Tour de Ski Without The Bonus Seconds

A commenter asked what would happen if we removed the bonus seconds awarded during the distance events of the Tour de Ski.  If we add the bonuses back in we get the following results:

NameOverall Rank w/BonusesOverall Rank w/out Bonuses
BAUER Lukas33
CLARA Roland52
GAILLARD Jean Marc66
HARVEY Alex1010
JAKS Martin89
NORTHUG Petter25
PERL Curdin41
VITTOZ Vincent1111
NameOverall Rank w/BonusesOverall Rank w/out Bonuses
ELDEN Marte99
FOLLIS Arianna44
JACOBSEN Astrid1010
JOHAUG Therese21
KALLA Charlotte56
LONGA Marianna33
MAJDIC Petra65
ROPONEN Riitta-Liisa1111
ZELLER Katrin1212

While the actual top 12 have remained the same, the order has not.  The women see relatively few changes, but not so with the men!  The top five men end up completely re-arranged.  Of course, there’s always the caveat that the entire Tour may have played out differently without the bonuses.  Different time gaps along the way could potentially influence people’s strategies and decisions about whether to drop out and how to ski particular stages.  So in some sense, just adding the bonus seconds back in doesn’t literally tell us what would have happened.

Now let’s take a more detailed look, stage by stage.  This is an instance where looking at the time back from the median skier doesn’t make much sense, since the bonuses are happening at the front.  So it probably makes more sense to look at how adding the bonuses back in influences each skier’s time back from the leader:

My apologies for not sorting the panels in a more sensible manner.  On the one hand, without the bonuses we end up with a rather thrilling spectacle of Bauer, Perl and Clara (and to a lesser extent Northug) chasing down Cologna over the final few stages.  But of course, without the bonuses, Cologna (and everyone else) would likely have skied differently, so we can’t really say that Curdin Perl “would have won” without the time bonuses.  Still, it’s an interesting thing to think about.

Despite there being fewer changes on the women’s side, you still end up with a pretty exciting “alternate ending”, with Majdic and Kowalczyk trading the lead mid-Tour and then Johaug rushing forward on the last day to claim the overall title.  Many of the other top twelve women won very few time bonuses (or none at all) so their lines are virtually unchanged.  But the same caveat applies here: if the top twelve women were really all within 20 seconds going into the final two stages, those races would have played out far differently than they actually did.

With the women, we see first that without the distance event time bonuses Justyna Kowalczyk would actually have surrendered the overall lead very briefly after Stage 5 to Petra Majdic.  That would have created some excitement, at least.  Here’s a closer look at how the Tour “might” have played out between some key players.  I’ve used seconds behind the median skier again simply because it creates more separation between the lines making them easier to distinguish:

Most of the excitement on the men’s side would be due to the fact that Cologna had an enormous lead coming into the final stage.  If you just add those bonus seconds back in, it looks like he’ll be swallowed up by the chasers in the final climb, but in all likelihood he’d have simply skied harder that day.  But I suppose you never know…

The women would have seen a ton more lead changes a lot earlier, with Majdic, Follis and Longa all slipping past Kowalczyk for two stages before she came storming back in Stage 7.  (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)  And of course without the aid of the bonus seconds, Therese Johaug “would have” won the whole event on the final day.

All in all, that’s a pretty fun counter-factual.


Related posts:

  1. 2011 Tour de Ski Preview
  2. Tour de Ski Freestyle Sprint Recap
  3. Tour de Ski Recap: Part 1
  4. Tour de Ski Recap: Part 2
  5. Tour de Ski Summary Statistics

About Joran


6 Responses to “Tour de Ski Without The Bonus Seconds”
  1. Thanks, Joran – very interesting. This is the post of the year seen from my point of view! Of course the top skiers would have had different tactics for that case, but still very interesting to see.

    One thing that strikes me is how many more had been fighting for the victories – and how much more exciting last stage we would have had without the bonus seconds. If I were FIS and had seen these statistics, I had thought through the bonus second system again – as a tighter tour is what FIS (and the spectators) wants. Maybe it would have been better to have less bonus seconds? Of course the fight for bonus seconds is what makes the mass starts worth seeing, but still… I would be in strong favor for some individual distance races in the tour anyway. No problem if they are quite short to not make too big differences, but still there is a different kind of excitement for me.

    • Joran says:

      I tend to agree. I feel like the distance event bonus seconds will tend to go to a small number of racers already near the front, and I would also prefer more interval start races, but I understand why FIS feels that the mass starts are popular.

  2. Fxg says:

    Thank you for posting this so fast! I was expecting some effect, but not as dramatic! It just confirmed that there is just way too much emphasis on sprinting ability in XC-skiing today. The Tour de France is won on long climbs and TT. It may not have changed the name of the winners, but it would surely have increased the drama. I love this sport to death, but mass starts are just boring. The intermediate sprints make things a bit more interesting, but we see from your graph that it ruins the overall drama. Maybe if they were placed at the top of hills it would be more interesting, I don’t know.

    • Joran says:

      No problem, it was fun! I agree with you about how boring mass starts can be (until the final few km at least). They’re sort of like NBA basketball games in that regard, IMO. I think I’d prefer a Tour made up of more, perhaps relatively short, individual start races. Maybe a few pursuits mixed in. I’d even be ok with adding a third pure sprint race.

  3. skikick says:

    If someone really wants to keep the intermediate sprints…what about intermediate sprints that only count toward this “strange” sprint Jersey? (How did Hellner win it?)

    My major beef with the tour de ski is that they copied the tour de france too much. Skiing isn’t exactly like biking in that sprinters can sit in the pack and wait for the intermediate sprints… and the skiing sprinters are usually the same people as the distance skiers anyway (at least during the tour).

    It would have been sooo much more exciting without the intermediate bonus seconds!


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