Worldofxc.com predictions: Who Wins the Ruka Triple?
The start lists are out – let the fun begin! The Kuusamo Mini Tour (Ruka Triple) is the first of three tours in the World Cup this season – consisting of a classic sprint on Friday, an interval start classic race on Saturday (10 / 5 km) and a 15/10 km free technique chasing start on Sunday.
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Race preview: Sprint
The men’s classic sprint race is one of the most open disciplines in the World Cup with four different winners the last season. Classic sprint victories were divided between Petter Northug Jr. (Stockholm and Drammen), Alexey Poltoranin (Davos), Nikita Kriukov (World Champs in Val di Fiemme and Kuusamo) and Teodor Peterson (Liberec). All four are on the start at the opening in Kuusamo.
Petter Northug has struggled with sickness this autumn – but still showed at Beitostølen last weekend that his shape is getting better race by race. Victory would be a surprise – but Northug has surprised many times before! The biggest favourite is probably the Russian Kriukov – who showed in Kuusamo last year that the course suits him.
In addition to these four skiers, there are at least 8-10 others who may climb onto the top on the podium on a perfect day. This includes Eirik Brandsdal, Pål Golberg, Alex Harvey, Andrew Newell, Øystein Pettersen, Ola Vigen Hattestad. Notably missing on the start list are Emil Jönsson and Dario Cologna.
The last year there have been three different winners for the women’s classic sprint – Justyna Kowalczyk (Drammen, Stockholm and Davos), Marit Bjørgen (World Champs in Val di Fiemme and Kuusamo) and Mona-Lisa Malvalehto (Liberec). The two big favourites thus again are Justyna Kowalczyk and Marit Bjørgen.
However, Kowalczyk has been a “slow starter” the last seasons – performing below her best in the first races. Marit Bjørgen on the other hand did not impress as much at the sprint race in the Norwegian season opener in Beitostølen as she usually does – here she finished only fourth behind Kikkan Randall, Vesna Fabjan and Katja Visnar.
Thus we have an open race also in the women’s class – perhaps one of the most open classic sprints of the pervious seasons.