Dusseldorf is a one of a kind street sprint on the World Cup. In almost every interview after the race the skiers chosen word to describe the race was chaos. Chaos and crashes ruled the day. So more than any other race on the World Cup luck played a huge factor in the results. Just ask Devon Kershaw who qualified 15th on Saturday and was boxed out in his heat and did not advance and eventually finished 18th.
This is a race where experience also counts. I think that you have to do it once to really know what it is like. Having said that, this makes Sadie Bjoernson’s 2nd place finish with Kikkan Randall even more impressive. This was her first ever Sprint Relay on the World Cup and her first time in Dusseldorf.
As I wrote last week, Dusseldorf has been kind to Chandra Crawford. She has a lot of confidence in herself in this kind of racing and it showed again on the weekend. Her 4th in the individual sprint was her best result in a couple of years and she backed it up with a 7th on Sunday in the Sprint Relay with Perianne Jones. The shorter race length of only 800 meters is better for her and she has great balance and agility on her skis. She uses her legs better than any other female skater in the world so the flat, fast skating really suits her.
Len Valjas showed his great mental skills and confidence by bouncing back from a poor individual qualifying on Saturday (42nd) to a fine 7th place finish with Drew Goldsack in the Sprint Relays on Sunday. Len is showing that he is the “real deal” and is now in 12th place on the Sprint World Cup standings with 37 points. Ola Viggen Hattestad of Norway (the Hatt) is back and leads with 111 pts.
It seems to me that Perianne Jones and Drew Goldsack seem to rise to the top only in Sprint Relays. Both have been on teams in the top 10 at the World Championships. They seem to struggle in other sprint and distance events, though. I think that they are sort of hybrid skiers – not quite fast enough to keep up in the individual sprints and not quite enough endurance for distance events, but fantastic in the Sprint Relay which fits right in the middle. It’s hard to make a career in xc ski racing on one event, though, so it would be great to see them start to have better results in other forms of racing.
Dasha Gaiazova continues to struggle. She has not had one good result yet this year and was 46th out of 56 on Saturday and 21st out of 23 teams on Sunday. She has had conflict with the team this year over training – I wonder if this is the cause?
The US men continue to struggle, too. Andy Newell did qualify 14th on Saturday but had problems in his heat, again, and only finished 16th. The only other racer to finish on Saturday was Skyler Davis who was 71 out of 71. They teamed up to be 15th in the Sprint relay on Sunday.
It’s strange, isn’t it? Neither North American team seems to be able to have a good women’s and men’s team at the same time. For Canada in the 2000′s it was a strong women’s team and a weak men’s team. Now it is the opposite. For the US right now it is a strong women’s team and a weak men’s team. I wonder what is the cause of this pattern? Have you got any thoughts?
Next week the skiers converge on Davos, Switzerland for an individual skating sprint and a 30km skate distance race for men and a 15km skate distance race for women. Petter Northug and Marit Bjoergen will return to racing after taking the week off to train in Norway. (Bjoergen has written on her blog that she had to roller ski in Oslo as there was no snow). Northug has said that he does not like racing in Davos and he has never had very good results there so it will be interesting to see what he can do. It will also be a great chance to see Bjoergen and Randall square off in a skating sprint to see who is really the best female sprinter in the world.