STOCKHOLM, Sweden (March 20) – Racing around the picturesque Royal Palace, Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) placed 11th and took the top finish for the USA in the Royal Palace Classic Sprint. In the women’s race, Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) placed 20th while World Champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) was 22nd. Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. won the men’s race, while Justnya Kowalczyk of Poland won the women’s race. Next, the 2013 Cross Country World Cup Finals move to Falun, Sweden for the men’s and women’s 5k freestyle race on Friday.
Andy Newell placed 11th and took the top finish for the USA in the Royal Palace Classic Sprint. Here he is racing at World Champs in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski Team)
Today was a fun race just because of the atmosphere around that royal palace. It's a pretty unique race and it can give you an idea of how important cross country skiing is around here when they invite you to race around the palace. It was really cold and windy though, which made for hard double poling and a more tactical race. I felt strong in the first round of heats double poling but might have burned too much energy in the headwind at the front during the semifinals and just didn't have enough at the finish. After a bad crash last weekend, it was fun to get back into some good racing though.
I'm happy to have finished fifth in the sprint cup this year but know it could have been more. I was consistently in the top 10 this year but was unable to capitalize on any podiums. It's frustrating because I know I felt strong and fit enough for some podiums this year but just couldn't put it all together when I needed. But to be fifth in the world shows consistency and I'm motivated to get back on the podium more often next year.
This season gives me a lot of confidence that I can be fast over many different conditions and courses. So not a whole lot needs to change, I just need to keep doing what I'm doing and we'll be ready for next year. I will have very special moments from this season and I gave it what I had. It was a really great season overall.
Since this was the last world cup sprint of the season, I had high expectations to improve upon my previous best finishes here in Stockholm and make the final. I'm still chasing after my first classic sprint podium. The conditions on the course were some of the toughest I've experienced here. The manmade snow was breaking down and turning to sugar on the first uphill while freshly fallen snow was getting drifted over the top and really slowing it down. It was a big challenge to find skis that had kick in the sugary snow but weren't too slow in the windblown.
They handed out the overall sprint cup awards after the race finished. I am honored to win the overall sprint title for the second year in a row. The feeling of the second one is definitely different than the first. Last year, I felt so wide-eyed and giddy. This year feels a little more familiar and a nice validation that last year wasn't just a fluke. It was great to have the King of Sweden present the awards again and it's always an amazing feeling to hear our national anthem played out loud. I just wish I could bring all of our coaches, staff and my teammates up on that podium to share the moment with me. A bunch of my teammates stayed a couple extra hours after their races to be there for the awards presentation and I am so grateful for their support.