Feb 27th Update
The World Championship's biggest profile Mika Myllylae says that he will miss Sunday's 50km classic. The decision came unexpectedly. Prior to the championships Myllylae said that this race was his best chance for gold, and he remained as race favourite. "The body now is completely finished," said Myllylae, who had troubles handling the pace on the second leg of the relay yesterday. Fellow Finn Jari Isometsae, who was sick just prior to Ramsau, will go ahead with the 50km.Afternote: Not only did Myllylae start, but he won gold.
Sweden's Per Elofsson left Ramsau as soon as possible after the men's relay, and has returned to Sweden to train before the next world cup races. His first World Championships has been a disappointment, though most 22 year old's would be happy with an 8th and 9th place. There will be more World Championships for Per Elofsson.
Rough translation of parts of article by Stellan Kvärre, Dagens, Nyheter, Sweden.
Thomas Alsgaard told this week that he had never lost in a sprint. He has broken Björn Daehlie. Also Mika Myllylae. But a couple of days ago Alsgaard said: There is a man I fear and it is Christian Hoffmann. I hope I never meet him in an important duell.
So now you understand why the relay drama yesterday (see race report) had such a sensational result. A betting agency had certainly set great odds on Hoffmann against Alsgaard.
"Alsgaard made a big mistake," said Hoffmann. "He let me pass, he willingly let me take the lead. If one sits behind (in a sprint) they need great strength, first to pull up level and then they must pass. For me it was only to say thanks and take it."
And sasy thanks and take it is what Hoffmann and Austria did. With huge jubilation and great sympathy from the other teams. This victory was needed for the good of the sport. As Daehlie put it:
"There's not many who cry with Norway at this moment. For me personly, it was more bitter when I lost against Sylvio Fauner in Lillehammer in the 1994 Olympics."
In the finish stood Mikael Botvinov with tears in his eyes. He put so much into increasing the gap back to Daehlie that both skis came into the same track. He fell, and broke a pole. And Daehlie came disturbingly closer.
Friday's big hero in the ski world was 24 year old Hoffmann.
Feb 26th Update
Did Alsgaard have money on the Austrian team in the men's relay? Is that why there was no 'Alsgaard lunge' on the line? You heard it here first, though there's no factual evidence or even hearsay.
Big Benny Derrick to race the 50km? He was only ever going to race the 30km skate at the World Championships, but now maybe the temptation has become too much. Or is it just training for the Vasaloppet next weekend. We'll find out soon.
Feb 24th Update
Translated from Swedish newspapers.
Did Mika Myllylae have his third straight World Championship gold medal stolen from him, and with it his chance to take home a World Championship grand slam (all gold medals)? Was it unfair to run a pursuit start in dumping snow, where the leader on the course had to make their own track?
"Yes," said Per Elofsson, who moved up from 22nd to 9th in the 15km pursuit and had the fastest time after Alsgaard. " Myllylae didn't have a fair chance."
"Yes," said the winner Thomas Alsgaard. "If it had been me who was forced to go out first under the prevailing conditions I would have been 'ordentlig sur' [translates roughly to not very happy]. This was not right against Myllylae."
"No," said Mika Myllylae. "The gold was not stolen from me, but it was wrong to run the race in this fashion. Of course, we protested. But now the race is over."
There was a gigantic battle in Ramsau on Tuesday. Myllylae dealt with one giant, Björn Dählie. But the other, Thomas Alsgaard, was one too many. But what a fantastic race, and despite the unfair conditions it was great PR for the pursuit start as excitement on the highest level. (see race report)
When did Alsgaard last lose a sprint in a big event?
"I can't remember that I've done it anytime," siad Alsgaard smiling. It was then suggested to him that he isn't an especially good sprinter, with a best time of 12.3 seconds for 100m.
"You can't compare sprinting with and without skis. It was my father Per who taught me the technique. This sort of sprint is 90% technique. And clearly I have a psychological advantage when I come in towards the finish. I know that I can take it a little easier before the sprint, be able to dare to behind behind when I know the capacity I have.
Feb 21st Update
News from Ramsau on Saturday afternoon - rain, rain, lots of rain.. Will probably make for interesting waxing conditions in the classic races on Monday. It should be noted that the Norwegian team have absolutely blitzed the field on a number of previous occasions when it has been extremely wet classic conditions.
The day before the 30km Jari Isometsae from Finland came down with some sort of stomach virus. Isometsae apparently said to a reporter if he was not able to start in the 30km then he probably wouldn't be healthy enough to start in any event. If so, Finland will miss him sorely in the relay. He wasn't a very happy camper, especially considering he had been in excellent form as exhibited by his 3rd place in the Seefeld World Cup last week. A number of other Finns (luckily not Myllylae) also came down with the same virus. [Note - Isometsae did start in the 10km and finished 11th - expect him to move up in the pursuit.]
Ljubov Egorova made headlines at the 1997 World Championships in Trondheim, where she was stripped of her gold medal and banned for three years after testing positive to the performance enhancing and masking agent Bromantrin. The ban was later reduced to two years, and two years later here is Egorova in the Russian team in Ramsau. Her ban actually finished on the 25th, so Egorova is eligible to start in the relay and the 30km. With such a strong team it is not as if Egorova is needed for the relay, so if she starts it would seem to be more of statement than anything else, though I'm not sure of who it would be to.
Daehlie cut short his altitude preparation for Ramsau and missed the Seefeld World Cup due to illness of some sort. There has been much debate as to whether he really was sick or just bluffing which just goes to show that newspapers will report on anything (for that matter web sites too). Whatever the case, the latest news is that Daehlie had a hard training session on Wednesday, felt good, and is looking forward to the 30km tomorrow.
Swedish men's coach Magnar Dalen has been playing down medal expectations after the average Swedish results in the recent Seefeld world cup. However, with four Swedes (Elofsson, Fredriksson, Bergstrom and Jonsson) in the top 10 in World Cup this season, we shouldn't count them out yet. Elofsson in particular had only just come down from altitude at Seefeld, and is aiming high in the 30km skate.
The Austrian team had a two page spread in one of the major Swedish
papers and has grand plans for their home World Championships. Head coach
Walter Mayer says "I finish as team leader after this season and my biggest
dream is to have a World Championships gold in the relay.". A few seasons
ago this would have been dismissed as a land of the fairies dream, but
no longer. Stadlober and Gandler have always been strong in relays, and
with Chirstian Hoffmann come of age (50km bronze in Japan, 7th in Seefeld
15km skate last week) and the man-in-form Botvinov the
Austrians will be tough to beat.
Mayer also had a little to say on comparison with the Austrian Alpine team who cleaned up in the World Championships in Vail; "We don't even have a tenth of their budget. We had 17 men and 2(!) women starting in the Austrian Championships. We live in the background". Of course the Australian cross country team's budget is probably a tenth of the Austrian's, however it does go to show how with the right leadership and drive success can be achieved from a small base of skiers.
Strangely not much to say anywhere on the Italian team who had four men in top ten at the last world cup.
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