WHISTLER OLYMPIC PARK, BC (Feb. 24) – Norway's Petter Northug gained more than 22 seconds on Swedish leader Marcus Hellner to pull his team from sixth to silver on an exciting final leg of Wednesday's 4x10K classic/free relay. Hellner hung on for a comfortable gold, while the U.S. Team led by Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) finished 13th.
"It's been a while since I've done a distance race," Newell said. "In a relay, you want to ski with a pack and keep contact with the pack. For me, that means not skiing your own pace. I feel like I could get around 10K faster if I skied my own pace, but I had to try to hang with the pack and I ended up losing some time in the last 2K, but I tried to fight hard."
Still, Newell stayed within 42 seconds of the leaders on his classic leg, then fellow sprint specialist Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) took over for his first distance race in two months.
"Today was a real tough day for me," Koos said. "I didn't start too hard, but it just started to progressively get on me. I just couldn't get going. And when I tried to get going, I just really hurt myself. It was frustrating for not only me but my teammates."
Garrott Kuzzy (Minneapolis) and Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) raced the free legs, working with the Estonian team to gain time on the field. Hamilton made a late pass to put the U.S. ahead into 13th.
"I was just trying to draft as much as possible and then threw the hammer down," he said."
Kuzzy said he was happy with the way he skied and the team's overall effort.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I thought we had a good team going into it. A lot of sprinters, but I think everyone stepped up to the plate and gave it our best."
Sunday's 50K mass start classic race concludes the cross country schedule for the men's squad. The race begins at 9:30 a.m. PT.
2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Whistler Olympic Park, BC (Feb. 24)
Men's 4x10K Relay Classic/Free
Gold – Sweden, 1:45:05.4
Silver – Norway, +15.4
Bronze – Czech Republic, +16.5
4. France, +20.9
5. Finland, +24.9
13. United States, +6:22.3