US Enjoying First Tour de Ski

Topher SabotJanuary 3, 2010
Newell ready to start the seminfinals in the Tour de Ski classic sprint
Newell ready to start the seminfinals in the Tour de Ski classic sprint

Andy Newell is the first American to ever race in the Tour de Ski.  Through the first three events he has had an up and down time of it.

Newell has only one more race in the Tour – tomorrow’s skate sprint in Prague.  He will then withdraw from the Tour and focus on training for several weeks.

In the first event, the 3.7km prologue, Newell finished 48th.  He was in 25th at the 1.5km mark before fading.

“The prologue was brutal,” Newell told FasterSkier. “It’s such a tough distance to race…. Definitely not a sprint. It almost felt like an 8 minute vo2 max treadmill test or something. There was a lot of climbing in really soft conditions. I was hoping to make the top 30 so I wasn’t too happy with the race. I tried to pace it as best as I could but still lost something like 10 seconds in the last 500 meters.  The times were packed in tight. 5 seconds could have put me up 18 places and into the points.”

In yesterday’s 15km pursuit, Newell started 36 seconds down on the leaders in a tight field.

“I thought the 15 was a little bit of a better race for me and I felt stronger than in the prologue. It was still a tough race though. It’s almost like starting a mass start 15K but I had to start 36 seconds behind the leaders. So it felt like we were trying to play catch up the whole time, which is funny because the last thing I need is to start with a 30 second disadvantage when I’m trying race the best distance skiers in the world.  I still had a ton of people to ski with so that made it fun.”

The race left Newell in 48th overall heading into today’s classic sprint – an event that has helped hom to 15th in the voerall World Cup standings.

Newell qualified in 16th, and advanced to the semifinals as a Lucky Loser, before getting eliminated in a tough hear.

“I felt really tired in the morning and had a hard time working up the energy to have a fast qualification. But as I got into the rounds I started to feel better.  It has been snowing a bunch and they re groomed the track right before the race so the conditions were a little soft but it was ok.”

In the semifinal, Newell sat toward the back, before moving up in the second half.  He was in position to make a move, but was unable to get into the top-two.

“Since I was a lucky loser I had last lane choice. So when that happens you get kind of stuck in the back a little.  My plan was to try to chill a little bit and work my way up gradually and try to make it to the front by the last hill. I didn’t quite have an open track for the final hill so that was a mistake.  It forced me into the finish lanes behind people. I got in behind Northug because he was in the fastest track and I thought he was going to give her…”

But Northug didn’t have his usual kick.

Overall, the Tour hasn’t been that different form a normal World Cup.”

“It’s all the same racers and all the same top guys,” said Newell.   “What makes it cool is that we’re all racing some types of races that we’re not used to.”

Rest is key with four races in the first four days.  Focus on the warmdown and immediate recovery is key, and a nightly ice bath is on the schedule.

US Ski Team coah Chris Grover has been pleased with Newell’s performance thus far, saying, “I am very satisfied with Andy’s performance in the Tour so far.  He has had many career-best distance already this season and of course three top-7 sprint finishes.  Even after 2 stages of the Tour (in which distance world cup points were awarded to the top-30) Andy still sits in 15th in the overall world cup.  Now he has a chance to improve upon that standing in today’s classic sprint and tomorrow’s skate sprint.  He has emerged this season as an all-around contender.”

Grover has also been enjoying the Tour.  “It is fun to be racing in a different format where each day’s results build on the previous day’s racing.  I am already looking forward to being here with a bigger team next year and racing the entire Tour.  I know Andy is already looking forward to doing the whole Tour as well.”

Another interesting aspect of the TOur is that anything can happen.

Observes Grover “What I am noticing is that to some extent anything is possible in these races.  Due to the nature of a multi-day event, strange things can happen.  Sprinters can do well in distance races while distance racers perform poorly, and distance skiers have historically done well in the sprints here as well.  Andy has beaten some very good distance racers in the past two days.  It just depends on who is in top shape and who is recoverying effectively from the previous day’s racing.”

Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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