DUSSELDORF, Germany (Oct. 27) - An ailing but determined three-man U.S. sprint squad, battling chest and head colds, will race in the opening World Cup competition of the 2007 season. Organizers began laying down machine made snow Friday over an 800-meter course alongside the Rhine River.
Two-time Olympian Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and two of his '06 teammates,
Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) - who produced the first U.S. podium in 23 years
last March when he was third in a sprint in China - and Chris Cook (Rhinelander,
WI) will race Saturday in the 1K sprint. Plans for the two-man team sprint
Sunday were indefinite.
The men will have a 1.5K freestyle sprint, twice around the 800-meter track while the women will have one loop, an 800-meter sprint.
"We're all gonna race. We're gonna go," Koos said Friday after a visit to the course as work crews began laying down the snow, which was brought in from a local hockey rink. The three athletes plus Coach Chris Grover and Sports Science staffer Sue Robson arrived Thursday night from a training camp in Torsby, Sweden. Unseasonably warm temperatures in central Europe have forced organizers to delay until the last minute in setting the course, lest much of the snow melt and conditions soften before the races.
"It's all upper respiratory stuff, so we don't feel there will be any long-term problem if we race...and we've come this far," Koos said. "I got hit Monday or Tuesday, Newell got it earlier and now Cook, the only one who hadn't been sick, is starting. It's been working its way through the whole team, including Grover and Sue."
This will be the first time the U.S. Ski Team has competed in the Dusseldorf sprints, which began in October 2002, advancing the traditional late-November starting races. Until now, it didn't make sense to interrupt the final preseason training stage to come to Europe, race, return to North America and then resume training and start the SuperTour in Alaska or West Yellowstone, MT. Now, though, with the Ski Team planning to spend much of the season in Europe, Dusseldorf was an appealing option.
The sprinters, who have been training in a ski tunnel in Torsby, will head to the Dachstein Glacier above Ramsau, Austria, after this weekend for a brief training camp. Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) will join them in Ramsau while Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) will join them when they return to Sweden to prepare for the start of continuous racing.
Gallivare, Sweden, is the second stop on the World Cup schedule Nov. 18-19 and Kuusamo, Finland, will have the second sprint Nov. 25-26.