LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (Dec. 31) - Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) led qualifying and powered his way through the heats for an historic win, taking a World Cup stage victory in the Tour de Ski at Lenzerheide. It was the first win ever by an American man in the grueling Tour. Hamilton's victory was the first for a U.S. men on the World Cup tour in nearly 30 years. In a strong day for the U.S. Ski Team, Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) made her first finals, finishing sixth with Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) eighth. The Tour continues New Year's Day with distance racing in Lenzerheide.
I had a really good feeling about everything throughout the entire day and I just decided to go for it every time I stepped up to the start line. It was a very cool to day to say the least - maybe the coolest one I've ever had!
My tactic in the final heat changed a bit from my quarter and semifinal heats. I knew that to have the best finish possible I'd want to conserve a bit of energy early on in the race. So I decided to settle in to a good, safe spot in second or third for the first two thirds of the race. At the top of the climb on the second lap, the Norwegian in front of my completely blew up and both of us lost a lot of time to the current leader, Italian Frederico Pellegrino, starting onto the downhill. But the draft that we got off of him allowed us to get a good slingshot at the bottom of the downhill. When I saw a small space open up between the Italian and the Norwegian, I took it with about 150 meters to go before the finish. After I made it thru the space unscathed, I just focused on skiing fast but relaxed all the way across the line, and of course hoped for the best!
Today was a really exciting day.I was psyched to ski my first final and am so happy for Simi and the rest of the team.
I'm learning a lot each race and I was able to ski tactically well in both my quarter and semi finals. I simply got tired in my final, but I still couldn't stop smiling after because I was so excited to be there. I'm ranked sixth in the Tour now, so I'll be starting on the front line in the mass start tomorrow! I plan on dropping out after tomorrow, but it's been really fun so far. I think it's good practice to get used to having a race each day because you can't stress and get nervous or else you will exhaust yourself. You just have to get into a little routine, relax, and go with it and you realize that's all you ever need to do in ski racing. After tomorrow I'm looking forward to a little break and then reuniting with the whole team and getting back to some racing!
Chris Grover, Cross Country Head Coach
In the rounds, Simi executed his strategies like a pro, taking the line he wanted in each round. For the final, he decided to let others lead and conserve energy, then planned on skiing the bottom two corners of the race really well and catapulting himself into the finish stretch. He managed to just outsprint World Champion and current Tour de Ski overall leader Alex Harvey for the win. It was really cool to see two North Americans on top of the podium.
It was also Sophie's first World Cup finals appearance. She also skied in a very head's up manner and was able to stay out of trouble, pass when she needed and finish fast. This marks the second year in a row that Sophie has made huge improvements in her racing. She is now emerging as a future World Cup star.