Sprint: Aix-les-Bains (Qual) and Chambery (Final), Tuesday 16th August.
Trying to predict who will win in each class is pretty ridiculous (at WOC2010 in Trondheim, the top 7 men were separated by 7.4 seconds, with the women's gold being decided by 0.7 seconds); as appraisal of the main contenders seems more sensible.
|Chambery old-town (from WOC2011 website), part of the sprint final map.|
The first sprint rounds of this year's World Cup (WC) were dominated by the Swiss, rounding out the top 5 in the first race (with 2 more in the top 10) and 4 of the top 8 in the 2nd round knock-out sprint. there team is unbelievably strong: defending champion Matthias Muller, 1st year senior Matthias Kyburz (winner, WC 2011#1 and 2009 JWOC sprint champion), Daniel Hubmann (4 WOC sprint medals, many podiums at WC races), Fabian Hertner (European sprint champion, silver in WOC '09 and '10 sprints) and Matthias Merz.
Outside of the land of Toblerone, the Swedish sprint specialist Jerker Lysell (Winner, WC 2011 #2) and Norwegian sprint specialist Oystein Kvaal Osterbo (4th WOC 2010) will head strong Scandinavian delegations, with the Russian Andrey Khramov (2008 & 2009 champion) always dangerous.
Potential outsiders (here comes some nepotism!) include Britain's Scott Fraser, Graham Gristwood and sprint specialist Murray Strain, France's Frederic Tranchand (surprise bronze in 2010) and Lucas Basset (JWOC 2011 Gold) or the Czech Stepan Kodeda (JWOC 2008 Gold). Then again, you can never discount anyone from having a stormer (I know it's a cop-out!)
I'm going to stick my neck out and go for a 2xSwiss and Lysell podium.
|Jerker Lysell (from WorldofO.com) at WOC2010 Sprint (11th place) - now with the mockers put on his chances!|
Reigning champion (and 17-times world champion in all disciplines, 5 in sprint) Simone Niggli (Sui) is not in France this year as she's expecting her second child, leaving Sweden's Helena Jansson (2nd last year by 0.7 seconds; 2009 champion) the stand-out favourite. Competition will come from the the other Swedish runners, I'm assuming 2 of Linnea Gustafsson (WC#1 Winner), Lena Eliasson (WC#1 2nd) and Annika Billstam (WC#1 3rd), Norwegian all-rounder (and perpetual 2/3rd place runner) Marianne Andersen (WOC 2010 3rd) and Finnish all-rounder Minna Kauppi (2x sprint silvers, 7x WOC champion). Even with Kauppi and Jansson missing the early-season WC races due to injusy, I'm going for both to medal, along with Gustafsson, but, as Australia's Hanny Allston showed by winning whilst still a junior in 2006, anything can happen, and has!
|Minna Kauppi (from WorldofO.com) at WOC 2010 Sprint (4th place) - mad as a box of frogs but pretty damn fine. You can find more pictures on her website ;)|
I'll update with Long and Middle contenders after those respective qualifying races have taken place (Saturday and Sunday respectively)