On Friday the Cross-country World Cup officially got underway for the 2015-16 season with the first race of the Ruka Triple (or the Kuusamo World Cup, if you prefer), in Finland. Thanks to being a stone throw away from the Arctic Circle, Ruka (a ski resort about 25km north of the city of Kuusamo) is almost guaranteed early season snow and has held the world cup opener for 14 consecutive years (credit goes all to FIS for that fun fact). As “triple” would suggest, Kuusamo is another 3-day race weekend. On the programme we have: Friday’s classic sprint, a freestyle time trial on Saturday and a Pursuit start for Sunday. Representing Great Britain this weekend we have Andrew Musgrave and Annika Taylor.
For both the men and women today, the course was once around a 1.4km loop. The biggest challenge of the Kuusamo course is the entry back into the stadium. After a sweeping descent down to the low point on the course there is then a steadily steepening slope back to the plateau of the stadium. The last section of the climb steepens just at the point where athletes will want to start accelerating to for the final push into the stadium. In other words, just in time for that all crucial point in a sprint race where the lungs and legs start screaming.
Neither of the British team pair were expecting to qualify for the quarter finals today – this is Annika’s first world cup and the short fast course, doesn’t really lend itself to Muzzy’s strengths, namely just being a bit of a machine and being able to work really hard. So they were out for their seeding for the time trail tomorrow.
Annika put in an absolute stormer of a performance on Friday, coming in 50th out of 86 competitors, 15 seconds behind Norway’s Maiken Falla (the fastest qualifier in the ladies prologue and the eventual winner) and only 5 seconds off qualifying for the quarterfinals. Apparently Annika is “stoked” about her result. Norway qualified 1st to 4th in the ladies race, the eventual top 3 saw a 2nd place to Stina Nilsson of Sweden and 3rd to Ragnhild Haga of Norway behind Falla.
Muzzy came 92nd, in the men’s race where the top qualifying time (put in by Norway’s Paal Golberg) was a gobsmacking 2 minutes and 32 seconds! Sondre Turvoll Fossil (NOR) who came 2nd in the prologue was the eventual winner and was joined on the podium by two of his teammates; Eirik Brandsdal and Petter Northug.
The end of another successful day’s racing, the British Team are now looking towards Saturday’s races, which is a 10km time trial for the women and 15km for the men.