KUUSAMO, Finland (Nov. 28) - Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) started the 2010 World Cup sprint season in top form Saturday, finishing seventh in a classic event in Finland.
"It was an OK start to the season for sure. I'm disappointed to not be in the final, because that's always the goal, but I am in good shape," Newell said. "I think this gives a lot of confidence going into the sprints. It's probably one of my better classic sprint results in the last year, so it definitely feels like we're in the right spot."
Andy Newell sprints to seventh in Kuusamo. (Olivier Morin-AFP/Getty Images)
The men's classic sprint was won by Ola Vigen Hattestad of Norway, followed in second by fellow countryman Oeystein Pettersen and Russia's Nikita Kriukov in third. Aside from Newell, no U.S. men qualified for finals.
According to U.S. Cross Country Coach Chris Grover, while Newell was in great shape and poised to make the final heat of the sprint, a mistake on a climb kept him from reaching the top.
"He was in the lead for most of his semi final until the top of the last hill. It's probably one of the biggest climbs we have all year on the World Cup in terms of steepness," Grover said. "He and three guys came up and Newell had to make a lane change in order to get around and got on a track that was too slick. He lost a few kicks and he lost a few places at that very crucial point."
While he did see potential for a more, Grover was happy with the way Newell looked as he raced Saturday.
"I'm really pleased with how he finished because he said he felt really strong and it bodes well for the rest of the season," Grover said. "I think he's coming into the season aerobically stronger than he has been in a few years."
According to Newell, the fitness comes from a new style of fitness he had been working on this summer.
"The new way we've been training in the summer is to work on our fitness, so it worked out the way we had predicted," Newell said. "The qualification speed was down. I qualified 16th when I am typically top eight. And that's exactly what I wanted - slower qualifications and more fitness for the heat. So, it looks like that's working."
In the women's sprint Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk won, followed by Petra Majdic of Slovenia in second and Alena Prochazkova of Slovakia in third. No U.S. Women qualified for the final with Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) finishing 36th, two seconds from qualification.
"It was frustrating for Kikkan and Torin [Koos; Leavenworth, WA] who were both two seconds from qualifying. They both skied pretty well, they're both in good shape, but there were a couple small mistakes," Grover said.
But, according to Grover, hopes are high for Randall, who is known for her sprinting, to do well in Sunday's women's 10K classic.
"I think tomorrow for Kikkan she's going to come through. I wouldn't be surprised if she finished better in the distance race than she did today. She's in good shape," Grover said.
As for the men, Grover is looking to Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) to lead the charge.
"The athlete we'll really be looking to is Kris Freeman. He's finished as high as fifth place here in Kuusamo and he's in great shape. I think he's going to be one of the key athletes," Grover said.
Newell will also be starting the men's 15K, but is uncertain of what the likely outcome will be.
"This is my first year back training as a distance skier again. The past four years I've been really focused on sprinting," Newell said. "This summer was more training for distance and I don't know what to expect. I'm probably going to starting bib one because I probably have the worst points out of anyone starting the World Cup tomorrow."
Look for the U.S. men and women as they race in Sunday's World Cup before moving on to compete in Dusseldorf, Germany.
2010 Viessmann FIS Cross Country World Cup
Kuusamo, Finland - Nov. 28, 2009
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad, Norway
2. Oeystein Pettersen, Norway
3. Nikita Kriukov, Russia
4. John Kristian Dahl, Norway
5. Kalle Lassila, Finland
7 Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
48. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
59. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH
1. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland
2. Petra Majdic, Slovenia
3. Alena Prochazkova, Slovakia
4. Aino- Kaisa Saarinen, Finland
5. Evgenia Shapovalova, Russia
36. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK
62. Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT
79. Morgan Arritola, Ketchum, ID