After Making Quarterfinals, North American Men Done In By Narrow Courses In Milan

Chelsea LittleJanuary 14, 2012
Lenny Valjas, Milan
Lenny Valjas, second from right, in a quarterfinal of the World Cup freestyle sprints in Milan, Italy, on Saturday. Valjas did not advance and finished 14th overall.

The narrow, winding sprint course through Milan’s Parco Sempione was not good to the North American men on Saturday.

While three of them made the heats, not a single one advanced to the semifinals, done in by the narrow course which left little room to maneuver.

Simi Hamilton (USA) races to a 19th place finish in the World Cup freestyle sprints in Milan, Italy, on Saturday.

“It was really tight from the gun and with such a monotonous course you’re not going to get a lot of shifting around,” said American Simi Hamilton, who finished 19th. “It was tough.”

Hamilton wound up fourth in his heat, just a half-second behind Teodor Petersen of Sweden, who went on to place third in the final. Hamilton was in it to the end, but was hurt by being in one of the more leisurely quarterfinals of the day; Petersen’s time was slower than that of the lucky losers, so the American didn’t have any chance of advancing unless he finished in the top two.

And that was difficult, he said.

“It’s super hard to pass, especially since every turn is a right-hand corner – if you’re not on that right side, you’re not getting best-line for anything,” he explained.

Hamilton found himself stuck on the left side, forced to take corners wide. Eventually, he decided that instead of expending valuable energy trying to pass his way to the front – something that clearly wasn’t going to happen – he would “ease off the pedal” and prepare himself for a surge at the end.

“I think that was smart,” he told FasterSkier. “I felt good in the last 200 meters and made a couple of moves coming into the finish.”

Hamilton thought that the only way he could have finished in the top two and gained an entry into the semis was to have snuck into the top two or three at the beginning of the heat.

“I maybe could have tried to be a little more aggressive and got into a better spot early on,” he said, sounding doubtful that he could have actually done so.

Andy Newell (USA), who was 26th in the World Cup freestyle sprints in Milan, Italy, on Saturday.

For Hamilton, who was sick for the beginning of the World Cup season, today’s effort was positive.

“Any day you’re putting on a bib is fun for sure,” he said. “I wish I was going to keep skiing some more, but the energy’s feeling good and I’m just psyched to be training and racing again.”

Teammate Andy Newell was able ski at the front of his heat, but was then cut out of the equation when he tangled skis with his competitors.

“I felt like I had second wrapped up, and somebody snagged my tip,” he told FasterSkier after his quarterfinal. “I got completely spun around, and then I think somebody else snagged my other tip. I don’t even know what happened. It was right when we were coming into the lanes.”

With no time to recover before the finish, Newell plummeted to last place in his heat and ended up 26th on the day. He was clearly frustrated with yet another race marred by bad luck – even though he thought he felt fast.

Len Valjas, Milan
Len Valjas (CAN), who finished 14th in the World Cup freestyle sprints in Milan, Italy, on Saturday.

“It would be nice to ski some heats and then be able to really tell how I feel,” he said.

Canada’s Lenny Valjas also appeared in the quarters. His strategy was to stay just wide of the leader and out of trouble, but he was unable to make it to the line quite fast enough in the finishing stretch. Valjas trailed Josef Wenzl and Eirik Brandsdal, who tied in the quarterfinal and faced off again in the final, by 0.3 seconds.

Though he was close to the front, Valjas’s time didn’t earn him lucky loser status, and his day ended with a 14th place ranking.

Still, it was part of a solid slew of finishes from the Canadians; he joined all three women in the heats, making the team four for four.

“Len had a great race,” teammate Chandra Crawford told FasterSkier. “He’s coming on strrrrrong.”

Men’s results

Chelsea Little

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