Unifying the men’s and women’s distances is unlikely to significantly impact the power relations between competitors in the cross-country skiing World Cup. According to Finnish national team head coach Teemu Pasanen, the weather, the track profile, and other conditions often have more influence on the race than the distance itself.
At the World Championships in Planica in the coming winter, distances remain unchanged. In the World Cup, on the other hand, men and women will ski 10km and 20km races and 50km on Holmenkollen.
“The changes are not terribly big, except for the women’s 50km,” Pasanen says of the World Cup’s reform.
“The same athletes will be strong, for example, with the men’s 15km being changed to 10km.”
The change is mainly visible in the results when it is combined with other factors in races. Sprinters can be strong when the 10 kilometers are held in fast conditions and on an easy course.
“There is one man in Norway, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, who is certainly suited to such a situation,” Pasanen predicts.
“On the men’s side, there may be other sprint skiers who are relatively stronger on certain courses, on certain terrain, in the 10km rather than in the 15km.”
Among the Finns, two-time championship medalist from team sprint Joni Mäki could make the most of such conditions.
The Structure Of The Races Is Changing
In the men’s distance events, the FIS reform will affect the nature of the competitions more than the power relations between the athletes.
“In the 15km race, it was possible to calm down the skiing a little for a few kilometers. The 10km has to be skied at a more precise pace and really hard all the way,” says Pasanen.
“The 10km is a very tough distance to run, especially if the terrain is difficult, but it doesn’t change the situation too much.”
The combination of classic and skate races (skiathlon) narrows from 30 kilometers to 20 kilometers for men and stretches from 15 kilometers to 20 kilometers for women.
“The men’s skiathlon will be faster, and you won’t have to think about energy intake,” Pasanen continues.
“In the past, strong classic skiers like Iivo Niskanen might try to tire the skate skiers with high speed. Now that the classic part has been reduced to 10 kilometers, you can’t do it the same way.”
In the women’s race, Pasanen says the change is less pronounced.
“The race will only be a little longer.”
New Distance to Learn For Women
Women will face new difficulties at Holmenkollen, where the longest skiing distance will change from 30 to 50 kilometers. Virtually all Olympic skiers will have new things to learn.
“It is quite a crucial change, and I think we will see quite a difference in the competition,” Pasanen continues.
“Most women have never skied 50 kilometers, where energy intake and sufficiency are already very important. No one has much experience with it, so it will be interesting to see how it works for everyone.”
The Holmenkollen 50km could be dramatic, even if the gaps are big in the last 10 kilometers of the race.
“In the 50km, you really get a different kind of breakdowns than in the 30km,” Pasanen points out.
Specialists For The 50 km
The World Cup, which started in Ruka today, is an experiment with a new range of distances. The FIS has not yet announced whether the distances will also be changed for the 2025 World Championships in Trondheim and other world championships from then on.
“We will see how the new distances work this season in the World Cup. After that, the program for the World Championships will be finalized, but I assume the new distances will also be introduced at the World Championships,” Pasanen believes.
A change in the distance selection at the World Championships could bring in athletes who specialize in a specific distance, especially in the women’s 50km race.
“There could be a few specialists in the women’s 50km, as the distance specialists could do well there,” Pasanen reckons.
” Otherwise, the changes will not affect training, but women aiming for the 50 kilometers will have to rethink their training. And they need to learn how to take extra energy during the race. You have to practice a bit because hardly anyone has experience with that.”
The Ruka Nordic and Cross-Country Skiing World Cup start today, Friday, with a classic sprint. There will be a 10 km classic on Saturday, followed by a 20km skate pursuit on Sunday.
Read More: Cross-Country Skiing Changes And World Cup Calendar For The 2022/2023 Season