CANMORE, Alberta — A week after posting his best result in two years, Andy Newell followed up with an identical performance, placing 5th in the World Cup skate sprint at the Canmore Nordic Center.
Despite showing consistency, Newell was not willing to settle for a spot just off the podium.
“Last weekend, I was satisfied with 5th, not so much today,” Newell said. “I was really hoping for more.”
Newell has not skied well in Canmore sprints past, failing to make it out of the quarterfinals in three previous starts. But after a strong qualifying round where he placed 8th, Newell showed good form in the first round of heats.
He won that heat on the strength of good execution on the long descent into the homestretch and a powerful kick to the line. He was second in the semis, solidly clear of third to advance to his second sprint final in three starts this year.
In the finals he was in ideal position headed up over the top of the climb, sitting 4th, right behind eventual winner Emil Jönsson (SWE).
“I was stoked,” Newell said. “If you can just follow Emil into the lanes, he’s going to have a good slingshot too, just follow him, stick on his ass, that’s your ticket to the podium for sure.”
But it didn’t play out exactly that way.
“Some reason or another I just didn’t get enough speed around that corner maybe,” Newell explained.
He lost contact and was quickly four meters back, outside the slipstream. Anders Glöersen (NOR) came by fast, riding the draft, and Newell was left in no-man’s-land.
Coming in with few expectations based on his past performances in Canmore and his struggles on the final descent due to his smaller size, Newell ended up making a run for the podium.
“He had a strategy for each round and he really executed that strategy,” U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover told FasterSkier.
“Today felt great and the skis were running good, so after the first heat I was really focused,” Newell said. With his kick feeling good he knew he had a shot for the top 3.
And while he came up short, he is pleased with the indicators.
“The last few years I’ve felt like I’ve been a better classic sprinter, but it feels like my skating is coming around really good,” he said.
He was also happy to perform well in the flat twisty city sprint last weekend in Quebec City and then follow up with another result on the hillier terrain in Canmore.
“I’m feeling good about the fitness and the speed,” Newell said.
Grover points to an off-season of preparation that he terms “better than he ever has had before” as the reason for Newell’s recent success.
“He’s in good shape…today we saw really heads-up skiing,” Grover said.
Davis in the Points
Coming from the other end of the spectrum, the 20-year-old Davis cracked the World Cup top 30 for the first time in his young career.
He qualified in 20th despite contracting a cold on the way to Canmore.
With only twenty minutes on snow since Monday, Davis was not a candidate for a top result and after “feeling terrible” at breakfast, even starting was in question.
SMS T2 coach Gus Kaeding compared the event to the football playoffs, telling Davis “You have a sprained ankle, You can still go out there and do well.”
Davis rallied, and the stretching and treatment with team phsyios during the week paid dividends – his legs and body felt fresh.
He kept his warm-up quick — just 30 minutes — in order to conserve energy.
With a relatively short course, Davis focused on just need a minute-and-a-half out of his legs to get to the top of the climb.
“Got to the top of the hill, I had so much energy and speed,” he said. “I Knew it was good.”
Skiing in the first quarterfinal, Davis was slotted in second behind Russian Mikhail Devjatiarov headed around the corner into the final hill.
He lost contact over the top, just a small gap, but it was enough to end up outside the draft.
The rest of the pack came flying by, and when German Tim Tscharnke bumped Davis, the American was forced to come out of histuck, losing any chance to slip in behind.
“It was wild,” Davis said of the downhill. “In the qualifier you obviously don’t have any slingshot. I just wasn’t ready for how drastic it was.”
He ended up 5th in the heat, ahead of Renaud Jay of France, good enough for 24th on the day.
“Getting in the top-30 is a huge goal for the season. I wasn’t expecting to do it today, but more than happy about today,” Davis said.
— Alex Matthews contributed reporting.