World of XC predictions and preview: Men's 15 km C
There is only one race in this year’s Olympics with interval start – the 10/15 km classic. This is the highlight of the Olympics for fans of the good old Cross Country skiing tradition – where it is up to the athletes to fight against the clock.
It is already known that a few of the big pre-Olympics favourites will not be on the start list. Actually the two last winners in classic interval start races in the World Cup are said to not be on the start list: Alexander Legkov (winner in the 15 km classic World Cup race in Toblach less than two weeks ago), and Petter Northug (winner of the 10 km classic World Cup race in Val di Fiemme in early January) In addition 4th placed Vylegzhanin from the 30 km Skiathlon is also said to not be starting.
With these top skiers not on the start, the following are the main favourites:
- Dario Cologna won the Skiathlon – and skied very well until he fell twice(!) on the sprint. 2nd in Toblach on the same discipline less than 2 weeks ago.
- Alexey Poltaranin is a real classic expert who has shown good shape several times this season – although he looked even stronger last year. Still – don’t forget his victory in the 15 km classic mass start during Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide and the 2nd place on the 15km classic interval start in Lillehammer in December.
- Martin Johnsrud Sundby – previously a specialist in classic interval start races – now even better in free technique. His last (and only) victory in a classic interval start race in the World Cup is back in 2008 in Kuusamo – he is still among the big favorites.
- Lukas Bauer proved in November with his victory on the 10 km classic in Kuusamo that he is back in shape for the Olympic season – although he has not impressed massively the rest of the season (only 15th in Toblach). Can be very strong – but could also fail.
- Eldar Rønning has been very good (2nd in Kuusamo) and far behind (31st in Lillehammer) in classic interval start races this year. Toblach (12th) was a step in the right direction. Rønning may be fantastic if he has found his top shape – but nothing is 100% sure for the Norwegian classic expert.
- Pål Golberg will replace Didrik Tønseth due to illness. Golberg won this event in Lillehammer in December.
Dark horses: Johan Olsson – says he is out of shape – may still be fantastic (winner 50 km mass start classic at World Champs last year), Matti Heikkinen (suddenly makes a fantastic appearance when not expected – count in the Finn!), Ilia Chernousov, Chris Jespersen, Daniel Rickardsson, Marcus Hellner (great shape – classic not his specialty if it is soft), Dmitriy Japarov.