Nation Cup Standings: 2733 (8th)
Men: 1869 (6th)
This year will be a changing of the guard for the French team. Their stalwart of the past 10 years, Vincent Vittoz decided to retire after an illustrious career and will be coaching the next generation of French skiers. The squad will be looking to their younger skiers in Manificat and Barthelemy to take charge as a new page is written for the French team.
Led by Cyril Miranda (50th in sprint rankings), the French sprint team is lacking serious depth when compared to their distance counter-parts. Miranda managed to qualify in only three races last season and will be looking to improve on last year’s disappointing season.
France should be excited about Laure Barthelemy (20th sprint ranking) and there are reasons for that. The 23-year old has slowly improved over the past couple season and last year was able to ski to three top 10’s including a thrilling fourth place in Toblach during the Tour de Ski.
Manon Locatelli (67th sprint ranking) is a 21-year old who will be in regular World Cup action this year. After only making the top 30 once last season, she should be looking to be a regular qualifier as she is one year older and one year wiser. She also performed quite well at U23’s and scored a 15th in the sprint and a 19th in the 10km. Aurore Jean(59th sprint ranking) is another athlete who will be skiing regular World Cups this year. She earned 19 point in three World Cups and will be looking to improve on her point total from last year.
Even though Vittoz is no longer racing, the likes of Gaillard (9th in distance) and Manificat (10th in distance) should still keep the French team fairly strong. Russian was the only other country to put two athletes in the top 10 of the distance rankings with Vylegzhanin and Chernousov, so the French are in some pretty good company. Gaillard is one of the most underrated skiers on the circuit in my eyes, but always seems to be mixing it up with the best on any given (Sun)day. The 31-year old was able to finish in the top 10 in six different races last season, something only seven other skiers were able to do. As for Manificat, he had a rather disappointing start of the season last year, but caught fire at the end. If he can get his peak for the Tour de Ski correct, he should be an athlete to keep your eye on closely.
The distance team will look similar to the sprint team with Barthelemy (25th in distance rankings) leading the way. Barthelemy cracked the top 20 six times last season and I expect her to be finishing in the top 15 on a regular basis this season. Barthelemy will be joined by Jean,
Bourgeois (retired and expecting a baby, thanks to mountaimums for the heads up) and Vina, the foursome could crack the top 10 if everything falls into place in on race day will be looking for one or two more athletes that can complete their relay team, I don’t expect this to happen this year though.
With the likes of Alexis Jeannerord and Paul Goalabre performing exceptionally at the World Juniors in the men’s field and helping the relay team to a respectable 5th, the French have a bright batch of youngster currently coming through the ranks. In the immediate future, it will be Adrien Mougel who will be looking to make the transition from Alpen Cup to World Cup this season. The 23-year old’s best result from last season was a 17th in the 15km freestyle at U23’s.
The women have Celia Aymonier to look forward to in a couple of years and after a 12th place in the 5km freestyle at WJC, she looks to be headed in the right direction for a successful career.
Even though they lost Vittoz at the end of last season, the French team are still moving in the right direction and have a bright future ahead of them. Manificat, Gaillard and Barthelemy are all world-class athletes and will be leading the charge. It’s refreshing to see France will a female skier that will be able to mix it up with the best on a regular basis after the successes of the men’s side over the past few years. Expect both the men and women to have a few decent results this coming year.