Each weekend seems to be an interesting mix of results for the North Americans. Starting with the women (Davos result circled in blue):
Compared to this season, that was an off day for Kikkan, but compared to last season that was pretty typical. Part of me wonders if she dialed it back a bit late in the race when she knew she wasn’t feeling strong to save some energy for the sprint. But as you can see from her graph, if that’s going to be her “bad” race this season, she’s going have a strong set of results this year.
I’m very cautious about jumping on bandwagons when someone pops a good race or two, but Holly Brooks is beginning to convince me. That’s three good (and one OK) distance results in a row now. More importantly, I like the direction her trend is heading. It’s still early, so it’ll only take a few mediocre races to flatten that trend out, but so far it looks promising.
You can’t deny that Liz Stephen has had some strong results so far this season. My only concern is that they have all been roughly where we’ve seen her topping out before. Can her good days inch up towards the top ten?
As for the men: Read more
A number of Americans and Canadians participated in some big FIS races in Beitostølen, Norway this past weekend. Not all the results have migrated over to the FIS site yet, so I’m just going to focus on the classic distance races from Saturday. We should keep in mind throughout that, from what I’ve read, many of the North Americans were not necessarily trying to put together top performances, but rather tuning up before Drammen next weekend.
One interesting tidbit I should note is that the combined men’s results from Saturday represent the single biggest ski race currently in my database, with well over 400 participants.
Let’s start with the roughest look using FIS points:
I’m including Andrew Musgrave, since he’s an interesting skier from a “non-standard” skiing nation. As always, the meaning of FIS points can be tough to tease out, since it requires that we believe that the penalty system is accurately measuring the strength of the field. But generally it will capture a general sense of “good race” or “bad race”.
By that measure, it certainly seems like Babikov and Elliott didn’t have a great day, although they’re more known for skating. Simi Hamilton put together another strong (for him) distance race for a guy more known for sprinting. There’s just too little data for me to say much about Skyler Davis and it appears that Musgrave and Valjas both had decent but not spectacular races.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of these guys, using percent back difference plots. These plots look at head-to-head matchups against all the people in this race that a skier has ever skied against: Read more
Once again, not much commentary here, just some graphs showing some notable individuals progress through the tour. I haven’t highlighted all the leaders, per se, just some of the top people and some other interesting ones.
As for the North Americans:
This recap is going to be fairly short. I’m going to pass over Kris Freeman and Kikkan Randall, since neither had spectacular races but in neither case does it seem particularly significant to me. Freeman reportedly was recovering from a cold and still managed a decent, but unimpressive race. Randall had a legitimately bad race, but after a string of significantly improved distance results from her, it doesn’t surprise me to see her come back to earth a bit. Also, she tweeted that she actually held back on that effort a bit to save herself for Sunday’s sprint race, which makes perfect sense for her, I think, and certainly seemed to pay off.
The Canadians, in what is becoming a tiring refrain this season, were a bit of a mixed bag. Devon Kershaw had a solid race (9th) and George Grey perhaps shook off his early season struggles for a decent result (32nd). Ivan Babikov, who is a stronger skater, had a race that was somewhat below average overall (38th) but actually fairly normal for a classic race for him. But that’s by FIS points; here’s another view just using rank:
The red is Saturday’s classic race. Babikov is the only one of these three whose results look seriously out of line with the past. This might be another lesson in how much the Olympics dominate our field of vision in skiing. The Canadian men skied so well and got so much attention from their results in Vancouver last year that it’s easy to forget how often these guys were outside the top 20-30 even just last year. It’s a brutal game, the game of expectations.
Sadly, things aren’t getting much better it seems for Liz Stephen or Morgan Arritola. Their points from this race certainly look bad, but let’s be cautious since there was such a huge gap from the winner to the field. For a more comprehensive view, we’ll go back to the percent back difference plots:
Both of these ladies were far enough back in this race that I decided to compare them to the entire field of racers. As always, each dot represents an instance of them skiing against one of the athletes from the race in Davos. Positive values mean they lost (bad) and negative values mean they won (good). The red line is the median for each season and the red dot is the median for just Davos (blue).
In both cases things look about the same as what they’ve done overall this season, which isn’t all that great. Liz Stephen had a decent race back in Gällivare (25th) but that’s about it. What’s worse is that they actually seem to be doing slightly worse compared to last season, although there’s plenty of season left for them to turn that around. I for one will be very interested to see how they fare against a domestic field later this season.
I’ll have a post up tomorrow running through some of the notable European results from the weekend.
The short version of the weekend’s distance races goes something like this:
- Good: Kris Freeman, Kikkan Randall, Noah Hoffman, Liz Stephen
- Bad: Canadian men, Chris Cook
- Meh: Morgan Arritola, Andrey Newell
Here’s a closer look at the Americans:
Ninth place for Freeman is pretty darn good, but like last weekend in Muonio, not “skiing out of his brain” good. For an idea of just how “in line” this 9th place is with how he was skiing at the start of last season, check out the following head-to-head plot that looks at how he’s fared against the particular skiers at this WC race in the past:
For a fuller explanation of these plots see here. The blue is the Gällivare race, right in line with how Freeman stacked up against this crowd at the start of last season. But the downward (i.e. better) trend of his median performance (red line) is promising. Even more promising from my perspective was that it came in a freestyle race. Freeman managed a 7th in a 15km freestyle last December, a 10th and 14th in 2007, a 15th in 2005 and if you go all the way back to 2003, a 6th place in a 30km mass start. He’s generally been more comfortable classic skiing, so it’s nice to see him show some speed in freestyle. It also makes me hopeful for his chances in a 15km classic race, assuming he can keep this up.
As for Kikkan Randall, 19th is also pretty solid and confirms her steady improvement in the distance events. If you look at the corresponding head-to-head plot for her from Gällivare you see that she’s a little further behind the WC crowd than Freeman is, but the trend is encouraging: Read more
I’m squeezing in the last preview post for the Canadian ski team just under the wire!
For both Ivan Babikov and George Grey I’m going to focus in on the distance events. They both certainly do sprints in stage events like the Tour de Ski, but I think it’s fair to say they both have had somewhat more success in distance events.