Rogla Distance Races

Oh yeah, there were some distance races in Rogla on Saturday too, huh?

Once again, this will be short on the words; just some pretty pictures. The US women had another strong outing:

Once again I’d note the continued downward trends for Holly and Kikkan and the generally flat trend for Liz. (Ida still has too few races for trends to be particularly meaningful.) In particular, I would emphasize that Kikkan’s classic skiing is showing the sort of trend her freestyle skiing has shown for a few years now:

Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw were probably hoping for more on Saturday, and although their results weren’t terrible, they also weren’t all that great (for them):

The final thing I’ll note is that I noticed that the Russian women put three folks in the top ten on Saturday, a fairly strong showing for them. A sign of a resurgence for the Russian women? Well…

In Ivanova’s case, that race appears to be at her ceiling (or floor, I suppose if we associate down with better performance). As for Iksanova and Medvedeva, it’s still a bit early to tell, but it’s a good sign for those ladies to be starting out with results in the negative zone of these graphs.

 

Sjusjøen Recap

Finally, the World Cup season is under way. The individual 10/15km freestyle races this past weekend had some predictable performances (the Norwegian women) and some not so predictable performances (Swedish men).

Men

Let’s focus on just three of the men with notable performances on Saturday:

Definitely strong races for each of these guys, but there are some differences. Note that in Johan Olsson’s case, the past three seasons have seen him more or less plateau, and maybe even fall off a bit. He hasn’t laid down an effort quite like that in some time. Given his age and the trend over the past few seasons, I’d guess that we aren’t going to see Olsson pull this rabbit out of his hat each weekend, but you never know.

Calle Halfvarsson, on the other hand, is quite young, only around 22 I believe. For some reason I had it in my head that he was more of a sprinter, but looking back at his results I see now that he’s not quite that lopsided. He has racked up a 1st and 5th place in the WJC sprints, and several top 30 appearances in WC sprints, once as high as 9th. His distance results haven’t looked quite as impressive, but they certainly haven’t been poor. One interesting point to make is that after some strong WJC results, Halfvarsson had some strong results in WC races last season, including the sprints I mentioned. But he didn’t fare well at U23’s last year, finishing 23rd, 25th and 27th. This is a good reminder that you can’t put too much emphasis on a single set of championship level races in evaluating skiers.

All that said, this Saturday’s race was clearly out of the ordinary for him. I’d guess this performance is a good sign for him, but I wouldn’t expect him to do this every weekend this year. Even if this is his best result of the season, and the rest of his races fall between this performance and his median from last year, that would represent an enormous jump.

There was plenty of excitement about Alex Harvey’s 5th place, particularly on this side of the Atlantic. In contrast with Olsson and Halfvarsson, though, this result doesn’t look nearly as extreme for Harvey. If anything, I’d call this a strong race, but not at the outer limits of what he’s shown before. That’s why I’m taking Alex Harvey very seriously this season. Read more

Canadian Ski Team: 2011-2012 Preview

A quick look at our lovely neighbors to the north!

I’m going to focus on the folks on the World Cup squad, starting with the men:

These are the WC level distance results (excluding Len Valjas). I confess I’m a little worried about Ivan Babikov, who had a rough season last year. His trend over the past four seasons appears to be headed in the wrong direction (albeit very slightly); we’ll see if he can rebound for some strong freestyle results this year.

Alex Harvey had an interesting season last year, and he’s still quite young. Given his age and how competitive he seemed in distance races last year at times, he’s the North American skier I’m most excited about at the moment. (Yes, even more than Kikkan Randall.)

Devon Kershaw also had a strong season last year, particularly in the Tour de Ski. One thing I wonder about is how well he’s been able to figure out travelling back and forth to Europe. My only reason for saying that is the odd ‘clustering’ effect you can see in the last three seasons of his distance results. They each show two distinct groups of results, one very strong cluster and one more mediocre cluster. For instance, last year he seemed to fade into March. What I’m keeping my eye on with him is consistency, then. Can he sustain those top level results through an entire season?

The women are more focused on sprinting: Read more

How’d We Do? USA/CAN Season Review 3

This week it’s the sprinter’s turn in the limelight, starting with the men. As you might imagine, there are quite a few more cheery topics when talking about North American sprinters. As before we’ll begin with a simple plot showing the number of results per race over time:

The American men have seen a steady decline in top thirty sprint performances, mostly due to the recent struggles of Torin Koos. For about three seasons, the US men had two skiers regularly qualifying for the heats, but Koos’s results have dropped off, leaving only Andrew Newell as the top performer. Simi Hamilton, while surely talented, hasn’t yet made up the difference created by Koos’s absence. Hamilton only did five major sprint races this season and qualified twice, but was well back of 30th the other three times. It has sounded from the news reports like he has struggled a bit with injury and illness this season, so perhaps he can show that he can be a regular in the heats next year if he stays healthy.

Outside of Newell, the US men have seemed inconsistent. Of the top thirty performances from someone other than Newell since 2002, 27 belong to Koos, and another 11 to Chris Cook and Garrot Kuzzy. All three either didn’t ski particularly well, or in Kuzzy’s case didn’t ski well enough to get a real chance at any big starts. As for Newell himself, his results were actually fairly similar to what he’s done over the past 3-4 years: Read more

How’d We Do? USA/CAN Season Review 1

I think most people generally have a sense for how the past World Cup season went for the North Americans. What I’m going to do over the next few posts is to simply show some data that hopefully provides some context for what you already know. I’m going to split them into four posts for men/women and distance/sprint. Today we’ll start with the men’s distance performances.

Let’s start with the simplest of metrics, finishing place, and a style of graph that I’ve used before that shows the number of results per race at a given level:

Read more

Race Snapshot: Drammen Freestyle Sprint

I’d say someone has this freestyle sprinting thing dialed in pretty well, wouldn’t you? And what a race from Alex Harvey, much better sprint race for him. I have the heat times again, so an analysis of those will be in the works for tomorrow…

Read more

U23 Pursuit Recap: Men

As before, with the U23 racers we typically have more data to work with, since these folks have generally been around longer and so are likely to have raced against each other more often. We’ll continue using the percent back difference plots, that examine how a particular skier has fared against each of their competitors in the past. So let’s get a sense for what some of the North American performances mean, starting with Alex Harvey:

Difference in % back between Harvey and the field.

Harvey was certainly a favorite to win coming into this race, given his strong results on the World Cup this season, and he didn’t disappoint. Today’s race is in blue, with the median from today’s race in red and a red trend line to give you a sense of how his performance against these particular skiers has changed (or stayed the same) over time. What this graph suggests is that his victory today wasn’t an unusually good or bad performance for him; it also suggests that the folks today that he’s raced against before he’s almost always beaten.

Moving on to Noah Hoffman: Read more

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