January 30, 2023

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The joint will ruin the hill start

In 2019, the FIS changed the well-known final stage up the Alpine hill of the Tour de Ski from a chase start to a combined start.

It made the climbing stage “prettier”, according to TV 2’s cross-country expert Peter Northug.

– In the combined start, the runners ‘slide’ together for the first few kilometers until they start on the hill at the top of Alpe Cermis. Half of the final stage has become transportation only, says the former cross-country skier.

Peter Northug believes the final stage was the toughest as the riders went it alone. He just crossed the finish line in second place, back in 2010. Photo: Heiko Junji/NTB

Brutal: Lucas Bauer was waiting for Northug at the top.  Photo: Heiko Junge/NTB

Brutal: Lucas Bauer was waiting for Northug at the top. Photo: Heiko Junge/NTB

In 2016, Northug placed fourth atop the Beast Hill.  Then, too, the contestants chased each other.  Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

In 2016, Northug placed fourth atop the Beast Hill. Then, too, the contestants chased each other. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

Runners walk six kilometers on the ‘normal’ trail in Val di Fiemme, before having to search.

– It’s much easier now. When the search began, you had to “do everything you could” from the start to defend your position. Then I knew you had a gang chasing you from behind. This means that you were completely fit even before you started going up the hill. Now the vast majority of people are in good shape when they start climbing.

Watch Rekord-Klæbo get past the Swedes

Northug, who himself set up an alpine hill in the Tourist class a few hours before the elite athletes head out for the climb, thinks it’s easier for the expedition leader to end the trek with a combined start.

– There is no doubt that finishing the Tour de Ski has never been harder. Northug believes it was more inconvenient for Johannes Hosflotte-Klabo to have sprinters like Kruger and Ruth behind him, rather than start the hill with them.

When Klæbo climbed the beast hill in 2019, he walked in solemn majesty.  Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

When Klæbo climbed the beast hill in 2019, he walked in solemn majesty. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

Klæbo himself thinks it’s a bit of a “hop and jump” thing whether you want a combined start or a hunting start, but he agrees that it’s easier to orient yourself the way it is now.

– You have a more sense of speed when you go out into the field. Then you know a little more how to do. When you’re fighting your way there on your own and you probably think you’re going fast, you could be going faster behind you. From this point of view, it is good to start together, says Klæbo.

Watch Rekord-Klæbo get past the Swedes

Snail speed

Northug is supported by Hans Christer Holund, who experienced the pursuit start and combined start on the last stage.

– In a combined start, you walk calmly through a common field all the way to the bottom of the hill, and then the race really starts there. At the top, we can really only start the race at the bottom of the alpine hill, because it will still be snail-paced until then, says Holland.

Tired: It was easy to see that Holland was tired when he finished the final stage of the Tour in 2018. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

Tired: It was easy to see that Holland was tired when he finished the final stage of the Tour in 2018. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

He notes that more happens at the beginning of the chase, and that runners have to make several tactical choices along the way.

In the past, we’ve seen, among other things, that runners hit the ground hard.

– At the beginning of hunting you have to use your head more. In a joint start, you just have to keep your back in front of him, Holland says.

Sjur Røthe is also more interested in chasing the other runners up the hill, rather than going into the field.

Clearly the best start fishing. But it’s a little more about what works best for me personally. It’s easier to make up seconds in a chase start than to lose in a combined start, says Roth.

Sjur Røthe had the best monster hilltop time a year ago.  Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

Sjur Røthe had the best monster hilltop time a year ago. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

The 34-year-old still believes the product will be better when all runners start at the same time on Sunday.

– I think it’s better to watch a joint start than a hunting start, so for those who are sitting at home watching, it’s very good to be a joint start.

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