Americans Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton were both left wanting more after being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the freestyle sprint in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.
Newell qualified in second before finishing seventeenth on the day, while Hamilton, racing his first sprint since his Tour de Ski stage victory, placed twentieth.
“I’m really frustrated with today,” Newell wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “I was feeling great, and I think the conditions and course were perfect for me to have a go in the final.”
In the quarters, he got off the line quickly after a false start brought the six men back to the line.
He led through the first part of the course, and into the long climb, putting in a short burst over the top and around a hairpin turn into the descent.
“I did a little acceleration over the top of the steep hill just so I could hold my position better on the downhill,” Newell wrote. [I’m] not the biggest guy out there so I have to do things like that. It worked pretty well, and I was in great position going up the final climb.”
He was still in good position dropping down to the stadium, but according to U.S. Ski Team Head Coach, Chris Grover, a tactical error cost him the chance to move on.
On the final corner, Newell stayed in behind Teodor Petersen of Sweden, instead of stepping wide, and using the draft to move by.
“He just made one bad move … staying behind Teodor Petterson instead of jumping out to the left and basically blocking the guys that were slingshotting around,” Grover explained. “He should have been taking that line and slingshotting it.”
Newell concurred, writing that he rode up on Peterson, and lost momentum over the final rise before the homestretch.
“My energy was good in the finish, just not a great execution, which makes it tough,” he concluded.
Hamilton’s day did not start with the same vigor as Newell’s, but ended in similar fashion — one and done in the heats.
He qualified in 25th, not feeling great.
“I felt so-so during qualification,” Hamilton wrote in an email. “Not great but not terrible either. My legs were a little tired for some reason entering the day, and I didn’t feel 100% comfortable on the snow which was squirrely in some places and soft in others. Still, I think my ability to adapt my technique to different kinds of conditions is improving, and I’m excited about that.”
Hamilton won his first ever World Cup race – albeit a Tour de Ski stage – just over a week ago, capturing the top spot in something of an upset in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
There would be no repeat of that magical day in this race.
Hamilton was pushed around early in a physical heat, and when he tried to make a move on the long climb, he said he “had the door closed on me immediately, and just couldn’t get to the front on the extremely tight course.”
He stayed with the pack, but was not able to get in position for a run at the line.
“I’m certainly not totally thrilled about how today turned out, but I prepared myself mentally after Lenzerheide, and I understand that not every day is going to be perfect,” Hamilton wrote. “At this level, the difference between being totally on top of your game and having a great day and being outside of the points is pretty darn small, so I’m happy to have been in the mix today.”
Newell and Hamilton ended the day ranked 15th and 19th respectively in the Sprint Cup. Newell, as usual, has scored World Cup points in every sprint this year, though he has yet to reach the finals.
Hamilton has points in four of six sprints.
The only other American to race was Brian Gregg, fresh over from the U.S., who finished 87th of 88 skiers.
— Matt Voisin contributed reporting
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.