RYBINSK, Russia (Jan.31) - Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) found his form in Saturday's individual sprint, finishing fifth. It's the best result in the individual sprint for Newell so far this season. Italian Renato Pasini won.
In the women's race it was Pirjo Muranen of Finland who took the win in front of a hearty crowd of Russian fans, who stood unphased in zero-degree weather. World Cup leader Petra Majdic of Slovenia didn't make the finals though she'll maintain the women's discipline lead as she's won every other sprint this season.
"Andy skied as well as he possibly could today," Head Cross Country Coach Peter Vordenberg said. "He skied the final really well and fifth was it for the day."
Newell's career best result in World Cup is a second place finish to end the 2008 season and he has a total seven top-five finishes. Coming off a strong seventh place in Vancouver and a fourth in team sprinting at the Olympic venue, Newell continues to gain momentum approaching Worlds.
"It felt good to make the final. I was due to make it. I've run into some bad luck this season," Newell said. "In the final I went for it and actually pulled into the lead at one point, but then the wheels cam came off a little. For a minute I thought I was going to get the win."
Newell was climbing well in the individual sprint, then started to lose just enough steam to get passed.
"It was a little bit of a tactical error," he said. "The sprint is pretty quick, about two and a half minutes. There's one big old climb in there and a lot of it comes down to that."
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), who won the sprint in Rybinsk last year to become the first U.S. woman to win a modern day World Cup, was eliminated in the first round after a small tactical error on the hilly course.
"Kikkan was definitely stronger than her result today showed," Head Cross Country Coach Peter Vordenberg said. "It was good to see her skiing so strong."
Randall said the error came on the same steep uphill where she made a similar move last year to win.
"I got off to a good start. In the middle section people started moving and I tried to set myself up for the big uphill and moved to the outside," Randall explained. "I was climbing really well and had another gear."
As Randall came over the top and headed downhill she moved in behind three other competitors to draft and then slingshot herself ahead for the final push to the finish.
"I got going too fast though and had move out sooner than I wanted to," she said.
In the outside lane the snow was not as skied on, making it slow.
"I just lost speed and couldn't get around. The finish line came too quick," Randall said. "It's definitely a little disappointing, but it was a split second decision. Maybe I could have made a move earlier, but I've been coming on strong second half of the season. I'm happy that everything is there."
Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) qualified for the finals 18th but was eliminated early.
2009 VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Rybinsk, Russia - Jan. 31, 2009
1. Renato Pasini, Italy
2. Alexei Petukhov, Russia
3. Anton Gafarov, Russia
4. Franz Goering, Germany
5. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
17. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
1. Pirjo Muranen, Finland
2. Arianna Follis, Italy
3. Magda Genuin, Italy
4. Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Finland
5. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland
16. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage