OBERHOF, Germany (Dec.31) - The U.S. Ski Team’s Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) led the USA in front of a crowd of an estimated 2,000 cheering spectators as the FIS Tour de Ski got underway Friday with the prologue in Oberhof. Newell skied a strong lap to take 14th, with Randall in 16th on her birthday.
The women’s 2.8k race was taken by Poland’s defending champion, Justyna Kowalczyk in 6:39.0 with 2008 Tour de Ski champion Charlotte Kalla of Sweden was second 1.5 seconds back, as rain followed by light snow fell.
Following the event three-time U.S. Olympian Randall said she was pleased by her race. "It’s my best prologue to date and a great way to kick things off. Today was my birthday so I got a sweet surprise when they played the techno Happy Birthday song in the finish zone," she said. "I really did feel pretty good out there, and was able to lay down a really solid and hard effort. I felt that I didn’t quite have my full pop in the climbs or the finish stretch but overall I am pleased with the result. I am still hoping to feel better as I go on in the Tour."
The men’s battle was claimed by Marcus Hellner of Sweden who was in third for much of the race before taking care of business by killing the second half of the loop to win by two seconds over Russian Alexei Petukhov. Petter Northug of Norway was third, 2.9 seconds back. As the race progressed some of the climbs became sugary, slowing the tempo for some. Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) was in 55th in the 3.7k free technique event.
"This is my best start to the Tour and my best prologue finish ever," said Newell after leading the USA charge with 14th. "And I guess it's the first time I'm able to score world cup points out of sprinting. I'm feeling good. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and am going to try not to lose sight of the leaders and lose too much time. Then I'll be in good shape to take advantage of the first sprint."
This marks the first time that U.S. Ski Team athletes will take part in the entire Tour de Ski, which features eight days of racing within a 10 day period at five venues in two nations.
The next stage of the fifth annual Tour de Ski will find the athletes skiing in Oberhof for one more day for the women’s 10k and the men’s 15k pursuits. Oberhof lies within the heart of the Thuringian Forest and has been a winter sports Mecca for years.
Both leaders will wear the coveted Tour de Ski red bib in Saturday’s event.
Tour de Ski
December 31, 2010
Men’s 3.7k Results
1. Marcus Hellner, Sweden, 7:34.5
2. Alexei Petukhov, Russia, 7:36.5
3. Petter Northug, Norway, 7:37.4
4. Alexander Legkov, Russia, 7:39.3
5. Loris Frasnelli, Italy, 7:39.6
14. Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), 7:46.2
55. Kris Freeman, (Andover, NH), 8:00.8
Women’s 2.8 k Free Technique
1. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 6:39.0
2. Charlotte Kalla, Sweden, 6:40.5
3. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, Norway, 6:43.8
4. Riitta-Liisa Roponen, Finland, 6:44.7
5. Yulia Tchekaleva, Russia, 6:46.2
16. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, 6:52.3, 8:00.8