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Not a great day for US sprint skiers in Otepää...

Sun, Jan  18, 2015 - By USSA

OTEPAA, Estonia (Jan. 17, 2015) – Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA), Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO), and Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) qualified in today’s classic sprint, the first World Cup event for each since they departed the Tour de Ski after its fourth stage. Each skier failed to progress beyond their quarterfinal heat with Bjornsen leading the USA in 15th. Hamilton was 16th and Newell 17th.

“It was an interesting day out there for me,” Hamilton explained. “I wasn’t thrilled with how I felt in the qualification.”

Hamilton narrowly qualified for the heats, finishing in the thirtieth and final qualifying position. Traditionally a skate sprinter, he’s gained consistency with classic speed. “I think today was a descent result for me in a classic sprint and I’m encouraged about gains I’ve made on skiing steep climbs and long double pole finishes. I’m really looking forward to the skate sprint in Russia next week as well as tomorrow’s skate team sprint here in Otepää.”

Bjornsen echoed the near-miss sentiments as well, “It was another bittersweet day here in Otepää. I had a solid qualifier, and really came close in my quarters to advancing, but just missed the photo finish unfortunately. Each weekend I am getting closer and closer to making that semi-final, but today was just too close for comfort.”

Sadie Bjornsen, shown racing earlier this season in Davos, led the USA finishing 15th in a classic sprint in Otepää. (Getty Images/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)

Sadie Bjornsen, shown racing earlier this season in Davos, led the USA finishing 15th in a classic sprint in Otepää. (Getty Images/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)

For Andy Newell, the Otepää sprint marks somewhat of a return to form after the U.S. veteran has struggled with some allergic reactions and corresponding higher heart rates. “I tried to play to my strengths but I’m still not 100%.”

Norway's Thomas Northug and Invild Oestberg won the respective men’s and women’s events.

The U.S. team turns their attention to Sunday’s freestyle sprints.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Andy Newell, Simi Hamilton and Sadie Bjornsen qualified for the Otepää Classic Sprint today.
  • Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) just missed qualification in 31st place.
  • Sadie Bjornsen finished 15th as the top woman.
  • Simi Hamilton finished 16th and Andy Newell finished 17th in the men’s sprint.
  • Norway again dominated placing 7 of the top 8 in the men’s field and winning both sprints.

QUOTES

Simi Hamilton

It was an interesting day out there for me. The conditions were pretty wet and sloppy and the tracks were breaking down throughout the day, but at least things were fairly consistent from the qualifier thru the quarters. Again I wasn’t thrilled with how I felt in the qualification. My body during qualifying has just felt a bit flat for the last several weeks but I think that’s an okay sign leading up to our pre-Worlds camp in Davos.

As in Val Mustair, I felt better in our quarter and could access more of that top that I’ve been looking for, especially on the second half of the course. My plan going into the quarterfinal was to kind of hang in the back and get a draft thru a lot of the flats early on.

There was a pretty good headwind picking up occasionally out there. I found it pretty tricky to get past anyone on the first long gradual climb, but I just focused on relaxing and conserving energy. I put a surge in on the steep climb at half way and tried to ski over the top as hard as possible knowing that opening a gap between myself and the two Swiss skiers behind me would be key for the long descent and flat finish.

Coming into the finish I just focused on keeping my tempo high and building speed across the long double pole. It’s always kind of frustrating to finish 3rd in a slower quarterfinal and not go on as a lucky loser, but I think today was a descent result for me in a classic sprint and I’m encouraged about gains I’ve made on skiing steep climbs and long double pole finishes. Really looking forward to the skate sprint in Russia next week as well as tomorrow’s skate team sprint here in Otepää.

Andy Newell

I'm obviously still not firing on all cylinders but I think things are slowly improving. Today wasn't a very good result but in general my heart rates have been returning to normal and I've been trying out some new diets to try to shake this allergic reaction I’ve been having. So the good news is we're on the right track and still a month or so away from World Champs.

Conditions were pretty straightforward klister skiing early on and in qualification. although it did start snowing later in the heats. There were a variety of different kinds of snow out there during qualification so we were outside the track and kind of dancing around to find the quickest snow.

I was excited to race here because I love this venue and I think this would have been a great course for me if I was feeling 100% since there was lots of good striding out there. So I tried to play to my strengths but I’m still not 100%.

In the heat it was my strategy to try to put the hammer down on the last short steep climb to see if I could get any separation from the pack but I got a little stuck behind Hattestad at one point and then suffered a few slips. so it didn't really work out as planned, I knew Goldberg and Hattestad were going to be tough to outspint in the lanes and unfortunately they got the better of Simi and me.

Sadie Bjornsen

It was another bittersweet day here in Otepää. I had a solid qualifier, and really came close in my quarters to advancing, but just missed the photo finish unfortunately. Each weekend I am getting closer and closer to making that semi-final, but today was just too close for comfort. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I am going with this theme.

Otepää delivered a fun wintery mix of conditions, and a very excited and loud crowd, so the vibe was awesome! It was a reasonably flat course, with just one gradual hill, which I don't generally consider one of my strengths, so I was pleased with my ability to come as close as I did to moving on.

I am really looking forward to the team sprint tomorrow. We haven't gotten to do a "team" event yet this year after La Clusaz weekend got cancelled due to a lack of snow (where the 4x5 relay was scheduled). Relay events are my favorite type of event, so I am really looking forward to this tomorrow!