall and 15th on the sprint list.

Johaug, having returned from an 18 month doping ban, has been on a distance race tear. She has won all five World Cup distance events this season. Johaug, however, will not be lining up for the TdS.

Only five different women have earned distance podiums this season — Johaug, Østberg, Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla and Ebba Andersson, and Finland’s Krista Pärmäkoski. Along with Johaug, Kalla and Andersson are skipping the TdS. (Andersson sits third overall on the World Cup, Kalla fifth.) With the TdS missing three of the five top ranked World Cup distance skiers, daily stages and the overall podium are up for grabs.   

Last season’s third overall finisher, Jessie Diggins of the U.S. Ski Team (USST), often cites the TdS as a point in the season when her form trends towards podium performances. She sits eighth in the current distance standings and could very well have a stout TdS. 

Russia’s Natalia Belorukova and Yulia Nepryaeva look strong as does Sadie Bjornsen (USST), and Austria’s Teresa Stadlober.

With less than predictable distance stage podiums for the women, it may simply come down to a drag race on the Alpe Cermis final climb Jan. 6.

Switzerland’s Dario Cologna (c) celebrates his fourth Tour de Ski overall title. He was joined by Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby (l) and Canada’s Alex Harvey (r) on the podium in second and third, respectively. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

 

The men’s scene is also open to interpretation. Last season’s TdS winner, Switzerland’s Dario Cologna, was in fact a surprise victor. Prior to Cologna’s stage two win in last year’s TdS, it had been nearly three years since the four time TdS overall winner had won a World Cup. Cologna sits 21st overall on the World Cup currently. Given last year’s resurgence, anything is possible for the Swiss skier.

Then there’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby form Norway. He finished on the TdS podium the last three years. At thirty-four-years-old, Sundby is ranked first on the distance list, with a second, a third, and a fourth place in distance races this season.

Sundby won the TdS on two occasions – in 2013/2014 and in 2016. His 2015 win was stripped after he tested positive for excessive levels of Salbutamol. He placed second in the past two Tours.

In a field rife with talent, Sundby’s ability to race and rebound and race and rebound will be tested. Sjur Røthe, Emil Iversen, and Didrik Tønseth— all from Norway— look in form. And there’s Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo. The winner of last season’s overall World Cup has had flashes of his past explosive self. He could be a TdS protagonist.

The men’s field is notably tight. Along with the Norwegians, several Russians could pop a podium, a stage win, and the overall. Russia comes with a loaded team ready to exploit. Alexander Bolshunov leads the overall World Cup – he’ll turn twenty two on Dec. 31st. He’s backed by teammates Evgeniy Belov, Andrey Melnichenko, and Denis Spitsov. 

Canada’s Alex Harvey placed third overall last year and he looked stronger as the TdS progressed.

The Stages

Stage 1:  Dec. 29, skate sprint in Toblach, Italy.

Stage 2: Dec. 30, 10 k/15 k skate in Toblach, Italy.

Stage 3: Jan. 1, skate sprint in Val Müstair, Switzerland.

Stage 4: Jan. 2, 10 k/15 k classic mass start in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Stage 5: Jan. 3, 10 k/15 k skate pursuit in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Stage 6: Jan. 5th, 10 k/15 k classic mass start in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Stage 7: Jan 6th, 9 k final climb skate pursuit in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Teams

United States

Women: Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen, Jessie Diggins.

Men: Ben Lustgarten, Simi Hamilton, Erik Bjornsen, Kevin Bolger.

U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover noted in a text that Caldwell, Hamilton, and Bolger will likely cease the TdS after the stage three sprint. Additionally, this is a small team for the U.S. at the TdS. Several athletes turned down TdS nominations including Scott Patterson (USST), Andy Newell (SMS T2/Salomon), Kyle Bratrud (SMS T2), Rosie Brennan (APU), Rosie Frankowski (APU), Caitlin Patterson (CGRP), and Julia Kern (SMS T2). These skiers plan on racing U.S. Nationals this January in Craftsbury, Vermont.

Canada

Women: Emily Nishikawa, Dahria Beatty

Men: Alex Harvey, Lenny Valjas, Bob Thompson

Norway

Women: Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, Maiken Caspersen Falla, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, Kari Øyre Slind, Kathrine Rolsted Harsem, Heidi Weng, Lotta Udnes Weng, Tiril Udnes Weng Mari Eide, Anna Svendsen

Men: Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Hans Christer Holund, Emil Iversen, Didrik Tønseth, Simen Hegstad, Krüger, Sjur Røthe, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, Martin Løwstrøm Nyenget, Eirik Brandsdal, Finn Hågen Krogh

Russia

Women: Yulia Belorukova, Lidia Durkina, Anna Zherebyateva, Mariya Istomina, Natalia Nepryaeva, Anna Nechaevskaya, Anastasia Sedova, Elena Soboleva

Men: Evgeniy Belov, Alexander Bolshunov, Maxim Vylegzhanin, Andrey Larkov, Andrey Melnichenko,  Gleb Retivykh, Andrey Sobakarev, Denis Spitsov, Sergey Ustiugov

Sweden

Women: Mia Eriksson, Ida Ingemarsdotter, Moa Molander Kristiansen, Stina Nilsson, Maria Nordström, Linn Sömskar, Lisa Vinsa

Men: Calle Halfvarsson, Simon Lageson, Teodor Peterson, Daniel Rickardsson, Oskar Svensson, Viktor Thorn, Karl Johan Westberg

Finland

Women: Mari Eder, Anne Kyllönen, Laura Mononen, Krista Pärmäkoski, Susanna Saapunki

Men: Ristomatti Hakola, Matti Heikkinen, Lauri Vuorinen

Italy

Women: Elisa Brocard, Anna Comarella, Ilaria Debertolis, Caterina Ganz, Greta Laurent, Sara Pellegrini, Lucia Scardoni

Men: Francesco de Fabiani, Stefano Gardener, Enrico Nizzo, Dietmar Noeckler, Federico Pellegrino, Maicol Rastelli, Giandomenico Salvadori

Switzerland

Women: Nathalie von Siebenthal, Laurien van der Graaff, Nadine Fähndrich

Men: Dario Cologna, and Jovian Hediger, Jonas Baumann, Livio Bieler, Roman Furger, Käser Erwanm, Beda Klee, Toni Livers, Jason Rüesch, Schaad Roman

Austria

Women: Therese Stadlober

Germany

Women: Julia Belger, Victoria Carl, Pia Fink, Laura Gimmler, Katharina Hennig, Sandra Ringwald, Elisabeth Schicho, Anne Winkler

Men: Thomas Bing, Lucas Bögl, Janosch Brugger, Jonas Dobler, Sebastian Eisenlauer, Andreas Katz, Valentin Mättig, Florian Notz, Max Olex, Thomas Wick

France

Women: Anouk Faivre Picon, Delphine Claudel, Laura Chamiot-Maitral

Men: Maurice Manificat, Lucas Chanavat, Adrien Backscheider, Jean-Marc Gaillard, Baptiste Gros, Renaud Jay, Richard Jouve, Jules Lapierre, Clement Parisse

FasterSkier will update team start lists as we gather more information.

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