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 XC Files SLC Race Tips

Note that these tips and comments were written at the end of December 2001. Additions to the comments at the start of February are indicated by square brackets.


Men

Per Elofsson from Sweden is the main man across all events except the sprint. He won 2 gold in Lahti 2001 and will comfortably lead the 2001-2002 World Cup after all the December races. Elofsson could conceivably win the 15km classic, the 30km freestyle mass start, the 10-10km pursuit, and could even have crack at the 50km classic if he manages to hold his form all the way through.

Johann Muhlegg from Spain (formerly German) will likely be Elofsson's main competition in the 30km freestyle and the 10-10km pursuit. Muhlegg won the 30km in the Salt Lake City test event last year and skis well at altitude.

There is a host of Norwegian classic skiers who could win the 15km classic and 50km classic. Hard to tip until Norway decides which four skiers to enter in each race. Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeseth, Anders Aukland, Erling Jevne, Frode Estil, Espen Bjervig, Kristen Skjeldal, Tore Bjonviken. And Thomas Alsgaard could win any event if he finds form, which sometimes eludes him. Biathlete Ole Einar Bjorndalen will definitely be a contender in the 30km freestyle IF he starts. [Bjervig and Bjonviken didn't make the team. with four spots taken up by specialist sprinters who all got on the World Cup podium this season, only six spots were left for the rest of the Norwegian men's xc team]

Christian Hoffman from Austria will be a chance in the 30km freestyle mass start, as will Andrus Veerpalu from Estonia in the 50km classic. Mikhail Ivanov from Russia could also surprise in the 15km classic.

The freestyle sprint will likely be the most hotly contested event. Only 16 skiers qualify for the finals but form then it could be anyone's race, depending on who is firing on the day and has fast skis. The sprinters in form so far this season are Christian Zorzi from Italy and Tor-Arne Hetland from Norway, but there is a newcomer from Sweden by the name of Bjorn Lind who is extremely fast in the qualifying round and just needs to learn some better race tactics.

The four by 10km relay. Norway has been the favorites for this event in every major championship since 1992, though they lost in spectacular sprints in 1994 and 1999. With Norway likely to lead after the the two classic legs, the question will be whether Elofsson can pull back enough time for Sweden or whether Russia can get four skiers to fire on the same day.

XC Files Tips...

December 2001 Tips

Extra Pre-Race Comments

Actual Results

Misc Info

30km Freestyle Mass Start
1 Muhlegg, SPA
2 Elofsson, SWE
3 Hoffman, AUT

None, as there hasn't been a chance to surf for the latest goss.

1 Muhlegg, SPA*
2 Hoffman, AUT
3 Botvinov, AUT
4 Skjeldal, NOR

Elofsson blew up after trying to match pace with Muhlegg early on, and pulled out after 15km.

15km Classic
1 Elofsson, SWE
2 Jevne, NOR
3 Hjelmeset, NOR

Hard to count out Muhlegg after 30km. But still have faith in Elofsson to bounce back.
If Hjelmeset doesn't get a start, replace with Estil.

1 Veerpalu, EST
2 Estil, NOR
3 Mae, EST
5 Elofsson, SWE
6 Jevne, NOR

Tips blown out of the water by the Estonians. Elofsson backed up quite well after 30km. No Muhlegg in start.

10-10km Pursuit
1 Elofsson, SWE
2 Muhlegg, SPA
3 Alsgaard, NOR

Still going for Elofsson and Muhlegg as top two.

1 Muhlegg, SPA*
=2 Alsgaard, NOR
=2 Estil, NOR
4 Elofsson, SWE

Trifecta in wrong order was looking good until Estil's sprint

Relay
1 Norway
2 Sweden
3 Russia

Hard to pass on Norway. But Austria, Russia, Italy and Sweden (Elofsson sick!)can all fight for second.

1 Norway
2 Italy
3 Germany
4 Austria

Bad tips but a very exciting race!

Sprint
1 Hetland, NOR
2 Zorzi, ITA
3 Lind, SWE

Ahh, who knows. Tough course at altitude and anything can happen.

1 Hetland, NOR
2 Schlickenrieder, NOR
3 Zorzi, ITA
4 Lind, SWE

Very happy to have Schlickenrieder break up this trifecta.

50km Classic
1 Jevne, NOR
2 Veerpalu, EST
3 Estil, NOR

Who will last the distance? Muhlegg will certainly be hunting for his third gold. Sweden still hoping for Per.

1 Muhlegg, SPA
1 Ivanov, RUS
2 Veerpalu, EST
3 Hjelmeset, NOR

Muhlegg digs deep to take his third gold medal. TLTB.


Women

Bente Skari from Norway will win all classic events unless the Norwegian team manages to completely bugger up the waxing. Some other Norwegians could also feature in the classic events, including veteran Hilde Pedersen and up and coming Vibeke Skofterud.

Expect Russian women to appear frequently in the top 10 in all events. Larissa Lazutina, Olga Danilova, Nina Gavriljuk, Natalie Baranova, Elena Buruhina, and of course the 2001 World Cup Champion Julia Tchepalova.

Kristina Smigun from Estonia had a relative shocker at the 2001 World Championships, but is back in form again this season. Could feature in any event. [Smigun's preparation may have been disrupted by doping rumours at the end of January. Apparently the A-sample from a test in Brusson in December was positive for an anabolic steroid, however the story is that the B-sample proved negative. She was also sick at the start of January.]

Katerina Neumannova from the Czech Republic was in sensational form in the Salt Lake City test events in 2001, and is another skier who can challenge over any distance, from sprint to 30km.

Stefania Belmondo from Italy has her best chance in the 15km freestyle mass start, and expect her to move up many places in the freestyle leg of the pursuit.

Special mention for the Canadian women's team headed up by Beckie Scott, who performed very well in the Salt Lake City test events and started the 2001-2002 season well. Scott could be a surprise podium in either the sprint or the pursuit.

The women freestyle sprint has been thrown wide open with a pre-season injury to the 2001 World Champion Pirjo Manninen from Finland. There has been a different winner (and mostly different finalists) in each of the December sprint events. If Manninen is there, even if she hasn't competed since the last world cup season, she will still be the favourite. Otherwise Tchepalova, Neumannova, Smigun, Valbusa from Italy may be some names to pick from.

Women's 4 by 5km Relay. It is hard to see Russia managing to lose this event. It is not uncommon in World Cup for the second Russian team to beat the rest of the world. Norway will be up there after the classic and could hold on for second. Other contenders Finland, Germany and possibly Sweden. Canada could surprise.

XC Files Tips...

December 2001 Tips

Extra Pre-Race Tips

Actual Results

Comments

15km Mass Start
1 Tchepalova, RUS
2 Smigun, EST
3 Belmondo, ITA

Barring further doping scandals.

1 Belmondo, ITA
2 Lazutina, RUS*
3 Neumannova, CZE
4 Tchepalova, RUS

Or at least the results as told by an Austrian coach - was busy waxing skis.

10km Classic
1 Skari, NOR
2 Danilova, RUS
3 Lazutina, RUS

Will stick with these tips.

1 Skari, NOR
2 Danilova, NOR*
3 Tchepalova, RUS
4 Lazutina, RUS*

Fantastic race by Beckie Scott from Canada for 6th place.

5-5km Pursuit
1 Smigun, EST
2 Tchepalova, RUS
3 Neumanova, CZE

Now favouring Tchepalova over Lazutina. Skari to lead after classic, and Belmondo to come home strong.

1 Danilova, RUS*
2 Lazutina, RUS*
3 Scott, CAN
4 Neummannova, CZE
5 Bauer, GER

Double ditto above by Beckie Scott for Canada's first Olympic cross country skiing medal!

Sprint
1 Manninen , FIN (If healthy)
2 Tchepalova, RUS
3 Scott, CAN

New tips: Neummanova, Scott, Tchepalova.

1 Tchepalova, RUS
2 Sachenbacher, GER
3 Moen, NOR
5 Scott, CAN

Relay
1 Russia
2 Norway
3 Finland

Russia almost unbeatable, Norway weaker on skating legs, Italy & Germany can also fight for the podium.

1 Germany
2 Norway
3 Switzerland

Russia denied start. Sensational race, great for the sport.

30km Classic
1 Skari, NOR
2 Danilova, RUS
3 Lazutina, RUS

1 Lazutina, RUS
1 Paruzzi, ITA
2 Belmondo, ITA
3 Skari, NOR

Italians impress in the final event, also with very good skis.



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