Rogla, Slovenia – Andy Newell (USA) had his best day of the 2010 season, ripping through the qualifier and skiing to his first Finals appearance since last year. Despite fading in the homestretch, Newell ended up in 6th. Petter Northug (NOR) cemented his place as the man to beat in any discipline, taking the victory ahead of Thobias Angerer (GER).
Newell won the qualifier by an impressive 2 seconds over Nikolay Chebotko (RUS), in a time of 3:49.69, making this the longest sprint of the season. The long challenging course, at altitude, with cold blowing snow – Rogla is near the FIS maximum elevation – combined for the an extremely hard sprint competition.
But Newell was not fazed. “Sprint course was long but I felt fine competing in that length of sprint. I was actually surprised to win the qualification because I didn’t feel like I was moving that fast.”
In the heats, Newell dominated his quarterfinal, opening up a large gp and cruising across the line.
“Coming into the stadium in the quarterfinal, he had a 30 meter lead, and just shut it down,” said USST coach Justin Wadsworth. “After qualification and the first round I was pretty sure he was going to finish in the top-3.”
Unfortunately Newell ran into a bit of trouble in his semifinal, getting tripped up on a hill, and sliding back in the pack. “He had to work a bit harder and moved through as a lucky loser,” said Wadsworth.
The long course created an opportunity for distance skiers to challenge the sprinters, especially as the day wore on.
“It was a pretty long sprint, so those guys [distance skiers] were getting stronger and stronger as the heats went on. They were pushing the pace in the last heat,” observed Wadsworth.
Newell was in contact until the last 200 meters of the final, before falling off the pace. According to Wadsworth, he “got really lactated. He was close to third going up the last hill, but just didn’t have enough left.”
“I dropped the plow pretty good,” agreed Newell. “The pack stayed together as we skied over the last hill. But Northug and Tobi and those guys had a little more pop.”
Despite the late fade, both Newell and Wadsworth were pleased.
“First final and best result this year for him, so overall a good day,” concluded Wadsworth.
And Newell? “I’m positive about the way things are going. To be 6th and 7th in both classic sprints this year has been great practice for the Olympics. I think with a little fine tuning I’ll be able to give it a better go for the podium by February.”
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.