Back in December I posted a short note about how Vibeke Skofterud has a tendency to ski considerably better in the early part of the season. Since we’re in the midst of a break between WC periods I thought it might be good to check in and see how things are progressing:
Those are her distance results (using standardized percent behind the median skier) with her 2011-2012 results shown in red. As you can see, there was a bit of a gap between her early races and her most recent one, but based on that one race things seem to be following her typical trend. As for her sprint results:
Overall, the backward trend with sprinting isn’t quite as clear, but she appears to be following up on this one as well so far.
First of all, I’ll echo Nat Herz’s big ups to Andrew Musgrave for finishing second at Norwegian Nationals the other day. I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Musgrave, probably because North Americans identify with any reasonably successful, promising skier not from Scandinavia or the usual European nations as fellow “outsiders”. So I’m always kind of pumped when he skis well.
But looking closely at this result, I started getting a little puzzled. The first thing that puzzled me was that I didn’t think that his WC results so far this season had been all that great. So I checked, and…
…generally my impression was correct. His results have been a bit worse than last season. But for a guy putting up resulting on the WC this far behind the median skier, second place at Norwegian Nationals seems out of place. So let’s look more closely at this result.
The first thing to note is that Martin Johnsrud Sundby won the race handily, beating Musgrave by 67 seconds or so over 15k. A quick glance at Johnsrud Sundby’s WC distance results this season reveals that they have (with one exception) also been significantly better than Musgrave’s. So maybe the field at Norwegian Nationals was somewhat weaker than usual? (Case in point, Alsgaard in 3rd.) Well, scanning down the results sheet reveals several other Norwegian WC regulars, so maybe not.
Let’s do this more systematically by comparing Musgrave’s performance in this race to his performance against the skiers in this field in the past: Read more
I was interested (rather than offended) to read about Noah Hoffman’s pacing strategies in Sunday’s classic WC race. I have a limited supply of data on split times (what I do have is thanks to Jan over at worldofxc.com, though) so the following data is definitely incomplete.
Hoffman seemed determined to not start too fast, something that apparently he does quite often. Since pacing interval start races is so much different than mass start or pursuits, we’ll only look at his splits for interval start races. I only have split times from a total of eight WC-level interval start races for him (of varying lengths). Here’s a simple graph showing them all together, with Sunday’s race highlighted with the black dashed line:
This is a very crude representation of split times, where I’ve simply plotted how fast Hoffman skied each timed section compared to the field. So, for example, the y-axis means he had the 20th fastest, 40th fastest, etc. split time on that section.
In order to compare races of different length I’ve converted the x-axis from raw kilometers to a percentage of the total race distance. (This may be dubious, since pacing strategies will be markedly different in a 15k versus a 30k. However, these data consist of two 10k’s, five 15k’s and only one 30k, so I think we’re on fairly safe ground.)
Certainly Noah’s first split was slower than his subsequent splits on Sunday. And it was the 3rd slowest initial split of the eight I have. But it seems to me like he proceeded to ski the rest of the race fairly consistently, rather than gradually accelerating. At least, until he faded a bit on the last section.
This is in contrast to several of the other lines here that begin with fairly quick initial splits, but by mid-race he’s clocking only ~60th fastest time on each section or so. So whatever he did seemed to work.
I should say that I’m fairly cautious about my ability to analyze split times. I’m sure the coaches are keeping more detailed data on this sort of thing than I have access to. But it’s interesting, nonetheless.
I think I’ve been remiss in mentioning this, but as always thanks go to Jan at worldofxc.com for helping to provide the heat times for these sprint races. Let’s see how the men’s finalists fared first:
There were apparently some crashes in this race, as evidenced by the outlying slow times. But in general I’m noticing that each round was progressively faster until the finals, when things backed off, but only slightly. And Cologna really was just skiing faster than everyone. It’s interesting that he outpaced everyone by so much in qualification. I wonder if that was intentional, or if he could do it over again he’d back off a bit. Here’s a look at the difference between the two semifinals:
Not too much of a difference there, may be a second or so (not counting the crashes). As for the women: Read more
I’ll confess that I don’t much care for team sprints, so I suppose it’s not a surprise that I was more impressed by Diggins’ individual sprint than her podium performance paired with Kikkan last weekend.
When I collect results data, I only track age very crudely, using the year of birth indicated by FIS on the results, so as far as my database is concerned, Jessie Diggins is 21 years old. 18th in a World Cup sprint at 21 is pretty darn good. 115 other skiers (men and women) between 1992 and 2007 have achieved an 18th or better in a major international competition by the age of 21. 62 of those have gone on to podium in an individual race. The sobering way of looking at that is to say that it means there’s ~43% chance that Diggins will not podium in an individual race. Obviously, there’s the flip side of that as well.
How does this result compare to past Americans aged 21 or younger?
Only Andrew Newell and Torin Koos have bested that (again, using my crude measure of age) with a 15th and 9th, also in sprint races at the age of 21. It’s also important to note that 5 of the 13 best results listed below came from races held in North America, which generally tend to have weaker fields.
I’ve been slacking on the biathlon coverage lately, but with some more strong races this weekend by the US men, I thought I’d write something up. Reading about the sprint race in FasterSkier, I noted Max Cobb musing that that may have been the best day ever for US men’s biathlon (as a team). That kind of comment draws me like a moth to a flame, so I did some checking, and I think he’s probably right. These are my top candidates for the best overall team performance in a WC or major championship race by the US men:
- 2012-01-14: Currier (6th), Burke (11th), Bailey (21st), Hakkinen (31st)
- 2011-12-04: Burke (9th), Bailey (13th), Hakkinen (24th)
- 2006-12-08: Burke (10th), Bailey (18th), Teela (21st), Hakkinen (80th)
- 2010-01-09: Teela (18th), Burke (19th), Hakkinen (64th)
Those are the best I could find (requiring at least 3 US men in the race at all; there have been better single results, of course). The first two from this season are obviously better than the others, and are really the only possible choices, I think. And I feel comfortable giving the win to this Saturday’s sprint thanks to Currier’s 6th besting Burke’s 9th alone.
Currier’s race alone was pretty amazing. Personally, I’ve noticed, observing the sport through the cold hard lens of raw data, that in biathlon the occasional exceptionally good (or bad) result happens quite regularly. In Currier’s case, the FasterSkier article I linked to above noted that his shooting has held him back in the past: Read more