MORA, Sweden (Oct. 22) – Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), who ended a two-decade World Cup podium drought for U.S. skiers in 2006, showed Sunday he was ready for the upcoming World Cup season by dominating the final loop to capture Mora's annual Oktobersprint despite sluggish, slow snow conditions.
Teammate Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) led the quarterfinal and semifinal heats of the classic technique race, but Newell took charge on the final uphill and breezed to victory over the last few hundred meters; Koos finished fourth. It was a 1,200-meter course over snow which had been stockpiled last winter and then covered with wood chips to preserve it through the summer.
The sprint was a final tuneup for the World Cup season, which begins Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany. Newell and Koos, who each has produced a World Cup top-3 result in the last two seasons, will be the U.S. entries. They have been training in a ski tunnel in nearby Torsby, an indoor facility where special refrigeration pipes provide weatherproof, near-winter conditions.
“The training's gone very well and, perhaps just as important, the guys have stayed healthy,” U.S. Sprint Coach Chris Grover said Monday. “This was a cool event, especially with snow from last season. The guys had poor start positions for the prologue [i.e., the time trial which determined the final 16 skiers in the round of heats], but they powered through to qualify.”
Koos was unstoppable in the first two rounds, leading both his quarterfinal and semifinal heats, with Newell second in each of his heats. “Torin ran out of gas in the A Final but that was when Andy stepped up and skied away from everyone on the final uphill,” added Grover. Newell double-poled to the finish over the last 250-300 meters. The field had several quality sprinters including World Cup podium finishers Fredrik and Mikael Oestberg, and Anders Hoegberg.
Rain the night before and 50-degree weather created sloppy conditions, but the Mora organizers did an outstanding job in staging the sprints. The U.S. Ski Team looked at it as a hard training day, and a chance to get a real good workout before Dusseldorf.
The U.S. athletes leave at midweek for Germany with the individual sprint Saturday and a team sprint, with each of the two skiers alternating loops, on Sunday. The season-opening races are among the highlights of the World Cup, attracting crowds well in excess of 100,000 each day, according to organizers, to get the schedule off to a high-energy start for the winter.