DUSSELDORF, Germany (Oct. 29) – Sweden's men and Norway's women won the first cross country team sprint of the new World Cup season Sunday before a large and wildly cheering throng. No U.S. racers competed.
Olympic sprint champion Bjoern Lind and Peter Larsson took command late in the six-lap men's race, six times around a 1.5K course on machinemade snow along the Rhine River, and edged Norwegians Petter Northug and Tor Arne Hetland by 2.6 seconds. Marit Bjoergen, who won Saturday's women's sprint, and Ella Gjomle edged Sweden's Britta Norgren and Lina Andersson for the women's 6×800-meter victory before tens of thousands of enthusiastic spectators.
U.S. Sprint Coach Chris Grover said no Americans raced as they look to recover from colds. Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) was eighth Saturday in the men's 1.5K sprint – his third consecutive top-10 World Cup finish, the best string by a U.S. racer since Bill Koch in 1983 – but, along with teammates Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI), has been fighting sickness before the Americans' first time in the season-opening sprints.
“This has been a good learning lesson for us, and Andy had a great result, but now we want to get the guys 100 percent healthy for the rest of the season,” Grover said. The three will be joined by Olympic teammate Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) in Ramsau, Austria, this week for a mini-camp before heading to Sweden for the resumption of the World Cup schedule Nov. 18-19 in Gallivare.
Marit Bjoergen (NOR) celebrated her second victory this weekend. She reached the top podium place together with her team mate Ella Gjoemle, who finished third in yesterday's sprint competition, 3.7 seconds ahead of team from Sweden with Lina Andersson and Britta Norgren. The third place team was Finland with Virpi Kuitunen and Aino Kaisa Saarinen, 10.4 seconds behind the winner.
Marit attacked in the third to last lap in a way that the other couldn't follow. The team Bjoergen/Gjoemle won every time when they start together in a team sprint the race, except at the Olympic Games in Pragelato 2006.
The men's race was won by the team from Sweden with sprinters Bjoern Lind and Peter Larsson just 2.6 seconds ahead of a young Norwegian team of Eldar Roenning and Oystein Pettersen who took first and second place yesterday. On the third place team from Italy was Renato Pasini and Cristian Zorzi 4.3 seconds behind the winner. The entire mens race was very tight with several teams sharing the lead during the race. But at least the four-time winner of the Duesseldorf sprint race, Peter Larsson could attack successfully.
Weather: partly cloudy, +17 Â°C
Snow Conditions: spring conditions
For complete results:
Marit Bjoergen (NOR): â€œWell, it was a perfect victory for me. I'm happy that I started so good into the new cross-country season and I hope I could keep my good shape.
Britta Norgren (SWE): â€œIt was my second podium place in a team sprint beside last year at the dress rehearsal of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Sapporo. I felt pretty good during the race and such city sprints fits me very well.â€
Lina Andersson (SWE): â€œIt is very nice to race here in Duesseldorf – a lot of people and a very good atmosphere. For me it is a little bit to early in the season but it is good have comparison to the other athletes and could look how is the shape of them. Now we will go back to Sweden and train there on snow.”
Peter Larsson (SWE): â€œI'm happy about my today's race. It was a compensation for the sprint yesterday. At each race you get a new chance to win and I could use it today after the unlucky race yesterday.â€
Oystein Pettersen (NOR): â€œI didn't expect to be on the podium in Duesseldorf and then I could reach it twice. That was an amazing weekend for me. I hope I could be also on the podium at some other World Cup during this winter.â€
Cristian Zorzi (ITA): â€œDuesseldorf is very good place for the World Cup Opening. This event is like an “Apres Ski Party” with a lots of fun. For me is sure that when I have quit my career as an athlete I will come back to this place and celebrate with the people the Cross-Country World Cup.”
Tobias Angerer (GER): ” In the team sprint you have to fight with the elbows. My goal was it today to reach the podium, but at least I couldn't pass the others. The conditions here in Duesseldorf were perfect and such a successful start was unexpected from me.”
Sources: USSA, FIS