While both Kikkan Randall and Andy Newell are currently in Craftsbury, Vt., for SuperTour Finals, just a few days ago they were mixing it up in the skier-cross style event that is Red Bull NordiX, in Oslo, Norway.
Randall and Newell stayed on in Europe at the conclusion of World Cup Finals just over a week ago to take part in several additional events, wrapping up with the first Red Bull NordiX to be held in Norway.
The race is modeled on skier-cross, the alpine sport that combines sprint-type head-to-head heat racing with jumps and technical corners and descents.
Randall, who just missed out on the podium at the end of the day after placing fourth behind winner Ludmila Horká (CZE) and Swiss World Cup skiers Bettina Gruber and Laurien Van der Graaff, described the day as an “awesome experience.”
“Now all I want to do is go fast and fly off jumps!!” she wrote in an email to FasterSkier.
The course, at the Holmenkollen Ski Stadium, site of the 2011 World Championships, was short, taking just over a minute and included just a single brief climb according to Randall.
“You were definitely out of breath when you finished but mostly from holding your breath to navigate the turns and jumps I think,” Randall wrote.
Randall and Van der Graaff were by far the biggest names in the women’s race, while the men’s field featured the likes of Petter Northug, Eirik Brandsdal, Robin Bryntesson, Marcus Hellner, Oystein Pettersen, and Andrew Musgrave in addition to Newell.
The first day featured qualification, which Newell said was a good time—lots of spectators, warm temperatures and sun.
Due to the lack of snow, he said that the jumps and terrain features were “ok,” but nothing “was very huge.”
According to Newell, some competitors took the event more seriously than others, decked out in full race attire, and absorbing the jumps to minimize the risk of falling.
Known for his acrobatic ability on skis, Newell could not resist the opportunity to add to the festive atmosphere.
“It’s hard for me to not put on a show for the fans,” Newell said. “So I was trying to go for some big airs and 360’s.”
Qualification whittled the men’s field down to “only” 48 skiers, setting up a large number of heats the following day.
With so many early heats and television coverage not slated to start until later in the afternoon, organizers approached four of the top skiers, including Newell, Hellner, and Northug, and told them to skip the first round, advancing directly to the semis.
In theory the bye could have been nice, but Newell said in reality that was not the case.
The four men jumped into the semis against skiers who had already raced the course several times on the day, and with the loop closed, there was no opportunity for a preview.
This was surmountable Newell said, but due to a breakdown in communication, Newell and company were relegated to last lane choice for their heats.
The narrow track made passing difficult, if not impossible.
“The start was critical to get the best position going into the hard turn of the second gate,” Randall said. “The main uphill was unfortunately too narrow for any real passing to occur, so it really depended on getting to the front early.”
Coming up from the back was not going to happen unless someone fell, Newell said.
He and Northug failed to advance, and Hellner moved on only when the rest of his heat crashed.
“It was kind of crazy,” Newell said. “But it was still a really fun event. And since we got eliminated, me, Northug, and a biathlete got to take some sweet show runs in between the heats and boost some big airs for the crowd.”
If he gets another shot, Newell said he would like to ski the heats from the start and have a shot to advance to the final and fight for the $8,000 of prize money.
Only the top-3 earned cash, so Randall in fourth went home empty handed, but said it was “still definitely worth the experience.”
Ånund Lid Byggland (NOR) won the men’s event over Philip Furrer (SUI) and Markus Svelander (SWE).
The 21-year-old Byggland, a student and aspiring World Cup skier, said he would find the prize money handy as he recently crashed his car.
He has two World Cup starts to his name—racing the Drammen city sprint both this year and last, placing 36th most recently.
“This was the goal when we decided to have Red Bull NordiX in Oslo,” said Northug who was involved in bringing the event to Norway. “Top athletes, a good course, and a happy audience enjoying themselves in the sun, not to mention a Norwegian winner.”
Northug may have been eliminated early, but he did post the longest jump of 21.5 meters in a show round.
American Torin Koos, who spent the second half of the winter in Norway also competed.
Top 8 Men:
1 Ånund Lid Byggland NOR
2 Philip Furrer SUI
3 Markus Svelander SWE
4 Adam Johansson SWE
5 Daniel Mesotitisch AUT
6 Petter Reistad NOR
7 Marcus Hellner SWE
8 Robin Bryntesson SWE
Top 8 Women:
1 Ludmila Horká CZE
2 Bettina Gruber SUI
3 Laurien Van Der Graaff SUI
4 Kikkan Randall USA
5 Anine Ahlsand NOR
6 Barbro Kvåle NOR
7 Anikken Alnæs NOR
8 Amalie Ous NOR
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.