Czech Republic – A
Lukas Bauer had an epic comeback year. Full stop. The 08-09 season the Czech superstar scored 612 WC points, finishing 9th in the overall, disappointing probably everyone, including his mother. That happens when you amass over 1400 points and win the World Cup 07-08 (the season before). This year, Bauer showed that despite his age and growing bald spot, he is still one mean dude. He was the only man on the World Cup that showed he could consistently be better than Northug by winning the Tour by 40 seconds. His 1021 WC points this season was bested only by Petter, despite the fact that Luke ‘I have no fast-twitch muscle’ Bauer secured points in, count ‘em, ZERO sprints. Bauer even collected two bronze medals at the Olympics, one in the 15km free, the other in the 4x10 Relay. Which brings me to my second point, and secures the Czechs an A rating. His supporting cast wasn’t half bad.
On the men’s team, Martin Koukal racked up an impressive 130 points, mostly sprinting his face off, while Dusan Kozisek managed to collect 52, also in sprinting. The double K boys even put together a 6th place sprint relay at the Olympics! How about that! Beyond them, even Jiri Magal chipped in with 34 WC points. The women… well, let’s just say they didn’t blow anybodies socks off, but were fairly effective. Kamila Rajdlova quietly had a solid season, posting 97 points, followed closely by Ivana Janeckova at 80 and Eva Nyvltova at 76. Sure, not many people recognize those names, but they helped the Czech Republic to an 11th place Nations Cup finish, one spot ahead of Canada. Bastards.
Watch out for: Ales Razym. He didn’t score a single WC point this year. He raced the sprint at the Olympics, and came 44th. But trust me, this 24 year-old will make some noise next season. His specialty is the skate sprint, so in a year when he can train specifically for that event in Oslo at World Champs, he will make some noise. You heard it here first.