Men's lead pack in the 15K classical, Quebec World Cup, March 18, 2017
The air is getting colder and the ground is becoming whiter. That means that the World Cup season is right around the corner! Preseason racing will kick off for the US Ski Team in Beitostølen, Norway, November 22-24. The men and women will have a classic sprint on the 22nd, a classic distance race on the 23rd, and a skate distance race on the 24th. After Beitostølen, they will be in Ruka, Finland at the World Cup opener November 29th – December 1st.
Sadie Bjornsen looks to have a successful preseason race at Beitostølen again this year. Last year she posted an 8th place finish in the 10km classic race and a 3rd in the 10km skate race. Erik Bjornsen led the men last year and looks to get some revenge after last years’ 31st place finish in the distance and a failure to qualify for the sprint heats.
Last year, only half of the athletes raced in the Beitostølen preseason races while the other half of the team went to Ruka, Finland to prepare for the World Cup opener. This year, most of the US Ski A team and B team will be racing in Beitostølen. The teams include:
A TEAM: Men Erik Bjornsen Simi Hamilton
A TEAM: Women Sadie Bjornsen Rosie Brennan Sophie Caldwell Jessie Diggins
B TEAM: Men Kevin Bolger Scott Patterson
B TEAM: Women Julia Kern Caitlin Patterson Hailey Swirbul
The US Ski Team will also have some discretionary picks for these races. Some of them raced on the World Cup circuit last year. We will see the likes of David Norris, Logan Hanneman, and Minnesota native Rosie Frankowski. There may be more to be named, but this is who we know currently.
The women’s team is looking to attack right out of the gates this year and the goals are set really high for a lot of these athletes. Stillwater, MN native Jessie Diggins and APU skier Sadie Bjornsen will be searching for the overall World Cup points this season while Sophie Caldwell will be aiming to get back into sprint form and be in the hunt for the overall sprint cup points. They will have to dethrone defending world champions Stina Nilsson, Sweden, in the sprint cup and Ingvild Øestberg, Norway, in the overall cup points.
The men’s team will look to build off of their end of season success. The team is lead by overall cup skier Erik Bjornsen and sprint specialist Simi Hamilton. These two will lead a very young team into racing this year and we will look for D-Team athletes Ben Ogden, Gus Schumacher, and Johnny Hagenbuch to make some World Cup starts late in the season again this year.
This season will be very interesting as there are an abnormally high number of races. There will be 40 races on the World Cup this year. The reasoning is that FIS would like to represent each country with at least one race and some places, like Holmenkollen, Lahti, and Falun, are staples in the World Cup circuit and those places will also get their own races. The 2019-2020 season will not host championship races this year and so the big races that athletes will be looking to peak for will be the Tour de Ski, Holmenkollen, Ski Tour, and Lahti ski games.
The newest event this year will be the Ski Tour. This will be a “mini tour event” and it will be the first GREEN event. This means that the teams will only get one team vehicle including the team truck. The athletes will travel by train from event to event as to reduce emissions. This event will contain one of the most unique events of the year. It will be a 38km, self supported, point-to-point, race that starts in Sweden and finishes in Norway. The only coaching contact will be in the first 3km and the final 3km of the race. Athletes will have to carry water bottles or water belts and will need to pack any supplies they need in order to succeed. Look for distance skiers like Jessie Diggins and Sadie Bjornsen to be at the front of this event. These will be the biggest races of the year for many of the athletes, so look for them to focus on these races and pay close attention to the overall standings of athletes this year.
For the first time in 18 years, the USA will see a World Cup race. This race will be apart of the Ski Tour Canada this year, a tour in which we will see A LOT of sprinting and a lot of north american racers. One of the cool things about races on home soil is that the host nation gets extra start spots. The US and Canada will be able to start up to 5 more males and females for the ski tour in North America. The stop in Minneapolis, MN will be held Tuesday, March 17th with a skate sprint, the weekend prior, will be held in Quebec City where we will see classic sprinting on Saturday, March 14th and skate sprinting on Sunday, March 15th. The overall sprint globe will be decided in the Ski Tour Canada and presented this year at the races in Minneapolis, MN. If you ask any of the USST members they will say they are extremely excited to race here in Minneapolis and are more determined than ever to bring home a medal on home soil. This will be an important series of races for the sprinters so look for Simi Hamilton on the men’s side along with Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins on the women’s side to be favorites to reach the podium in these events. After the early week sprint races the distance athletes will get their time to shine in Canmore, AB for the year’s final week of racing. We will see a distance skate race, a distance classic race, and a mixed team relay in the penultimate races.
Along with new venues, there are a fair amount of rule changes in regards to ski testing this year on the World Cup. Some of the noteworthy items are smaller amount of test bibs, this is in favor of the smaller teams who don’t have the resources or techs to test as much as some of the larger teams. Teams will be able to test fewer waxes and grinds on a race day because of this. Another rule change is that coaches must have skis in the ski exchange, for continuous pursuit races and long distance races, before the start of the race. Last year coaches, could bring skis in and out of the exchange zone anytime before the athlete exchanged skis. It will be interesting to watch and see how coaches will prepare the skis for athletes. Will they wax two pair of skis identical and hope they have picked a solid wax to change skis towards the end of the race? Or do they wax one ski for the conditions at the start of the race and the other ski if conditions decide to change mid race? Tactics in this stage of skiing will become more and more prevalent.
You will not want to miss this year’s World Cup action. This USST is ready to prove to the world that they can race with the best. Look for multiple podiums by the US athletes this year and come cheer them on at home in March. Last year they had a lot of success so look for them to build upon that and improve in the overall and sprint standings.
About the author...
Chris Hecker is a Rex Wax representative and wax technician working on the World Cup this season for both cross-country and biathlon events. Hecker hails from Ham Lake, Minnesota, racing for Anoka high school and St. Scholastica College. Hecker will be providing regular updates on the World Cup racing scene this season.
Chris can be reached at: