In Which I Connect Triathlon Data To XC Pursuit Races

The connection is pretty obvious, actually.  Both are mass start races that involve switching activities at least once during the race.  The change in activities is certainly more extreme in triathlon, but you get my drift.

Some people (like, say, me) complain on occasion that pursuit races in cross-country skiing place too great an emphasis on the skating portion.  The order of techniques has settled into always doing classic first and then skating for practical reasons (having the classic skis waxed properly and delivered at the right time would be hectic, to say the least).  But the result has been races that plod1 along during the classic half and then finally people start to accelerate during the later stages of the skating portion.

The triathlon data I ran into recently happened to give a very stark picture of what happens to the relative importance of each activity in these types of races.  While noodling around with the data, I plotted scatterplot matrices of the ranks for each stage of the triathlon for men and women (click through for larger versions): Read more

  1. No offense intended, obviously.  I probably couldn’t keep up with the “leisurely” pace of the classic portion.

OPA Cup vs Scandinavian Cup: Quality

With more North Americans sojourning over to Europe to participate in high-level European racing that isn’t quite World Cups, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at the OPA (or Alpen) Cup and Scandinavian Cup series in a bit more detail.

As the name might imply, the Scandinavian Cup races are in, well, Scandinavia.  The racers are nearly all from Norway, Finland and Sweden (although Estonia has a large showing as well).  The OPA Cups are more continental European affairs, with racers coming mainly from Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria, among others.

Both circuits are, to my knowledge, generally considered a sort of “minor league” racing circuit just below the World Cup.  To get some sense of the competitiveness of these races, here’s a plot of the FIS points awarded to the top five finishers in distance events in each circuit:

For the men, the two series seem roughly on par while the women’s Scandinavian Cups appear slightly more competitive.  Of course, this assumes we trust the system of assigning race penalties to accurately gauge the strength of the field on a particular day.

For comparison, the US SuperTour series (probably the highest level racing circuit in the US) has in recent years seen penalties (i.e. the FIS points awarded to the winner) averaging in the neighborhood of 40-60 FIS points for men and 80-100 FIS points for women.

Week In Review: Friday Sep 24th

My real job started up again this week, so there aren’t going to be very many 5-6 post’s per week happening for a while…

  • On Monday I shared some summary statistics on a whole bunch of skiers showing how often they finishing in the top 3, top 5, etc. over their entire careers.
  • The Vuelta a España wrapped up this past weekend, so I posted the final versions of the GC bump charts for the race.
  • We took a look at skiers who have specialized in a particular technique (classic or skating).  Most people do both types of races, but there are some people who really only focus on races of one technique…but they are pretty rare.
  • Since whining about commenters on FasterSkier.com is practically a cliche among the nordic community these days, I thought it would be funny to look at a word cloud for FasterSkier comments.  The internet kindly responded with one for this blog.  Huzzah!
  • The final career retrospective post went up today (finally!) taking a look at German biathlete Kati Wilhelm and her wonderful, wonderful red hair.

Career Retrospective: Kati Wilhelm

German biathlete Kati Wilhelm (sporting some delightful red hair, I might add) is the last (finally!) in my list of retiring athletes to cover.  That Wikipedia link tells me that she was actually dubbed “Little Red Riding Hood” by the German press due to both her hair and a red hat she wore for all races.

Wilhelm is an exceptionally accomplished biathlete: I found 69 podium finishes in major events (World Cup, Olympics or World Championships), which included 4 individual Olympic medals and 5 more from World Championships.  And of course that’s on top of numerous medal winning German relay teams.

Let’s take a look at her results:

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The Quick Way To Stay On Top Of FasterSkier Comments

Curious what people have been talking about in the comments section on FasterSkier.com lately ?  Maybe you are, but too scared to look?  I’ve got a solution for you.

Or maybe you’re one of those people who would rather anonymously mock anonymous FasterSkier commenters, in which case this might make your mockery more time efficient, which is always a good thing.

Check below the fold for a word cloud of the most recent FasterSkier article comments (courtesy of Wordle).

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Technique Specialization

There are two somewhat different ways in which you could be considered a skating or classic specialist.  First, you can be noticeably better at one technique than the other.  Second, you could just only do races of one technique or the other.

These two situations might overlap, or they might not.  In any case, they are easier to consider separately.  Let’s look first for skiers who specialize via participating primarily in one technique or the other.  Some ground rules: I’m going to toss skiers with fewer than 30 WC, OWG or WSC races in their career, pursuits with a break will count as one classic race and one skate race, pursuits without a break will count as half of classic race and half of a skate race.

We could get picky about changes over time, particularly with changes in the number of classic/skate races available on the schedule each season, but I’m going to ignore that for now.  Also, keep in mind that there will be skiers here who’s careers extend beyond my database, so the data for them is incomplete.  Requiring at least 30 races weeds out the more extreme examples of this, but not all.

First let’s look at the distribution of the percentage of skate and classic races by athlete for their entire career: Read more

Vuelta a España: Wrap Up

Just a quick post to toss up the final GC bump charts for the Vuelta.  See here for an explanation of these plots.

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