OTEPAEAE, Estonia (Jan. 28) – Two-time Olympian Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) finished third and Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, WA) fourth Saturday – the best U.S. men's World Cup finish since 1983 – in a 1.2K classic technique sprint won by Norway's Jens Arne Svartedal.
In 20-degree, overcast weather with occasional wind gusts, Svartedal edged Russian Vasilli Rotchev by a half-second with Koos another stride back. Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI) was 14th while World Cup leader Virpi Kuitunen of Finland won the women's 1K CL race and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) was 40th.
“It's been a long time coming, but it sure feels good when it comes,” said Koos, who finished 12th in his first World Cup race at Soldier Hollow, UT, in 2001 while still a student at the University of Utah.
He said a crash early in the final six-man heat – with Norwegian Simen Oestensen and Emil Joensson of Sweden – meant an early breakway for the other four.
Koos avoided train wreck at the start
“There was a crash in the first coupla hundred meters, and it took out [Oestensen and Joensson]. They kinda fell into me but I was able to avoid it and then it was a four-way big fight the rest of the race,” Koos said. In the final 200 meters, skiers must choose a lane for their final dash to the finish and may not jump into an adjoining lane unless they're behind someone and need to pass.
As Koos led toward the finish, Rotchev “came up on my inside and was trying to push me, and I could have cut him off and taken him out of the course because I had the lead,” Koos said, “but it would have been risky. I gave him a little ground.”
On the final uphill into the final few hundred meters, “I was hanging behind Svartedal. I had good skis and I could have passed him at the top and then chosen a faster lane. Some of them were filling with [blowing] snow. I would've liked to take my chance. I'd have liked to lead on the downhill, but people suck off you and then come blowing by you,” Koos said, “and that's what happened to me last week [when he was 19th in Rybinsk, Russia], so you live and learn…
“I'm just happy I was gonna start,” he said. He was hit with a hip problem at midweek and it was painful to walk, but after some physical therapy with a local therapist, Koos was cleared to race. “Things came together nicely.”
Newell, who was second in the qualifying time trial, also had to overcome a medical speed bump at midweek when he was hit with symptoms of a nose and throat cold. “I felt great, considering two days ago I didn't know if I'd race,” he said.
Rotchev also was a problem in the final stretch because Newell was unsure about trying to top slingshot around him to pick a different finish lane. “I just didn't have quite enough [energy] and didn't choose a good lane. I should have stuck behind Rotchev because there was a big headwind…
“I chose a lane and tried to go for it, but I didn't quite have it,” he said. “This is one of the longest courses we'll see – a lot of climbing but not a lot of steep, a lot of striding and kick-double-pole…a lot of classic” technique.
Head coach savors sprinters' progression
Said Head Coach Pete Vordenberg, “Right off, we qualified 2-12-14, so that was a good indication we had some good racers…and from the start of the day to the finish, everybody was right there. It's easy to see the progression: our goal five years ago was to try to qualify [i.e., top 30 in the time trial, or prologue], and then when we started qualifying we wanted to make it through the heats, and make it through with the same power at the end as at the start. Do that and it's all about winning.”
“We had great skis today,” said Chris Grover, sprint head coach. “The wax guys hit a home run with the skis. Torin and Andy and Chris all skied in control. We benefited from a couple of crashes in the final and in Andy's and Chris' quarterfinal…but we benefited because those guys were ready and didn't let them take 'em down. And there was a great crowd and as the sun came out at the end, it made for a great atmosphere. This was a fun day.”
Cook was third in his quarterfinal (top two advance) and missed being a “lucky loser” to advance, and Randall “felt like she never got going, never quite got in the right mode, so it was disappointing for both Chris and Kikkan…but we know they're 'there' and it demonstrates how on any day they all have the ability to reach the podium, to be up there with the leaders.”
Newell up to fifth in sprint standings
After two decades without a podium, Koos registered the third U.S. World Cup podium in 10 months. Following the Olympics last season, Newell was third in a freestyle (skating) sprint in China while Randall finished third a week ago in a freestyle sprint in Rybinsk, Russia – the best U.S. woman's result in a World Cup race since the World Cup began with the 1982 season. In three of the last five World Cup sprints, an American has produced a top-3 finish.
In March 1983, Tim Caldwell was second to the great Gunde Svan of Sweden in a 15K race in Anchorage, AK, with Bill Koch third. The previous year, Koch won a 30K race in Falun, Sweden, with Dan Simoneau second. This current grouping of Newell, Koos and Randall is only the second time the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team has had three skiers reach the podium; Newell ranks No. 5 in the current World Cup sprint points.
The World Cup heads next to Davos, Switzerland, for a freestyle races Saturday (men's 15K, women's 10K) and relays on Sunday. The Ski Team will then head to Sapporo, Japan, for a training camp and adjustment before the World Championships open Feb. 22.
See video clips from today's races here: http://etvsport.ee/index.php?0534231
VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY WORLD CUP
Otepaeae, EST – Jan. 29, 2007
Men's 1.2K Classic Sprint (6 in final heat)
1. Jens Arne Svartedal, Norway
2. Vasilli Rotchev, Russia
3. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
4. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
5. Simen Oestensen, Norway
14. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI
Women's 1K CL Sprint
1. Virpi Kuitunen, Finland
2. Astrid Jacobsen, Norway
3. Evgenia Shapovalova, Russia
4. Natalia Matveeva, Russia
5. Lina Andersson, Sweden
40. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK
For complete results: