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Caldwell and Hamilton both take 8th in Tour de Ski freestyle sprint

Wed, Jan  7, 2015 - By USSA

VAL MUSTAIR, Switzerland (Jan. 6, 2014) The Tour de Ski is marked by slow gains, daily improvements and careful attention to the details of ski racing. Tuesday’s freestyle sprint in Val Mustair was the third stage in the tour and the first where U.S. results reflected their season long attention and focus even through the tough sensations of stage racing. Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) led the women in eighth, while Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO), who narrowly qualified in 30th, led the men in eighth.

“My body felt really flat for the qualification and a fall on an extremely icy corner early on in the first lap set me back even more,” said Hamilton. But I just focused on skiing as fast as I could, even with the fall and feeling very fatigued today for some reason. I was lucky to qualify thru in 30th, and it was a tough pill to swallow since Andy (Newell)'s fall essentially allowed me to move on to the heats.

“I felt much better during my quarter and, on such a long course, my strategy was to chill out in the back, conserve my energy, and try to make a move the second time up the steep climb,” Hamilton added. “I was happy with my ability to pick a couple people off, but with such icy corners. I couldn't get by Northug and Kozicek but was happy to have skied a fast year and advance as a lucky loser. In my semi I kind of tried the same tactic but just wasn't able to move last third and second places in the last 200 meters to advance to the finals. I'm encouraged that I was able to produce a decently strong result considering I had a fall in qualification and my body just wasn't feeling it too much all day long.”

Similarly, Caldwell found her stride after qualifying seventh. The Vermonter won her qualifying heat and progressed through to the semi-final before being knocked out of contention by a strong heat that included the final race winner, Marit Bjorgen of Norway.

“My goal for my semi was to hang with the leaders for as long as possible,” explained Sophie Caldwell. “I got a little tired on the second uphill, but was able to have a good finish and end up third in my heat. Unfortunately the second semi was significantly faster and I didn't move on as lucky loser. I was really happy to have another good sprint race.”

Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) improved again in the sprint event. Randall, last year’s overall sprint winner, has struggled with form early in the season but has slowly climbed back to the top of the results page, racing her way into a stronger finish in each sprint.

“I landed in the fifth quarterfinal with a couple Norwegians,” Randall described. “They set a hard pace the whole heat and I did my best to stay in close. I tried to come out of the draft off the final turn but didn't put together a great final sprint finishing in 3rd. Thankfully it was good enough for lucky loser.”

Randall progressed to the semi where Nowegians set an aggressive pace. “I tried to move myself up in the pack on the step climb but didn't have the gears to make any progress. I was trailing third and fourth off the downhill but again couldn't make a dent in the final stretch. It was at least nice to be close to advancing. I’m still haven't quite found all my gears yet but it's good to keep getting in hard efforts and inching my way back to top form.”

The tour now turns to Toblach, Italy for a 5K /10K classic event.

Sophie Caldwell, shown here racing in Davos, skied to a seventh place finish to lead the USA in Val Mustair. (Getty Images/Agence Zoom)

Sophie Caldwell, shown here racing in Davos, skied to a seventh place finish to lead the USA in Val Mustair. (Getty Images/Agence Zoom)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) finished 7th in Stage 3 of the Tour de Ski in Val Mustair, the same position as her qualification.
  • Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) finished 8th in the sprint after narrowly qualifying in 30th.
  • Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) finished 10th overall.
  • The U.S. qualified five it the heats, Caldwell, Hamilton, and Randall, as well as Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) and Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN). Bjornsen finished 13th and Diggins finished 23rd.
  • Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) crashed and did not qualify for the rounds.
  • Norwegian Marit Bjorgen won the women’s event. Italian sprinter Frederico Pellegrino won the men’s sprint.

QUOTES

Simi Hamilton

My body felt really flat for the qualification, and a fall on an extremely icy corner early on in the first lap set me back even more. But I just focused on skiing as fast as I could, even with the fall and feeling very fatigued today for some reason. I was lucky to qualify thru in 30th, and it was a tough pill to swallow since Andy's fall essentially allowed me to move on to the heats. But skiing rounds is skiing rounds, and it was a pretty tight spread to 30, so I'll take what I can get.

My body felt much better during my quarter, and on such a long course, my strategy was to chill out in the back, conserve my energy, and try to make a move the second time up the steep climb. I was happy with my ability to pick a couple people off, but with such icy corners I couldn't get by Northug and Kozicek but was happy to have skied a fast year and advance as a lucky loser.

In my semi I kind of tried the same tactic but just wasn't able to move last 3rd and 2nd places in the last two hundred meters to advance to the finals.

I'm encouraged that I was able to produce a decently strong result considering I had a fall in qualification and my body just wasn't feeling it too much all day long.

I'm psyched for a bit of a training break in Ramsau before we head to Otepaa and the team vibe is still really good here. Soph and Kikkan skied super well and although we didn't have anyone in the finals we had three in the top ten. Momentum as we get closer to Falun!

Sophie Caldwell

I woke up this morning feeling pretty tired, but I had a plan for my qualifier and I think I executed it well. I had no idea how I had done when I finished because it's a tough course at altitude, so nothing really feels great, but it was a boost of confidence to qualify in seventh.

In my quarterfinal I wanted to stay out of the way of crashes because of the technical corners, but I didn't want to waste too much energy leading. I'm confident in my downhills and my finishing speed and luckily I got to take advantage of those strengths in the last quarter of the course and went on to win! My goal for my semi was to hang with the leaders for as long as possible.

I got a little tired on the second uphill, but was able to have a good finish and end up third in my heat. Unfortunately the second semi was significantly faster and I didn't move on as lucky loser.

I was really happy to have another good sprint race. I'm feeling stronger each sprint and I think a lot of that has to do with getting some confidence back and feeling like I belong in the sprint heats. It was a fun day for me personally and also a great day for the team with four top 15s and three top tens!

Kikkan Randall

It was fun to return to Val Müstair where I had a great performance 2 years ago. We didn't get to compete under the lights this time but it was sunny and beautiful and the local organizer put on another great event.

The course was completely man made snow which made for some icy corners and the two lap course was quite challenging. We had great skis today after spending quite a bit of time on careful testing.

When I crossed the finish line of the qualifier the announcer first called that I was outside of the top 30. That came as a complete shock because while I hadn't felt amazing, I had at least been solid. After a few seconds he corrected his call and put me in 9th. I slipped a few spots but ended up qualifying 13th. I was happy enough with that.

I landed in the fifth quarterfinal with a couple Norwegians. They set a hard pace the whole heat and I did my best to stay in close. I tried to come out of the draft off the final turn but didn't put together a great final sprint finishing in 3rd. Thankfully it was good enough for lucky loser.

In the semi I again chased after Norwegians. The pace was aggressive. I tried to move myself up in the pack on the step climb but didn't have the gears to make any progress. I was trailing third and fourth off the downhill but again couldn't make a dent in the final stretch. Fifth in my heat meant I was out, the girls just ahead of me advanced to the final as lucky losers. It was at least nice to be close to advancing.

Still haven't quite found all my gears yet but it's good to keep getting in hard efforts and inching my way back to top form.

We're already in the van en route to the next Tour stop in Toblach, Italy where we get right back at it tomorrow with a 5k classic.

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