Tuesday’s freestyle sprint cannot come soon enough for the American men, who had a difficult race in Sunday’s 15 k classic pursuit in Oberstdorf, Germany, the second stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski.
Erik Bjornsen finished in 60th and was the top American, 3:07.3 behind winner Petter Northug of Norway, who narrowly edged out Canada’s Alex Harvey during the final double-pole straightaway. Simi Hamilton – who earned the first distance points of his career during Saturday’s prologue – finished a place behind Bjornsen in 61st (+3:14.6). Andy Newell was 8:05.8 behind Northug, 88th of 88 finishers.
Bjornsen had a solid start and was 34th after the first 1.9 k, but fell behind as the race progressed. He wrote in an email that he was disappointed about Sunday’s result.
“I had a great start and was feeling really good but lost momentum on the third [of six laps] and just went backwards from there,” the 23-year-old wrote. He explained that he believes he picked the incorrect skis for the conditions, as he began with a strong kick but lost it halfway through the race.
Meanwhile, Hamilton said the conditions on Sunday were especially challenging. He explained over the phone that a significant amount of rain fell in Oberstdorf following Saturday’s prologue, leaving the course with an unpredictable combination of soft, dirty, and icy snow conditions.
“I generally ski classic better in more straightforward conditions,” the 27-year-old said.
Like Bjornsen, Hamilton had a decent start but faded as the race continued. He was 37th after the first 1.9 k but had fallen back to 51st after 6.9 k.
“My body never really felt snappy, but I still think it was a good effort. I focused on skiing each lap relaxed and just putting in a long consistent effort,” he explained.
Hamilton said in addition to the difficult conditions, it was also a tough course, with numerous climbs and “not a ton of recovery in-between the climbs.” He explained that the skiers who did well were especially efficient on long double poles, which is something he is working on improving.
Newell was disappointed after what he wrote was a difficult few days in Oberstdorf. Sunday’s results followed an 82nd place finish on Saturday, when, as he explained over email, he felt “extremely bad” and could not get his legs going – “I’m usually in the top 30 in that event,” he wrote.
On Sunday, Newell’s finish was the result of his body not feeling well – he explained that he has been dealing with health and allergy issues for the last month – and a bad crash where he actually broke his poles.
“It was basically just a mess,” the 31-year-old wrote. “It was just a goal to finish so I can hopefully make a better go at it during the sprint.”
After the weekend’s mixed results, Hamilton is looking forward to Tuesday’s freestyle sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland.
“I’m really psyched, I feel healthy, and I’m injury-free right now, so I’m confident that if I ski hard on Tuesday and ski smart, hopefully I’ll produce another good result,” he said.
Hamilton has good reason to be excited about Tuesday’s sprint. Last year, Hamilton won the Tour de Ski freestyle sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, becoming the first American male to win a Tour de Ski stage. Newell qualified in second at that same event.