U.S. Ski Team sprinters Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) and Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) will be on the start line when the 2008 FIS Cross Country World Cup season opens in front of over 100,000 spectators in Dusseldorf. The series begins Saturday on a 1.5K track of machine-made snow in a showcase event alongside the Rhine.
“It should be an exciting weekend. The guys are healthy and they're ready to roll,” U.S. Sprint Coach Chris Grover reported. An individual, freestyle technique race will be featured Saturday and a team sprint – two athletes trading laps until they each complete three rounds – will close the weekend Sunday.
Each of the Americans has a World Cup podium to his credit. Newell finished third in the first World Cup race in China following the 2006 Olympics, and Koos was third last January in Estonia. They finalized training and equipment testing in a ski tunnel in Torsby, Sweden, before heading to Germany at midweek. In his last tuneup, Newell won a sprint race in Mora, Sweden, Sunday against a high-quality field including several top Swedish sprinters; Koos was fourth.
“It was good to have a quality competition like that before Dusseldorf. They have a good feel for where they are, and they're excited about starting the season. The crowds along the river are huge every year and that always adds to the excitement,” Grover said.
Machine-made snow is trucked in, generally from a skating arena on the outskirts of Dusseldorf, and laid down in a 1.5K loop in the city's historic Old Town. Tens of thousands flock to the site to give the schedule a high-energy start atmosphere for the opening races.
Koos and Newell flew to Sweden from a mini-training camp in early October in Lake Placid, NY, and had plenty of time to rest and remain healthy. “Last year we were all sick on opening weekend and the Team has learned from our experience. I think we've dodged some bullets and the guys have stayed healthy while other teams are having that first little cold of the season,” the coach said. “Andy and Torin are in good health, which, of course, always is a key to success.”
After the opening weekend, the World Cup schedule takes a break until resuming Nov. 24-25 in Beitostolen, Norway. The World Cup season returns to North America Jan. 22-26 with races in Canmore, Alberta – the 1988 Olympic site.