OBERHOF, Germany (Jan. 2) – The U.S. Ski Team's Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) made a late charge to remain in 48th at the FIS Tour de Ski World Cup in Oberhof on Saturday.
Newell was in 56th at the halfway point of Saturday afternoon's 10K handicap start, but fought back to his starting spot. Norway's Petter Northug held onto his lead by a tenth of a second over Russia's Maxim Vylegzhanin. Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk won the women's race.
"He's actually had a decent start to this Tour de Ski," said U.S. Cross Country Coach Chris Grover. "He hasn't done a whole lot of distance racing, and these are some of his best distance races ever."
Of more importance to the sprint specialist than retaining his spot in the three-nation, eight-event, 10-day stage race are two upcoming shorties that could – thanks to a revision in policy for World Cup point standings – improve Newell's eighth-place World Cup sprint standing.
"I'm basically on the Tour to gain some sprint races, but also get some experience in distance racing," Newell said.
The 25-year-old Newell is skipping the ConocoPhillips U.S. Cross Country Championships in Anchorage, for the opportunity to gain ground in the World Cup standings, and will compete in just the first four stages of the Tour de Ski.
The first two done, his distance dues are paid. Now comes the fun part for Newell: a 1.6 K sprint Sunday.
"The first two races were definitely to get to the sprints," Grover said.
Newell has good reason to be confident. Finally over a cold he fought throughout the Christmas break while losing valuable training time, he's back to 100 percent.
"I'm feeling good now," Newell said. "I felt a lot better today than yesterday, and that's a good sign when you're racing back to back days."
That's good timing for Newell, who might be in his element Sunday.
"He skied really well in looser, rough conditions," Grover said, noting that days of rain made a layer or ice that has sat beneath fresh snow in the frigid conditions. "He's really efficient when the track is kind of poor."
The track should be roughed up tomorrow afternoon by the World Cup nordic combined race taking place beforehand.
"It depends on when they're grooming it," Newell said. "It could be soft. The conditions will be the same for everybody."
2010 Viessman FIS Tour de Ski
Oberhof, Germany – Jan. 2, 2010
Individual Distance – Pursuit
Men – 15K
1. Petter Northug, Norway, 39:45.8
2. Maxim Vylegzhanin, Russia, +0.1
3. Matti Heikkinen, Finland, +0.7
4. Lukas Bauer, Czech Republic, +2.4
5. Tobias Angerer, Germany, +3.0
48. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT, +1:52.8
Women – 10K
1. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 28:10.0
2. Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Finland, +2.8
3. Kristin Stoermer Steira, Norway, +5.7
4. Virpi Kuitunen, Finland, +13.2
5. Arianna Follis, Italy, +26.6