Race Preview & Predictions: Tour de Ski Queen Stage 2014

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 02 Jan 2014@20:20

The long stage from Cortina to Toblach in the men’s class is the Queen stage of Tour de Ski – with more than 30 kilometers of skating on an A-to-B course, this stage can shake up the overall standings considerably like it did in earlier years – see the 2013, 2012 and 2011 analysis here.  In the women’s class we will also have a very interesting pursuit race – although the women will “only” ski a 15 km race on a 5 km course which is skied 3 times.

Cologna decided the Tour de Ski at the Cortina-Toblach stage in 2011 and 2012 by arriving alone in Toblach more than a minute ahead of the closest follower. In 2013 five skiers started within 30 seconds – and four of them (Legkov, Cologna, Northug and Vylegzhanin) finished together with a nearly 90 second gap to the rest of the field. These four skiers were also the ones fighting for the overall Tour win in 2013.

(For discussion of the women’s race – see below the men)

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Can Sundby race alone at the front?

As we have seen in previous editions of Tour de Ski, if there is no cooperation in the chasing group, the leader can get away – and more and more skiers can come up from behind

This year Martin Johnsrud Sundby is in a similar situation as Cologna in 2011 and 2012 – although the 32 second gap down to Swedish Halfvarsson in second might be too small for the Norwegian Tour de Ski and World Cup leader. The most probably scenario for this years race is that the 6 skiers who are between 32 and 61 seconds behind – Halfvarsson (+32), Harvey (+35), Northug (+37), Chernousov (+43), Poltoranin (+53) and Legkov (+61) quite soon form a group which tries to chase down Sundby at the front. The strong free technique skier Jespersen (+72) and a few others (Tscharnke at +79, Haagen Krogh and Bing at +81, Belov at +83 …) might manage to get up to Legkov before he catches the others, but there is a good chance that Legkov is strong enough to get away – and that the initial “cut” will be after Legkov and we will have a six man group chasing the leader.

20-30 man big group?

As we have seen in previous editions of Tour de Ski, if there is no cooperation in the chasing group, the race leader can get away – and/or more and more skiers can come up from behind. Legkov and Chernousov said in an interview with NRK that they will work together to chase down Sundby. - I think it will be not so hard. He is alone, and has only 30 seconds, Chernousov said with a confident smile. - We will catch him. Of course it will be difficult for him. He knows that we are behind him.

Looking further down at the start list, we find the two French “locomotives” Gaillard at 1:50 and Manificat at 1:55 – both very strong in this type of races. Can they get all the way up to the Legkov-group – and even up to the lead? Depending on how the race develops and how well the skiers word together, we could even get a 20-30 man group coming together to Toblach – or Sundby alone. It will definitely be an interesting race!

Here is the complete startlist / tour standings.

2012/2013 details: Groups

Five skiers started within 30 seconds – Vylegzhanin first with Cologna, Northug, Harvey and Legkov  following. Harvey used so much power to get up to the front that he could not keep  up with the other four – and in the end the remaining four finished together with a nearly 90 second gap to the rest of the field. The leading group slowed down the last kilometers – letting the other groups catch up some time. Northug won the sprint on the homestretch ahead of Legkov 0.7 seconds behind, and Cologna in third was 0.9 seconds back.

Harvey on the other hand was caught by the Chernousov/Bauer/Hellner group – turning the trio into another quartet around 15 km into the race. This group gradually lost time to the leading quartet, finishing 1:25 behind the leaders (1:40 including bonus seconds). The rest of the skiers did not make the cut into the first two groups – and 16 of them gathered into a big third group. This third group raced very fast in the last 7-8 km of the race – and in the end this group finished only 20 seconds behind the Chernousov/Bauer/Hellner/Harvey group.

2011/2012 details: Awesome Cologna – three big groups

Petter Northug started the day 13.5 seconds behind Dario Cologna. Northug started out fast and caught Cologna after a few kilometers. The Norwegian was however punished for his tough start, and lost more than a minute to Cologna while waiting out Legkov (RUS). Behind Northug and Legkov the strongest group of the day was formed – the trio Hellner (SWE), Manificat (FRA) and Kershaw (CAN) – all three starting more than 2 minutes behind Cologna. They steadily gained time on Cologna until they caught Northug and Legkov around 20 km – having caught up with more than a minute at that time. Then they slowed down to the speed of Northug/Legkov, and the group finished down 1:16 from Cologna. If the group had not stopped cooperating when catching Northug/Legkov, they would probably have managed to gain even more time on Cologna. Marcus Hellner and Maurice Manificat – the two fastest skiers of the day – both gained around 1:30 on Cologna in the end.

Interesting fact: No single skiers except for Cologna survived on their own their own throughout the race. The rest of the skiers fighting in the top packed themselves into only three big groups.

Illustration Tour de Ski 2011/2012: Splitsbrowser where comparison is done to Dario Cologna. A line which is flat means the same time as Cologna. A line which goes down represents slower speed – a line which goes up represents faster speed. You can see where the grouping occured by observing where the lines get together.

2010/2011 details: Large group – no cooperation in the end

Looking back to the 2010/2011 edition of Tour de Ski, all skiers in the Top 30 except for Dario Cologna (SUI) and Marcus Hellner (SWE) in the lead got sucked up by three big groups (see article including graphical illustration here). The biggest group which Petter Northug (NOR) was part of gained time on Cologna throughout most of the race – gaining nearly 45 seconds from 7 km up to 27 km. However, the group had problems cooperating in the last part of the downhill down to Toblach, loosing more than half of what they had worked hard on gaining in the first part of the race. When the group got too big, the skiers did not manage to cooperate anymore.

Illustration Tour de Ski 2010/2011: Splitsbrowser where comparison is again done against Dario Cologna. Note that the starting split not correct due to the way the time keeping is reported.

2009/2010 details: Group of six from the start

In the 2009/2010 edition, there was just over 16 seconds separating the top five Hellner (SWE), Østensen (NOR), Northug, Cologna and Teichmann (GER) at the start. Østensen was dropped early, and Heikkinen (FIN) and Gaillard (FRA) caught up with the remaining four after 15km. The leading six became five as they approached the town of Toblach where Teichmann fell off the pace. In the end Northug won the finish sprint ahead of Cologna and Hellner.

Women: Strong field chasing Jacobsen

Jacobsen will have a tough time defending her lead

In the women’s race there will be an interesting fight between the Norwegians and the Finns. Jacobsen has a 37 second lead on Finnish Kerttu Niskanen with Therese Johaug 8 seconds behind. Saarinen and Kylloenen start another 10 seconds behind. Weng at 1:10 is probably too far back to get all the way up to the lead.

The Finnish skiers have not got their strength in long free technique races, whereas this is one of Johaug’s strong points. The most probable scenario is that Johaug will close the gap to Niskanen whereas Saarinen and Kylloenen will struggle to get up to Johaug. Johaug will chase Jacobsen – with Niskanen trying to keep up. Depending on her day shape Jacobsen might be able to defend her lead – but it is just as probable that we will see Johaug and Jacobsen coming together to the finish – with or without a Finn or three.

Here is the complete startlist / tour standings.

1 Comment

Comment by P

January 3, 2014 @ 09:26


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