Americans set to launch inaugural glide at Dusseldorf


For the first time, the U.S. cross-country sprint team will make an appearance this weekend in the World Cup opener in Dusseldorf, Germany, considered one of the most exciting venues on the entire Cup circuit.
Rather than easing into the season with subtlety, the Dusseldorf venue bombards the field (146 this year from 23 countries) with an opening-race preview of what the rest of the season has in store and features a quick course with lots of hills and thousands upon thousands of spectators.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, the U.S. cross-country sprint team will make an appearance this weekend in the World Cup opener in Dusseldorf, Germany, considered one of the most exciting venues on the entire Cup circuit.
    Rather than easing into the season with subtlety, the Dusseldorf venue bombards the field (146 this year from 23 countries) with an opening-race preview of what the rest of the season has in store and features a quick course with lots of hills and thousands upon thousands of spectators.
    Racer organizers tout the venue as “the world’s biggest FIS World Cup cross-country” race and point out that “no other World Cup has so many spectators.”
    The course loops directly through the city of Dusseldorf along the Rhine River, and is made from 180 truckloads (4,000 cubic meters) of snow produced by Jever SkiHalle. The largest climb of the course takes racers up an artificial hill called Mount Dusseldorf. The sprint course will be 800 meters long for the women and 1,500 for the men, who will ski two laps. There are 30 qualifiers going into the sprints and each round will have six racers, with the top two moving on to the next heat.
    “Dusseldorf is very good practice for competing in an urban venue,” said U.S. sprint coach Chris Grover. “It’s a long course for the men — toward the upper limit for a sprint distance, and conditions can be tricky since it’s October.”
Grover also pointed out that Dusseldorf “lies outside of the snow belt” and thus is subject to warm and rainy October conditions, not dissimilar to those that led to the cancellation of the World Cup alpine season openers scheduled this weekend in Sölden, Austria.
    Only three American athletes will compete this weekend – Andrew Newell, Torin Koos and Chris Cook. All three men have made huge strides in sprinting in the past couple of years. Last season Newell became the first American in 23 years to land on a World Cup cross-country podium with a third-place sprint result in Chanchun, China. Newell also finished the season ranked eighth overall in World Cup sprinting. Newell said he is feeling much fitter than he was at this time last year and is very excited about competing at Dusseldorf.
    “I’m in much better shape than last year. I think it will help me maintain my speed on the rounds in the sprint,” Newell said. “I’ve never been on snow [racing] this early. Dusseldorf is a sweet race. They have Oktoberfest going on and there’s a ton of people around.”
    Newell has set a goal this season of winning a World Cup and then going on to land a World Championship medal (the 2007 cross-country worlds begin March 18 in Sapporo, Japan).
    “I think I have a shot of getting on the podium in Dusseldorf,” the 22-year-old said. “But if I’m not moving my fastest in October, I’m not real worried. There’s going to be a ton of fans and there are some big hills in the race. The whole [U.S.] sprint team has improved a lot on double-poling, which is going to make a huge difference.”
    Cook also made his mark in the sprint world last season. Although it was his first year on the World Cup circuit, the 26-year-old finished 12th in a skate sprint at Sovereign Lakes in Canada. And after landing four SuperTour victories, Cook was crowned champion of the tour. Koos, also 26, had three top-15 World Cup finishes last season, including an 11th place in Oberstdorf, Germany, where he also won an Alpen Cup race.
    Kikkan Randall, the only woman on the U.S. World Cup squad, has opted out of the Dusseldorf races.
    “It was a really hard decision to make,” said the 23-year-old Alaska native, who last season earned the best results in history for a U.S. woman when she finished fifth in a World Cup sprint in Borlange, Sweden, and a ninth-place result in the individual sprint at the Torino Games. “I’ve seen the video of Dusseldorf and it’s a really exciting race. I’m anxious to get right back in there, but for me to go would have meant an extra three weeks in Europe that I could spend at home getting a little more training. I was down in Park City when those guys left, and it was hard to not get into the action.”
    Like Newell, Randall has set a goal of medaling on the World Cup circuit this season. She feels the best way to do that is to pace her training and skip the World Cup opener.
    “This way, I feel I can ski well the whole season,” she said. “I’m at home. It’s super comfortable. I can cook for myself. I’ve got my friends and family here and a good support system. My coaches [from Alaska Pacific University, where Randall is pursuing a degree in business] are here in Anchorage. I get to work with them all the time.”
    Grover cited Sweden’s Peter Larsson, who is undefeated at Dusseldorf, as the favorite this weekend. On the women’s side, Norwegian Marit Bjoergen, won at the venue last year and went on to win the World Cup overall title. Germany’s own Tobias Angerer, who won the men’s overall title last season, will also be one to watch, although he is better suited to long-distance races.
    The competition is thick, but Grover said he has a lot of hope for his U.S. athletes this weekend.
    “This is the U.S. Ski Team’s first time to Dusseldorf, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the boys uncorked one,” he said. “Look for us.”

Tecnica Group acquires Austrian ski maker BlizzardNewell rebounds from collision, illness to finish 8th

Comments

comments



skiracingmag's Latest Youtube Favorite


See more Ski Racing Videos in our Video Vault


Ski Racing Magazine LB1