VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – (March 1) Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) and anchor Tad Elliott (Durango, CO) endured the unusually warm conditions to finish 10th in the men’s 4x10k relay at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. It was a back and forth race with the USA in the lead or first chase group much of the race, finishing just a minute back from Norwegian Petter Northug who anchored Norway to the gold. Andy Newell and Kris Freeman skied the first two classic legs while Noah Hoffman and Tad Elliott wrapped it up with two skate legs.
Andy Newell tucks in line during the first of four legs of the men's relay at FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. (U.S. Ski Team - Sarah Brunson)
I thought we skied well today as a team. We were hoping to be top eight. I think we can be even better than that on our best days. I think we were about a minute out which is a lot better than what we have been in the last World Championships. We’ve improved. We were right up in the lead packs and among the leaders on the first legs and made it there in time for the last legs, so it was perfect. Everyone skied really well. To be that close is an encouraging sign looking toward the Olympics
Chris Grover, U.S. Nordic Ski Team Coach
Overall, really good for the guys. To be one minute out of a 40k event like that is new territory for this group. Especially given the fact that not everybody had a great race out there. I know Kris isn’t happy about the way his race went. I know Tad might reconsider pacing it the next time, but he also recognized that he had to get back into the mix. So overall awesome: huge leg by Noah, huge leg by Andy, great leg by Tad, Kris fighting super hard the whole time. It’s coming closer and on a day we get all four guys ready to go we’re going to be in that mix.
Newell skied an awesome leg. I was super impressed with him and psyched to see him mixing it up right in there. It’s awesome. He’s evolved into an incredible distance skier and I’m really impressed.
Kris skied a great leg, right in the mix, for more than two laps. It looked like they were doing really good and then I think he kind of died a little bit. He tried his hardest and tagged me off in a good position.
I had the French team and somebody else right behind me. They started faster than I did so they caught on me right away and I just got right in that group. Then the French skier decided to go and I was feeling good so I followed him. He was making good time; I think we were gaining on the guys in front of us. We caught at least one team and almost caught the Japanese team at the end. So I’m really psyched. I tried to get away from the French team on the last lap but he was really strong so I couldn’t do it.
We were talking as a team last night and we said a dream race would be top eight. I was in seventh there with France and Japan and knew I was skiing better than they were. I felt so smooth; our skis were great. I heard those guys were walking up front but I’ve been told that in many World Cups and never got on. I came down on my last lap here with France and saw they were leading walking. I kind of let go of top eight and really wanted to create some magic. So I risked it, got in the group and was yo-yoing on the group there. Every time I’d catch on it felt like they would accelerate. Hopefully I made it exciting out there and got some TV time. It was good.
We’ve got to give it up to Andy, for sure. He skied awesome, an incredible first leg with those guys. And Noah too, skiing awesome in the group he was in. He skied smart and really smooth. It was up to me and I kind of risked it. But it’s really exciting looking into next year and to the Olympics. If we all have a little bit better day, which is totally possible, we could be in the mix. Hopefully I can save my accelerations to go with the group instead of trying to catch them. So we’re close.