Rybinsk: Does Anyone Care?

I don’t mean any disrespect by the title, there, it’s just that the Rybinsk World Cups haven’t been very well attended. I was told by a friend recently that the Canadians included as part of their WSC selection criteria the standard of “finishing in the top 20 and the top half of a World Cup event”. The number of WC individual events where you could potentially be in the top twenty but also in the bottom half of the results is a fairly short list.

Rybinsk, obviously. The China World Cups from several years ago are another option, as are some of the later Tour de Ski stages. Some of the WCs held in the US or Canada might have had some very small fields as well on occasion.

I’ve heard that travelling there is inconvenient for various reasons, and I think they might also just be located in a tough part of the winter schedule, falling very near many nation’s national championships. Who knows. What I can do is to show you just how poorly attended the Rybinsk events have been:

This shows the minimum, median and maximum number of racers (who finished) in any single race in the given country over the past 4 seasons or so (which is about how long they’ve been doing the Rybinsk WCs). For the most part, the men’s fields tend to be in the 60-70 range while the women’s fields tend to be in the 50-60 range.

The Russian WCs do stand out (along with the smaller number of China WCs) as often having very small fields. They have, on occasion dropped down below 30 in distance events. The median field size for the men’s distance race in Russia doesn’t seem dramatically lower than several others, but it still is lower.

Another way we can look at this is by counting the number of nations that are represented in a given event:

Once again, this shows the min, median and max number of nations represented in a single WC event in the given location over the past four seasons. The huge range for the Canadian distance races is largely a result of the Olympics and some poorly attended pre-Olympic WCs. The similarly huge range for the Czech Republic is the result of one or two races at World Championships back in 2009. But once again, the Russian WCs stand out as one of the more poorly attended events. Since the China WCs aren’t a regular thing on the schedule, they are certainly the worst attended regular event.

I’m not saying they should change the schedule, or move the races elsewhere or whatever. Honestly, I don’t really care. I suppose it might say something about how unwieldy and fragmented the FIS World Cup schedule has become, though, that they can hold a World Cup race and so few racers will consider it worth their time.

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Comments

2 Responses to “Rybinsk: Does Anyone Care?”
  1. xcskier22 says:

    What I find interesting is the Swedes and Norwegians continue to ignore this set of races. It seems to me they plan their national championship races on the Rybinsk dates or a week earlier, just so they can have an excuse, when really they are doing it on purpose. I don’t know if there is some sort of friction due to so many failed doping tests in the Russian ranks or what, but it’s kind of odd and dare I say, disturbing? Having said that, NRK has the races on its schedule and I saw they were showing today’s races live, so I am not sure what to make of that. The Swedes only showed up in December 2007, while the Norwegians came the first couple of years, especially their sprinters, but haven’t the last three. Last year, this set of WC races was held 22-24 January, that’s almost 2 weeks earlier, and nobody showed up! This year it’s 4-6 February, and nobody showed up. What’s funny is that the Russian fans are some of the best in the world of xc, they show up in big numbers and they know their skiing. They support each and every athlete out there and often have to brave sub zero temperatures, not easy to do. Today there were 8000 (perhaps even more) spectators. Not sure what FIS and the Russian Federation can do about it, but why host a WC if you continually get hooked with low attendence of skiers!?! The Germans, Italians, French and Swiss skiers show up each year for these events, and it seems it’s always a springboard to the second half of the season for them, especially the Germans and Italians, they have found plenty of success here over the years. Capol said that they will keep having a WC in Rybinsk, and will work on scheduling that fits everyones needs/wants. Let’s just hope they stay away from Asia, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, because Asians are some of the most hard working people when it comes to hosting a big international sport event, but there are maybe 50 spectators that come out to watch, the fields are small there (as you say), the weather usually sucks and the tracks are often slushy and warm. Let’s see how FIS handles this issue in their May meetings.

    • Joran says:

      Interesting. I certainly wouldn’t have any way of knowing whether the Swedes/Norwegians are avoiding these races intentionally, as opposed to just not caring all that much or having higher priorities elsewhere at this point in the season.

      It’s definitely a tough time of the winter, though. And Russia definitely deserves to hold high quality WC events, despite the track record they’ve had recently with doping. I feel like what this comes down to is how difficult designing the WC schedule is. Specifically, this is one area where FIS could really benefit from simplifying their schedule by pulling back a bit on the number of race formats. One of the problems with designing the schedule now is that you have so many race formats that you have to squeeze in at least twice, and that eats up a lot of weekends. For instance, eliminating the team sprint would open up a few days elsewhere to hold another individual event which means you could potentially drop another whole weekend from the WC schedule, giving nations more time/flexibility to schedule their national championships.

      But I’m sure when it comes to scheduling, there are no easy answers. Winter weekends are in short supply and shifting things around invariably means upsetting the scheduling of at least one/two very popular events.

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