DUSSELDORF, Germany (Dec. 20) - Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) finished 11th in the men's World Cup freestyle sprint in Dusseldorf Saturday as rain poured down along the banks of the Rhine. Ola Vigen Hattestad out-charged the field, taking his third World Cup sprint victory this season.
Though Grover said Newell's finish was bright, it was not quite what Newell had in mind.
"Andy won the qualification and won his quarter-final, too. But in the semi-final he got tangled and spun around backwards," Grover said.
Newell suffered similar misfortune last week in Davos when his skis slipped out from under him near the finish of the quarterfinal lap, eliminating him from the race.
"The day started out well, but ended up not being the best," Grover said.
Newell's best previous finish in Dusseldorf was eighth in 2006. Despite the slow start, Newell has the potential to do great things. He has 11 top-10 sprint finishes and two podiums. Judging from his qualifications and early rounds, it is only a matter of time before we see Newell mixing it up in the top three again.
In the women's sprint, Petra Majdic of Slovenia also won her third World Cup Sprint of 2008 on the tour's shortest women's sprint course, just 800 meters. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) finished the qualifying rounds in 40th place.
"I think Kikkan was a little caught off guard at how short the course was. You have to be going all out and skiing really fast to qualify here, so she was disappointed," Head Cross Country Sprint Coach Chris Grover said.
Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) was also 40th in qualifications, missing the top-30 cut for the final sprints.
Grover said it rained hard all day long, which made for a smaller than normal crowd in the German city. The race, which runs through old town Dusseldorf is one of the cross-country world's marquee events.
Besides the soaking rain, another challenge for the racers in Dusseldorf was the fact that there is only snow on the racecourse. Between heats, athletes usually ski lightly to remove lactic acid from their muscles in preparation for the next round but were unable to do so on skis Saturday.
"Here there's no snow so the athletes bring their running shoes or spin on the bike to try and recover," Grover said.
Team sprints take place Sunday. Since Randall is the only woman for the U.S. in the team-of-two event, just the men will be racing. Newell and Koos paired for ninth place in Dusseldorf last year and are hoping to improve that standing.
"The team sprint is absolutely grueling," Grover said.
The men's race is two laps of the women's course and is about 1500 meters, making it one of the longer sprints on the tour. It is flat so it skis fairly fast and the course offers passing opportunities, which makes tactics a huge component of the race.
2009 VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Dusseldorf, Germany - Dec. 20, 2008
Men's Freestyle Sprint
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad, Norway
2. Tor Arne Hetland, Norway
3. Fabio Pasini, Italy
4. Josef Wenzl, Germany
5. Nicolay Morilov, Russia
11. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
- (Top 30 qualify)
40. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
Women's Freestyle Sprint
1. Petra Majdic, Slovenia
2. Natalia Mateeva, Russia
3. Maiken Caspersen Falla, Norway
4. Lina Andersson, Sweden
5. Ariana Follis, Italy
- (Top 30 qualify)
40. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage
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For complete results click here.