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 with the Ruka weekend in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 24 with a classic sprint.
Overall in Nations Cup Last Year: 6th
Women’s Ranking 2017/2018: 7th
Men’s Ranking 2017/2018: 4th
However lopsided Switzerland World Cup profile appears – think Dario Cologna prime time all the time – the team is more than a set of shoulders to carry its star. Certainly, Cologna can steal the show, as his return to form last season proved, but the Swiss collective of athletes proved their World Cup mettle in 2017/2018.
Twenty-five-year-old Nathalie Von Siebenthal arrived on the World Cup in-form. In Ruka, the start of last year’s World Cup, she placed sixth in the 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit. Between Ruka and the Olympics, Siebenthal raced to numerous top-10’s in distance events while placing eighth overall in the Tour de Ski (TdS).
In PyeongChang, Siebenthal was able to bring the Swiss team near the front of the women’s distance race pack. In the 15 k skiathlon, Siebenthal placed sixth overall, 2.9 seconds behind fifth place Jessie Diggins (USST) who was dialed for a stellar Games. In the individual start 10 k skate, Siebenthal again was sixth.
Nadine Fähndrich, at twenty three years old, should help the Swiss women’s team build upon last year’s solid performance. By season’s end, Fähndrich was ranked 21st on the sprint list and 31st on the distance list. She finished 27th overall on the World Cup.
The Swiss women’s team gets deeper. There’s veteran skier Laurien van der Graaf who had several top-10’s on the World Cup and Olympics. She won the Lenzerheide, Switzerland and Seefeld, Austria skate sprints, was the fifth ranked sprinter in the world last season, and 21st overall.
Then there is Cologna. Prior to the start of the 2018 TdS, it had been three years since Cologna had podiumed on the Word Cup. Cologna remained sanguine during the win-drought. His charge during and after the TdS, which he won, were career resurrecting. Olympic cycles are what they are. For a champion like Cologna, if you can peak once in the past four years, it’s mission accomplished. Cologna won the 15 k skate in PyeongChang making it three Olympic 15 k wins in a row. He capped an unexpectedly successful season win a 50 k skate win at Holmenkollen — by a smidge of time over Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby.
Cologna is back: Second in the final overall standings, first in distance. Let’s just say he’ll round out an already well-rounded Swiss team.
Jovian Hediger, at twenty-seven, will take some of the pressure off Cologna when it comes to the Swiss men’s expectations. He finished the season ranked 19th in the sprint cup.