In less than 48hrs, the 2011-2012 World Cup campaign kicks-off in Sjusjøen. By now, you know that the opening World Cup weekend was scheduled for Beitøstolen but the lack of snow caused the move to Sjusjøen. I’m a huge fan of starting the season in Norway because you’re always guaranteed big crowds and deep fields which makes a great atmosphere even if you’re sitting at home watching it on your computer or TV.

The first day of competition will be 10km/15km preview with almost all the big guns in attendance. For the women, it should be a question of who can beat Marit Bjørgen. Kowalczyk will surely be up there with as will Kalla who impressed last weekend in Bruksvallarna. Johaug, Haag and Khazova also have a chance to get onto the podium.

For those betting folk Bjørgen is 2/7 favourite with Kalla at 9/2 while Kowalczyk and Johaug are 10/1.

UPDATE: The start-lists have been posted and there will be 71 athletes starting tomorrow with Kowalczyk the last to start.

On the men’s side, the only notable absentee will be Bauer who has opted to not race Saturday due to a minor cold, but will be skiing the relay on Sunday. Other than that it’s a pretty stacked field. The bookies have Northug as the 4/1 favourite with Hellner 5/1, Cologna 6/1, Legkov 7/1 and Manificat 9/1. The Norwegians have added four biathletes to the field including Håfsas, Boe, Berger and Svendsen so it should be interesting to see if there will be any heroics that Håfsas showed two years ago in the season opener.

Other athletes that I will have an eye on and think have an outside chance of the podium include Piller-Cottrer who excels at this race, Harvey and Vylegzhanin.

UPDATE: The start-list have been posted and the field is quite big with 93 athletes. The last to start will be Dario Cologna.

With the start of a new season, means the start of another intense season of WhoWins over at World of XC. Just a reminder that you can get your picks in right up until the first racer breaks the wand. I believe there will be standings for each race weekend, Tour de Ski standings and a leaderboard running all season which means some serious bragging rights are at hand. Last year there was an amazing 346 people who entered at least one race with the grand champion and friend of NX, fellow ski blogger Chris from Nordic Commentary Project. If you want to try and beat me this year, my username will be NordicXplained.

That’s it for now, talk to you after the first race of the season!