“It’s a Ruka Repeat!!!”
Nov. 26, 7:44 a.m. MST
I know I’m DRDK (Didn’t race, don’t know) when it comes to World Cup cross-country ski takes, but at the very least, my off-the-wall takes are food for thought, right?
Two days into the Ruka World Cup opener, here’s what I’m thinking…
Klaebo is the Kuusamo King
What’s more impressive? The fact that he didn’t need to test his hamstring in the sprint and still one by 473 meters or that he came back and cleaned up in the 10k classic? Sure, the Russians weren’t here, and neither was Niskanen, but should we just hand the 26-year-old King all three globes at this point?
About that sprint
- Richard Jouve – talk about disappointing. The defending sprint champion was a total non-factor. Actually, come to think of it, the French were just bad all-around. Chanavat…c’mon man.
- JC Schoonmaker – I loved this guy’s fight in the quarterfinals. I think he had the performance of the day for the U.S. For awhile, I was thinking he might rally back and qualify for a semi… He was also healing from a pretty bad ankle sprain, too apparently…can’t wait to see him in a freestyle sprint later this year.
- Strategy on this course – Andy Newell rightly said this course comes down the final hill. Klaebo told FIS, however, that the downhill before the final up is perhaps as critical. It seems like there might be some truth to that. It’s a little hard to tell on TV, but it sort of seemed like the race was either won by the person with the most momentum going into the uphill, or the guy with the fiercest run in the middle-top. This course is weird because it has what appears to be three ‘pinch-points’ which wipe-out anything that’s transpired anywhere else – the 180-degree turn, the final downhill, and the final uphill. I know my complaints about ski speed are worn out, but I wonder how important that is, given Klaebo’s admission above. Like, could this guy have won if he had the slowest skis in the field?
- Props to Ogden for still going after it and leading his heat. The guy is scrappy, gutsy, and he’s got the gamer persona.
American performances – should we be worried?
When I was communicating with Julia Kern late this week, she mentioned how sometimes Ruka’s hills seem more difficult because she’s often only been on snow for a week before racing. I wonder how much this contributes to our slow starts at this World Cup. The men have never podium’d since it’s been held in 2003 and Kikkan Randall has the only two on the women’s side (2012, 2013), per my FIS website research…
Here’s my gut reaction, though: I have a sense that Grover and Whitcomb care a lot more about Feb. 21- March. 5 than Ruka, and that’s probably for the better. We’ll know a lot more about this team — whose fit and fast — after the third World Cup.
That being said, I think the one thing the hardcore nerds missed out on was seeing Diggins’ progress on running uphill. Word on the street is that this was a big focus of her time on snow over the summer, and for good reason. The dynamic Klaebo stomp is a critical tool in any sprint-hopeful’s arsenal. It would have been fun to see Diggins fight against the best on that last uphill. Because the fall pushed her so far out, I couldn’t analyze anything as she took that hill.
I will say, I’m surprised that Laukli was behind Novie. I kind of thought she’d be top-30, but maybe she’s still getting into ski shape after her fantastic trail season. If she’s healthy, I think the Maine product have a great TDS.
When I surveyed athletes with the “who is poised for a breakout year” inquiry, the Team Birkie skier’s name came up more than once. I think Ketterson lived up to some of the hype in the classic race today, and I predict he’ll be even better in the 20k skate. He is the Captain America of the U.S. ski team, and if he doesn’t bring home a top-10 performance at some point this season, than I think he probably needs to do a few more sit-ups or pull-ups.
Are the Swedes that bad?
Devon Kershaw likes to rip the state of Swedish skiing, and I understand that in a certain historical context, its a valid position, but I thought Halfvarsson has been impressive so far. The 33-year-old was 5th in the sprint and 4th in the classic after going balls-to-the-wall in the first half of the race. He towed along Poromaa, who maybe paid a bit of a price, but still, two top-10’s isn’t a terrible start. Now again, everything is different with 5-7 Russians there, so maybe they’re not as good as I think.
Her fourth place finish isn’t likely to get her much publicity on Fasterskier, so we’ll shine a light here…The veteran – who MISSED her first Olympics because of stupid COVID and stupid stupid stupid…gosh I’d be so mad… – started the year with two wins in Beito and followed it up with what was a better-lunge-away from her first podium here. The competitive heartbreak she’s endured is setting her up for redemption in February, perhaps, but you gotta feel for her a little.
More quotes, insights, and commentary to come. I feel like I had like 14 more things to say, but I’ve skied more hours than I’ve slept in the last few days, so I probably need to recharge before I get back on the keyboarddddddddddddddddddddddd