New Zealand Continental Cups
Hey, the first international ski races of the 2011-2012 season took place recently in New Zealand! They are officially FIS sanctioned races, but my impression is that they have a bit more of a training camp time trial feel to them. The Americans, Canadians, some Russians, and then an assortment of Japanese, Korean, and locals (Australia + New Zealand) are spending time down at the Snow Farm. The fields are small, no one is in top form and probably everyone is treating them as training rather than a ‘serious’ competition.
But heck, let’s (over) analyze them anyway, just for fun. These will be very short, narrowly focused posts on these races. The men did a mass start 15k classic race (no Russians). I suppose it’s interesting that Newell finished second, which is nominally pretty good for him in a distance race, but of course it’s hard to read much of anything into that. I’m generally more interested in the younger skiers. Take Noah Hoffman, for instance:
This graph shows how Hoffman has fared against these specific skiers (a subset of the folks in the New Zealand race) over time. The New Zealand race is in red. That appears right in line with how he fared against Freeman last season, so that’s a good sign. In general, he’s been faring better against Newell over time, but this particular race was a bit against that trend. Given that Hoffman was about as far behind Freeman as he normally is, I’d guess that’s evidence for this being a strong race for Newell rather than a weak one for Hoffman.
The corresponding women’s 10k classic mass start was interesting for data nerds like myself. It consisted of Justyna Kowalczyk and only 5 others (it’s possible other folks raced who don’t have valid FIS licenses, so they won’t show up on the official results) from Japan, Korea and New Zealand. Obviously, this made for a somewhat uneven field. Kowalczyk won by around 4 minutes.
This immediately gets someone like me wondering how that margin of victory stacks up historically. In this case, second place finisher Sumiko Ishigaki was ~13% back. That’s the third largest percent back by a second place finisher that I could find in a FIS sanctioned women’s race (out of 2691 total). That means that I found two races with larger margins between first and second place!
One of them is impressive, but plausible, being another instance of a tiny field. The other, the largest, is so outlandish that I spent a while trying to decide if it wasn’t in fact an error of some sort. I’ve mostly decided that it must be a mistake and the winning time was really 34:32 not 24:32. Perhaps a reader will fill me in on the details…