The stadium will be packed above the Arctic Circle in Ruka for this weekend's World Cup opener. (Ruka - Teemo Moisio)
RUKA, Finland (Nov. 26, 2015) After a successful prep camp and several podium finishes at the Gaellivare Premiere races in Sweden this past weekend, the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team looks strong going into the opening World Cup races in Ruka, Finland beginning Friday. A dozen U.S. athletes will start. The events will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.
The World Cup season kicks off with a three-stage event, the Ruka Triple. Friday begins with a classic sprint, Saturday is a 10k/5k race and Sunday concludes with a 15k/10k pursuit. With temperatures predicted to rise this weekend, the snow conditions could be more challenging than those found at the Gaellivare Premier races.
A dozen Americans will start in this weekend's Ruka Triple to open the FIS Cross Country World Cup tour.
This is the 14th time Ruka, a resort outside Kuusamo, Finland has played host to the FIS Cross Country World Cup opener. Competitions will be held at the Ruka Ski Resort, located on the southern edge of Lapland near the Arctic Circle.
Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) had her career best World Cup, skiing to a fifth place finish in the classic sprint last year in the Ruka opener.
As a stage race, a key is consistency across the weekend and accumulating.
The winner of the sprint is awarded 30 bonus seconds, which will be subtracted from the cumulative race time over the weekend.
Half the normal World Cup points are awarded each day, with each stage winner getting 50 (instead of 100) World Cup points. Winners of the Ruka Triple get a bonus of 200 World Cup points.
Our prep camp in Gaellivare went really well last week. Most of us had not been on snow since July in New Zealand, so it was nice to be able to have a low stress week of training followed by some test races before the opening World Cup weekend here in Ruka. We had a long, but relatively easy day of travel yesterday, and a lot of us did some light intensity this morning to get the travel out of our legs and get some early practice on the courses at race pace before all the teams show up tomorrow and life becomes busy.
I'm fired up to jump into this first mini tour, especially for the sprint competition. I feel like I'm a lot more prepared for these races than I was last year both mentally and physically. Having a weekend of racing in Sweden before heading over here was a perfect way to get the engines going before the first hard race weekend.
I know there will be some challenges out there this weekend... the 10k skate being a tough event for me on the World Cup. But I'm hoping for strong results in the spring and classic. It's my goal to start out the season with an A Final appearance in the classic sprint