Nordic Skiing/Biathlon Thread

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I know winter is still a few month away, however there is something I have thought about for a while now. Maybe, just maybe Covid 19 might be a blessing in disguse for us cross country skiing fans.
Wouldn`t it be possibe that Fis will be forced to replace mass start races with individual starts. I know, cycling has mass start races too, but winter might be a different thing. We all know that viruses spread / are more dangerous in winter than in summer. So having mass start races with athletes breathing hard next to each other seems a bit strange when we are required to wear mask in public places and so on.
So , do you see a chance that mass startraces could actually be in danger this season, too?
 
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I know winter is still a few month away, however there is something I have thought about for a while now. Maybe, just maybe Covid 19 might be a blessing in disguse for us cross country skiing fans.
Wouldn`t it be possibe that Fis will be forced to replace mass start races with individual starts. I know, cycling has mass start races too, but winter might be a different thing. We all know that viruses spread / are more dangerous in winter than in summer. So having mass start races with athletes breathing hard next to each other seems a bit strange when we are required to wear mask in public places and so on.
So , do you see a chance that mass startraces could actually be in danger this season, too?
Good question. I guess it depends. If there are snow shortages again, then loops would be only 2.5 km long if even that and the track would be crowded anyway. And FIS doesn't want to do interval starts on such short loops, because it would look like a mess on TV I guess.

I don't expect FIS to change the calendar voluntarily, so it's about whether some force majeure intervenes. But we are living in such uncertain times, so who knows really.
 
So the shedule for this XC season has been finalized. There are some Bad and some good news. The Bad: Tour the Ski she dule IS dogshit once again. No Long distance Stage at all. The good. IT IS offical, after 13 years of dispair, the 50km on the Holmenkollen are finally raced as an individual start. The Situation of the WC in Oberstdorf remains unclear, though. I fear a total cancellation is still very Well possible.
 
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So the shedule for this XC season has been finalized. There are some Bad and some good news. The Bad: Tour the Ski she dule IS dogshit once again. No Long distance Stage at all. The good. IT IS offical, after 13 years of dispair, the 50km on the Holmenkollen are finally raced as an individual start. The Situation of the WC in Oberstdorf remains unclear, though. I fear a total cancellation is still very Well possible.
Biathlon has reduced the amount of world cup venues to reduce travelling and potential risk of falling ill. I wouldn't be surprised if FIS did something similar. So I don't think calendar is set in stone yet. And I'm highly sceptical of Chinese races going ahead, even if Olympics are supposed to be there the year after.

What covid-19 has effectively done to summer sports thus far, has been focus on higher adaptability/improvisation of organizing events. And also regionalization of sports. This of course doesn't influence winter sports that much because usually only 1-2 events are held outside Europe. However, particularly in XC I could see further regionalization towards Nordic countries happening.

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Of course, another thing to consider before the upcoming season is the economic situation. I read already in April that Norway reduced its ski team funding. I assume this has been the case in pretty much every team. Which effect will this have on competition is yet to be seen. But wouldn't be surprised if the gaps between better-off teams and the less competitive ones increased further. In XC anyone outside Norwegians, Russian men and Swedish women was floundering already before, so what chances will they have once finances get even tighter?
 
Well, for those who have always maintained that due to the low level of skiing in biathlon the best XC women would win everything with 7/10, Stina Nilsson just made her debut and shot 7/10. The problem was that the only top level skier from the World Cup level we could use as a direct comparison was Markéta Davídová, and the Czechs are at a different point in their training cycle from the Swedes. Helpfully, Markéta is a fairly slow and deliberate shot, which means we could get more of a head to head comparison, but in the end Stina finished at the bottom of the top 10, nearly 2 minutes adrift from Hanna Öberg, who shot all 10 targets down to win.

I think the key take-home from this was that while she took around 30" on the people around her on the final lap, the fact Stina went in the early running might have affected things as she didn't have any reasonable times or information on what others had done to use as a target, but it is worth noting that she lost enough time in the range to finish behind IBU Cup regular Elisabeth Högberg on equal shooting. Högberg is one of the quickest IBU Cup skiers, but obviously her skiing level is not comparable to Nilsson. Öberg is a strong skier, however, and it is notable that Stina's time loss in the range was sufficient that she couldn't have won even with 10/10.

Obviously this is a first time out in competitive biathlon so the drills will get better, plus she also ejected a round early and had to manually reload so will have lost a few seconds to that, but those range times are going to be the biggest danger for her I would suspect. That's why I wanted to be able to use Davídová as a comparison point as she's one of the slowest shots on the circuit, but one of the best skiers. Herrmann and Braisaz are also similar points of comparison.
 
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This is sort of skiing,snow shoeing related. In my lifetime I have always marveled at how mad,utterly furious elite bike racers get when a person of talent from skiing or snow shoe racing can translate their talents and fitness to bike racing. I have also seen it in elite runners, sports that require intense,extended periods of absolute brutal suffering. I stand in awe of athletes that can push through some super human threshold,and in an instant, command a second personality, of a calm,composed target shooter and after reaching a state of rifle firing zen, jump up again and go full gas until the finish or another personality shift is required.
Each year I cross country ski 3-10 times and as a whimpy Southern Californian it is always hard to get over the entire body soreness..I have tired to distance myself from " friends" who enjoy snow camping and fishing that involves,skiing in and out of the camping \ fishing locations.
Absolute respect for the elite skiers..really difficult discipline
 
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Of all the sports I've partaken in xc skiing was the hardest simply because you have to use every limb and there's a lot of aerobic activity involved, and if your skis aren't waxed correctly you'll be going backwards instead of forwards. The only other activity I can think of that comes close is probably swimming, but swimming is a safe sport because there is no impact on the joints. So yeah, much kudos to elite xc skiers and especially biathletes, how they are able to focus on shooting while also going full out is beyond me.

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How this season will pan out will be really interesting, usually snow (or lack of) impacts the races, but now we have the COVID as well. So buckle up, fans of xc, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
 
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So back from summer hibernation. So this weekend the world cup races will begin (both in biathlon and XC). Not sure how many races we get this year, so let's find out.

What is anyone's expectations? Personally I am wondering whether women XC could finally offer some close competition. I think Johaug's domination has peaked and with each passing year diminishing returns should be kicking in. Already last season some of her victory margins were quite narrow. Meanwhile Andersson and Karlsson are yet to reach their peak. So it could be pretty close between the three of them.
 
A good decision that the first few rounds of the Biathlon WC are double events to reduce travel. It’ll be interesting how many go over to Beijing for the Olympic test event in February.

Looking slightly further ahead, hopefully crowds are allowed back by the time they reach Nove Mesto in March.
 
Impressive win by Valnes. Nice to see someone else than Klaebo winning a sprint.
Still, Klaebo looks in shape to fight for the overall but if Valnes keeps going like this he will lose a few sprints. Bolshunov looking good too.

In the ladies, Swedes dominated, as expected, but the next two days will be more interesting to see how strong are Karlsson and Andersson compared with Johaug.
 
Valnes stuck to Klaebo like glue that entire race and sped away at the top of the final hill.

Bolshunov is looking similar to last year at this time, not bad but not tip top. I don't agree with the tactics he employed, plus his skis were the slowest in that final, nevermind the Norwegians.

Niskanen qualified in 9th, which is excellent for him. He didn't make it out of his QF heat but I think he's as good as he was last year in Ruka. The problem is he's got to crush the 15km tomorrow to have a chance at taking the mini tour win.

No shocks in the women's races either. The Swedes have so many world class sprinters, Svahn, Dahlqvist, Sundling, Riibom, Dyvik, Falk (who wasn't there), Hägstrom (also wasn't picked for Ruka), Lundgren, Karlsson can also sprint very well, though she is clearly better at distance. Andersson is their weakest sprinter, but she's improving.
 
Bolshunov's skis look terrible, he was into herringbone so early there, like, four strides after the split at 3,1 and expending so much energy to force himself into the climb up to that split. Niskanen's were just completely stripped of any grip at all near the end there, he was absolutely exhausted trying to force power down through them. Klæbo is very much Petter Northug Jr... Jr. Ugly technique, coming from sprints, really poor mass start racing style because of that, arrogant and divisive, but just completely impossible to deny the talent.
 
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Bolshunov seems to be more or less at the same level as at the start of last season but Klaebo looks stronger so I expect a good fight during the World Cup between them. Sadly the calendar this season has less long distance races than last year and all those sprints and 15km classic races look perfect for Klaebo. Great race from Chervotkin too, curious that now he seems better in classic than in skating while it was the opposite a few years ago.

I was expecting Karlsson and Andersson to be a bit closer to Johaug but they are probably waiting to peak in the World Championships. Still its a good thing that they are healthy, unlike some of their Norwegians rivals... Sorina is the revelation of these two first races, if she keeps this shape during the season she can reach a few podiums.
 
Karlsson's upper body looked a bit more composed and less wild than last season. Fossesholm payed a bit for starting too fast, but her technique aleady looks really smooth.
On the Men's side Pellegrino did a lot better than expected for a skating sprint specialist.
One also has to say that this seems to be Klaebo's favourite distance race, 2nd win and (3rd?) podium in this race. He seems to be less arrongant that Peter or Iversen and stopped his celebrating too early antics after paying for it. He's clearly not one of my favourite skiing athletes, but not that bad for a Norgebot. ;)
 
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Sorina is a real surprise. Not sure if that's a one-off, because some athletes excel in season openers and then gradually disappear.

Kläbo by the way was 2nd in 15 km classic in Ruka last year, so him going well here isn't a surprise. Wonder if he'll wait for Bolshunov in pursuit to outsprint him in the finish (shades of Quebec 2019).

Not sure what will happen to the overall world cup though. Due to covid some athletes or even teams may easily get eliminated from competitions even if an athlete in question isn't ill. It would be a pity if the world cup came down to who is the last man standing, who can keep competing. So I'm taking races simply individually as they come. Like in the old days before the introduction of world cups.

In biathlon a shock win for Lägreid. But 15/20 km individual as the first competition is a bit random. I wonder if tomorrow's sprint is going to be more representative of what to expect from this season.
 
Sorina is a real surprise. Not sure if that's a one-off, because some athletes excel in season openers and then gradually disappear.

Kläbo by the way was 2nd in 15 km classic in Ruka last year, so him going well here isn't a surprise. Wonder if he'll wait for Bolshunov in pursuit to outsprint him in the finish (shades of Quebec 2019).

Not sure what will happen to the overall world cup though. Due to covid some athletes or even teams may easily get eliminated from competitions even if an athlete in question isn't ill. It would be a pity if the world cup came down to who is the last man standing, who can keep competing. So I'm taking races simply individually as they come. Like in the old days before the introduction of world cups.

In biathlon a shock win for Lägreid. But 15/20 km individual as the first competition is a bit random. I wonder if tomorrow's sprint is going to be more representative of what to expect from this season.
But the 15/20 Individual has always been the first race of the season? They added a Mixed Relay a few seasons ago on the weekend before the main Östersund World Cup, but the Individual has been the season opener for individual races since time immemorial.
 
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But the 15/20 Individual has always been the first race of the season? They added a Mixed Relay a few seasons ago on the weekend before the main Östersund World Cup, but the Individual has been the season opener for individual races since time immemorial.
Yeah. Poor wording from me. What I meant it often offers random results. I remember in past seasons Dzhima used to be up front in the first individual, basically not to be seen again during the season.
 
I began watching biathlon, when Bjørndalen dominated the sport, so I never really rooted for the Norwegians, at least not during the men's races. I did however enjoy seeing Lægreid take his first win, because now (a) Bøe won't win all the competitions this season.
The French did alright, but will probably still tank the future relays. Erik Lesser did a great job coming in third, and Samuelsson had fine speed on the slope.

The Swedes also did a fantastic job in the women's race with three athletes in the top 5 and five in the top 11. It'll be interesting to see, if that is a true display of their level at the moment or not. Olsbu and Tiril on the other hand have to put in some work on their shooting by the looks of it. Wierer is still reliable, and Hermann shot extraordinarily well and came very close to victory.
 
The thing with the Swedes is that they usually hit the ground running, but that's largely because Östersund is usually the season opener, so this is a bit harder to gauge. Ponsiluoma was really fast, and the women were amazing almost to a woman (Anna Magnusson, sorry to say this, but you're the exception). Røiseland destroyed the test races so I've little fear for her, but this was very much the Tiril Eckhoff that we knew before 2019-20 coming back, for all that entails. I always liked that Tiril Eckhoff more than the reliable version, but this was the flip side of it.

Zarnack, agreed, this race does often start the season with some unusual results - your point on Dzhima stands, and Synnøve Solemdal even got into the yellow bib a couple of years ago by being great in Östersund then being terrible from there on in. Other times it's where somebody makes a name for themselves from the outside. Germans have been big on this - back in 2011 and 2012 respectively, Franzi Hildebrand and Erik Lesser were, if not on debut, then basically fringe people getting entries due to performane at the opening IBU Cup of the season, overperformed in the Individual in Östersund with great shooting, got good start pots in the sprint to follow (the Germans operate a rigid rule of the best World Cup positions getting first choice of start pot) and built themselves into the fabric of the team. Daniel Böhm did similarly in 2013 which enabled him to get into the Olympics thanks to a fantastic run of shooting when he'd been out in the cold for two seasons before that. Lesser here today, for all his experience, only squeezed into the team in the test races because he'd had a bad season last year and was being considered ready to be passed up for a younger talent, but he put in a great shooting performance and a stunning last lap, showing that there's still a place there for a racer who uses their smarts to get to the front. I mean, that's why Peiffer is an Olympic and World Champion - making sure that if other people make mistakes, he's the one that can profit from it.
 

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