World Championship Recap, World Cup Finale Preview
Skinnyski: First, let's talk about the weather -- it looked warm all the time. What can you tell us about the course conditions?
Jeremy: It was definitely a warm week with very consistent weather up until the 30km where a fresh blanket of snow fell the night prior. While this was great conditions for coaches and service techs to get some sun, it proved to test the limits of the athletes. It was common to see race uniforms cut off into shorts and t-shirts to help combat overheating during the races. Course conditions were predictably softer which made for more difficult racing.
Skinnyski: Waxing seems to have played a huge role in the women relays, at least for Sweden. By the looks of it, it appear the Swedes had icing issues with their kick?
Jeremy: As a coach/wax tech, it pains me to see skis take athletes out of the race. As a wax tech, it is my job to give my athletes a fighting chance, and hopefully an edge in racing. It was pretty evident that something was wrong with the skis for both Sundling and Kalla in the classic leg. By the time that Kalla handed off to Andersson, there was a 1:39 minute deficit to the leaders effectively taking them out of medal contention. From what I could tell, Sundling had some slick skis during her leg which may have caused the Swedish wax techs to react and make a last minute switch on Kalla’s skis. Kalla’s skis seemed to be really slow and took her out of contention almost immediately.
Skinnyski: Friday's relay looked brutal with the fresh snow coming down. Just how bad was that?
Jeremy: This would be a question that is best answered by anyone that raced the classic Birkie a week and a half ago on Sunday. Racing in conditions with heavy snow is extremely difficult both mentally and physically. When breakaways happen, like what Chervotkin did in the first leg, they have to ski the tracks in making it difficult to make something stick. But if a break sticks, it becomes equally difficult to chase it down as the tracks begin to fill in very quickly. I found it very interesting when the chase group during the first leg nearly came to a complete halt when no one wanted to be the one to actually work on the front. Ultimately, Norway was able to bridge the gap and come up with the eventual victory.
Skinnyski: Any major advantages during the World Championships -- we saw the new green base Madshus wet skis. Anything else making an impression?
Jeremy: Regarding equipment advantages, the only new “tech” that was on display was the aforementioned green base skis from Madshus. The little information that I have received has shown that they are using new Fluor Free additives in a transparent base material on a brand new wet ski that helps to increase speed in warm, wet, old, transformed snow conditions. There is a reasoning behind the green color though. Madshus marketing team says that the green bases are a commitment to the environment and that the color represents a clean, sustainable, Fluoro green future. [ More on the new Madshus green base wet skis ]
Skinnyski: What were some of the high points for the US squad?
Jeremy: With racing taking place over a week and a half, there are so many high points to look at from the World Championships. One of the more exciting ones for myself comes from the very first day of racing watching Ben Ogden (who I have had the pleasure to coach as a junior at Stratton Mountain School) when he qualified in 11th. Unfortunately he was not able to move on after finishing fourth in his heat for a 17th overall finish. While some may consider the lack of medals from the women’s squad, most notably Jessie Diggins, as a disappointment, I think that the performances that they had during the week were spectacular. Jessie was a near miss on the podium in the individual 10km race, and lost a drag race in the team relay against the Finnish team. Every team and skier in the world has been preparing for these races and to see Diggins who has been focusing on the overall World Cup title still ski so fast is very impressive. The last performances I wanted to point out was from Scott Patterson and David Norris who both had fantastic weeks. Patterson was 14th in the 30km skiathlon, and 10th in the 50km classic. Norris was 17th in the Skiathlon and 16th in the marathon classic. These are both incredible finishes for them and landmarks in Men’s world Champs history.
Skinnyski: Sadie Mauret Bjornsen retiring almost seems like a transition of the guard. Future looks bright for the US team?
Jeremy: It was definitely bittersweet to watch Sadie in her last professional ski race. She took the first part of the season off to focus on her training and to get ready for the world championships with a goal of landing on the podium. That came so close to happening during the team relay missing out by only 0.8 seconds and 5.8 seconds back in the team sprint with teammate Rosie Brennan. It would have been a fantastic send off to her career if she was able to get a World Championships medal. The future is indeed bright for the US women’s team. There are still some fantastic veteran women on the squad, with many young names coming up the ranks quickly.
Skinnyski: And how about that final race, the men's 50K finish! Wow. What happened there -- deja ja vu?
Jeremy: We cannot finish without talking about what happened in the 50km finish. It is pretty wild to compare the finish from 2 weeks ago in Lahti between Maki and Bolshunov to the finish between Klaebo and Bolshunov here in Oberstdorf. It was a mirror image with Klaebo trying to take the outside line while Bolshunov made the move for the outside lane. With not enough space for the two, Klaebo nudged Bolshunovs hand just ever so slightly causing him to plant his pole between his leg. Bolshunov was able to remain standing, but the pole broke in two places and he skied into the finish behind Klaebo and Iverson. Klaebo was eventually disqualified for the move bumping Iverson to the top of the podium. The Norwegian teams has since put in an appeal on the disqualification which has yet to come back.
[ Note: We also spoke with technical delegate Allan Serrano on this topic, who saw it as very similar to the Lahti incident: "Exactly the same situation. The responsibility for overtaking was on Klaebo and he ran out of time and space to pass on the right. Watch Bulshunov from the top of the climb and you see that he protected the best line by staying extremely close to the V-boards all the way to the finish zone." --Ed. ]
Skinnyski: There were a number of World Cups cancelled due to pandemic concerns in the final weeks of the season. But Switzerland comes through with the Engadin -- could be an epic finale?
Jeremy: I am very excited to watch the races in Switzerland next week. The two races will be very interesting. The first is a mass start 10/15km followed with a 30/50km pursuit that follows along the Engadin Ski Marathon course through the Engadin Valley. Having the final distance race of the season be a pursuit start, point to point, 30/50 km race. This is a fairly unusual race style and will be one to watch!
- Sat Mar 13 - Men's 15K classic at 4:40 am CST; Women's 10K classic at 8:30 am CST
- Sun Mar 14 - Women's 30K freestyle pursuit at 1:15 am CST; Men's 50K freestyle pursuit at 4:35 CDT (note the daylight savings change)
About the author...
Jeremy Hecker is the current racing service manager at Pioneer Midwest and Rex Ski Wax technical representative for the US. He has been skiing for his entire lifetime, racing competitively in college for St. Scholastica. Since graduating in 2013 he has coached for numerous teams including Endurance United, Stratton Mountain School, and the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. In addition to his coaching experience, Jeremy has a Masters degree in the Biology of Physical Activity which he obtained from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.