Monday, February 13, 2006

News from Pragelato

Seems like respiratory infections and stomach flus are defeating the otherwise superhuman strength of our cross country skiers. One hot, medal favorite after another falls victim to a very nasty virus these days. First to fall was Marit Bjoergen on the opening event, 15k duathlon, last Sunday. Then Jens Arne Svartedal and Hilde Gjermundshaug Pedersen got the same bug.

And if that wasn't enough, Frode Estil was involved in a crash at the very beginning of the 30k duathlon. The fact that Frode managed to fight his way back and capture the silver medal only shows how strong he is.

Tomorrow the team sprints start and Norway is putting Tor Arne Hetland and Jens Arne Svartedal on the line. This should be a strong team, but look out for Sweden, Russia and maybe even Poland. On the women's side, Marit Bjoergen will start, even though most news organizations seems to have missed that, along with Ella Gjoelme. If they both have a good day, the gold should be theirs.

The sprint events are very exciting to watch and should be entertaining, even for spectators that normally do not follow the sport. Calling it sprint, is however a bit of a misnomer. The distance is normally between 1.5-2km and is much more comparable to 800m or 1500m in track and field. Since the FIS introduced these new events, we have seen quite a bit of specialization. The skiers that win the sprint will normally not win the longer events. For us cyclists, you can think of the sprints in cross country skiing as comparable to maybe the kilo and pursuit distances on the track.

The altitude of Pragelato is claiming victims every day. Competing at this high of an elevation means that once you pass into the red zone and lactic acid starts to accumulate, it takes an awful, awful long time before the body rids itself of it. By the time you are fit for fight again, the rest of the field is long gone. This means that during events such as the sprints, the winner will most likely be the skier that can keep his head cold and preserve energy when needed. This will be exciting, very exciting indeed.


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