i did my honest best to provide my view of the sporting, philosophical and commercial reasons as to why the xc sprints are around and likely to stay.
i even drew (an admittedly limited) parallel to the athletics/track and field disciplines of similar duration and intensity (800 to1000 m) to illustrate the conflict and show how NO ONE is concerned because it is an accepted norm to consider 800 m races part of the menu.
If you want me to be honest, I don't event want the XC sprints to be eradicated. It's not my favourite skiing discipline by a long way, but better than no skiing. They ARE a whole different form of legitimate competition as you say, it's just that I overreact to what I see as an excessive amount of them. I would like to see the World Cup calendar be a fairly good balance between classic and freestyle, between individual and mass starts, between short, middle and long distances, relays, and sprints. It's just, at present, there are 11/25 individual races in the season that are sprints. That's almost half. So that's 11 sprints, and 14 races divided between several distances, between classic, skate and "skiathlon", between individual and mass start...several different types of racing, (almost) all more traditional than the sprint, and yet all of them combined only just outnumber the sprints. I feel that my complaints about the proliferation of sprint events to the detriment of more traditional events are being mischaracterized as an attack on the integrity of the sprints as a competition (which admittedly I have not helped in the past by way of facetious remarks about sprinters not being real skiers, or calling them carnival races). My problem with the sprints in the World Cup is one of balance
. You know, just as with cycling, the shared interest that brought us both to this site in the first place - I love races full of climbing, but I will still complain about the lack of balance in recent Vuelta parcours. Because when 50% of the race is one-climb, super-steep MTFs, what reason is there for diesel, TT-biased GC candidates to even show up? And then when you add to that when considering the skiing side of things, that the sprints are my second least-favourite format (the team sprint is my least favourite), and a lot of the skiers I like aren't very good at it usually (hello Legkov, hello Steira), this is part of why I rail against them. Others in this thread have echoed the sentiment that there are too many of them. Including even yourself. See, we're not so different after all. I'm just more vitriolic.
Essentially, sprints have a position and a justified role within a balanced World Cup calendar, I just personally consider the current World Cup calendar to be heavily imbalanced in favour of the sprinter.
Personally, I see where you're coming from with your comparisons to cycling and to athletics, but I think both aren't quite right as comparisons. Yes, the XC sprint is a different discipline, and you compare to track cycling, CX etc... - but those are not part of the road calendar, they are something entirely separate. Yes, the specialists do sometimes participate in the road races, and sometimes the road specialists participate on the track, in the field etc. - but it is not as part of the same competition as it is in XC skiing. Each discipline has its own calendar, its own World Championships, and the crossover is fairly small. XC sprints are an integral part of the World Cup, whereas track events and CX events are not part of the UCI WorldTour. And regarding the athletics, nobody complains about the existence of the 800m, but then the 800m never displaced anything. When you go to an athletics meet, there will be a 100m, a 200m, a 400m, an 800m and so forth and so on. I see a purely hypothetical comparison with athletics (in stupendously oversimplified terms) to illustrate the problem I fear (and again, maybe it's an overly pessimistic view) thus:
- traditionally there have been 200m and 400m sprints at a particular league. They decide they want to introduce the 100m. This is fast, exciting and fun. It is decided to rotate the three distances. However, after a while, it becomes decided, every other race will be a 100m. Therefore, the 100m is at every event, whereas the 200m and 400m alternate between other meets.
- 100m specialists therefore have twice as many opportunities to win as 200m and 400m specialists. Adaptable athletes can compete over 100m and 200m, as with, say, Bolt, or over 200m and 400m, as with, say, Johnson. However athletes who are competitive over all three are very rare. Athletes who specialise in the 200m may then look to become dual distance athletes, 100m and 200m. This means they have a chance to win in 75% of the races entered, while the 200m/400m athletes can win 50%. The 400m specialist can only win 25% of the races they enter, so what is the motivation to be a 400m specialist when you can plan for 100m or 200m and have far more chances to win?
All that is some way into the future and, as I say, perhaps an overly pessimistic world view. The sprints as equally weighted with short distances (5-10k), middle distances and long distance races, I wouldn't see a problem. 50% of the calendar? That's a bit too much.* There is also my own personal issue of being a bit too much of an old traditionalist. I want the 50k to be individual start at least once in a while, and I rail against the marginalisation of the Individual in biathlon, even though the reasoning for this is likely the increased excitement factor in the head to head racing (which probably plays into the reason for the XC sprints multiplying as well of course).
*I do acknowledge that with weather concerns this season at times there has been little choice due to lack of snow meaning very short courses are the only thing available.
Finally, the post that started this semi-antagonistic tone off, where I called you my opposite, was intended in jest, similar to the post where I advised a poster they were my enemy for saying that they found sprint stages more exciting than mountain stages and were sad that there was no longer HTC-Columbia controlling the péloton. I can see, reading it back, why it may not have been seen that way, especially with the attempt at playful teasing about the confusion of the biathlon and XC venues for the weekend clearly falling flat as it seems you felt I was being patronising, from the tone of your response.
As a token of peace from me to you, please see below a basket full of cute puppies.