Kuusamo WC Recap: North Americans

As always, there’s lots of stuff I could focus on, but we can’t have everything.  As is usually the case, the weekend was a bit of a mixed bag for the North Americans.  Kris Freeman continued to look quite strong despite some bad luck with his poles.  Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw had much stronger weekends this time around.  Kikkan Randall had more solid distance races, although her sprint race wasn’t stellar.  And so on.

Let’s start out with the same style graph I used in my earlier post, only this time highlighting the North Americans:

While I haven’t labeled the athletes individually, it should be pretty clear who’s who.  Harvey clearly was having a great weekend but couldn’t hold on in the skate race yesterday.  Kershaw and Freeman did well despite pretty pedestrian sprint races.  As for Randall, if she had had an ok (for her) sprint race, that could easily have bought her 20 seconds, and with a great sprint race (if we kept the distance results the same, which isn’t really realistic) she could have contested for a place in the top five.

I need to comment  a bit more on Stephen and Arritola, since I disagree somewhat with the characterization of their freestyle races in this FasterSkier recap.  As a commenter on that article correctly points out, much of the gains in overall place they made were the result of other skiers DNF/DNS-ing (at least half, or a bit more).  I’m sure this will spark some measure of debate, but I have to agree with the original commenter.

Let’s start with the graph above.  We’re plotting seconds from the median skier after each stage, so in the case of Arritola, she lost time yesterday on the median woman, not just the leaders.  Stephen held about even relative to the median woman.  If we isolate just their skate performances yesterday in terms of FIS points compared to their other WC starts we get the following:

Of course, now we’re comparing them only to the winner on Sunday’s stage (Therese Johaug).  Even then, it looks like Stephen had a decent race while Arritola had a pretty bad one.  For an even closer look at the data, we can focus in on just the head-to-head matchups for each woman versus their competitors from Sunday and look at the difference in their respective percent back.  First, Liz Stephen:

Keep in mind that unlike some of the other versions of this graph that I’ve made, this includes pursuits and mass starts, since yesterday’s race wasn’t an interval start race.  Also, I nudged the dots for yesterday’s skate race over a bit (the blue) so they are more visible.  As always, the red line indicates the median for all races in a particular season.

Once again, this looks like an ok race for Stephen, but nothing spectacular, though perhaps a modest improvement on her other races this season.  As for Arritola:

This looks less good overall (above zero is bad, below zero is good), but again, not substantially different from Arritola’s races so far this season.

As always, I don’t mean to pick on these ladies.  I just think it’s important to be clear about when people have raced well or not.


Related posts:

  1. Assessing The Weekend’s Racing
  2. Gällivare Recap: North Americans
  3. Kuusamo WC Recap
  4. Race Snapshots: Kuusamo Sprint
  5. USST Preview: Liz Stephen & Morgan Arritola

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5 Responses to “Kuusamo WC Recap: North Americans”
  1. SJK says:


    Have you ever done any analysis between size of skiers and performance? It seems like in the womans field you can succeed and be short and tiny but that is not the case in the mens field. Is there an ideal weight to height ratio for men and women?


    • Joran says:

      I contacted many WC racers asking if I could swing by they’re homes to measure and weigh them, but strangely, I didn’t get many responses. ;)

      Seriously, though, I just haven’t run across that data in a usable form, although I haven’t really looked very hard. If you know of some, let me know!

  2. Gerry says:

    How ‘hard’ is this course? The Eurosport commentators repeatedly mention the hard climbs on this course, just as they repeatedly mentioned how easy the Vancouver 2010 courses were.

    Despite these comments, the 10k loop used for the women’s 30k/men’s 50k in Vancouver had more total climb (TC) and a longer maximum climb (MC) than the 10k the women skied. Is there anyway you can scrape the course profiles (or HD/MC/TC) and get a meaningful comparison of different courses?

    I can think of a lot of ways to get a meaningless answer, but I am not statistical skier!

    • Joran says:

      I’m not aware of HD/TC/MC data being made available anywhere except in the pdf versions of the race results. So someone would have to go through and record all that data by hand. On the larger question of comparing courses generally, I think HD/TC/MC are reasonable enough starting points (adjusting for course length, of course). But the “hardness” of courses is somewhat subjective…back when I raced a lot, I sometimes found flatter or rolling courses harder because I felt like I had much less opportunity to recover. So a course with the most climbing might not be the “hardest”, in terms of perceived effort, or even in terms of avg skier speeds; if you’ve got a lot of climbing you have to have a lot of descending.


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