All 2012 FIS World Cup Finals coverage is brought to you through the generous support of Fischer Sports USA, proud sponsors of Kikkan Randall, 2012 overall Sprint Cup Champion.
FALUN, Sweden — For the second time this season, Andy Newell (USA) broke through the top 30 in a distance classic mass start. He was 24th in the 15 k classic in Rogla, Slovenia in December, and with the knowledge that it was possible on Saturday, he did it again in Sweden for the third stage of the World Cup Finals, skiing to 29th.
“It definitely helps once you do it, once you know you can be top 30 or top 20 in a mass start. That confidence definitely helps you,” said Newell following his race.
“They are so hard, the pace just pulses so much—it goes from really fast and then it will slow down, so you are never skiing your own pace.”
Even without being able to go his own pace, Newell said he felt comfortable skiing in the pack. His plan had been to start in a decent position, then stay relaxed and “not blow up” through the first time bonus, even if everyone else went for it.
The pack did accelerate through the bonus, but quickly came back together. As the race went on it strung out again, and Newell fought to hold onto 24th position or so as the leaders stretched further away.
“They just got away up the top of the Mördarbacken on the last lap and I wasn’t able to get back to them, which sucks,” said Newell. “I was really fighting for that 25th spot, but ended up 28th and lost a few seconds in the last kilometer.”
“That’s alright, it’s a long season.”
Newell’s personal best performance in Rogla came on a similar course: plenty of long striding and kick double pole.
“That is kind of where I do best at,” said Newell. “I’m not so great on the steep stuff like the Mördarbacken, but I’m starting to practice and get better at that.”
Newell currently ranks 21st in the World Cup Final mini-tour headed into the final event on Sunday, a 15 k freestyle pursuit.
The other American, Sylvan Ellefson (USA), had kept his name on the start list for the 15 k despite seriously injuring his ankle in a crash during Friday’s prologue, but on Saturday morning decided to skip the race.
* * *
Chandra Crawford led the Canadian women in the 10 k classic on Saturday, finishing 35th in her best distance race of the year.
“It was great,” said Crawford. “I was really charging.”
She described the pace as steadily fast, but Crawford didn’t let it bother her.
“I just tried to relax and witness the fitness as I slowly slide back,” she said. “I did not worry too much about my pace, I just tried to do the maximal pace I could sustain and breath a lot on the down hills to get ready for the next surge.”
In preparation for the final event of the Finals on Sunday, a 10 k freestyle pursuit for the women, Crawford’s goal is to not lose too many places—she currently sits in 33rd.
“I just try to strike a balance between realism and optimism here,” she said.
At this late point in the season, Crawford said her fitness is holding up well, thanks to an increase in training earlier this year and shutting everything down to taper for these final two weeks.
“Now I am just racing and resting and traveling,” she said. “So I don’t really know, I’m almost curious myself how it is going every day, I just strap [the skis] on and see what I can do.”
Dasha Gaiazova was the next Canadian woman across the line in 41st, and teammate Alysson Marshall did not finish.
Matthew Voisin contributed reporting.
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Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.