Season over, Newell sets sights on Sochi

BENNINGTON -- Stockholm. Drammen. Davos. Canmore. Val di Fiemme. Sochi. Oberhof. Liberec.

Those were about half of the World Cup stops for Shaftsbury native Andy Newell between November and March, a typical, barnstorming winter of world class cross country skiing as a core member of the U.S. team.

"Thirty races in 13 countries is a pretty standard season," Newell said.

But only one of those places -- Sochi -- is the root of the grueling next six months for the 28-year-old. And, with less than a year to go until the 2014 Winter Games in the Russian city on the Black Sea, every day is more precious than the last.

"As soon as the Olympics end, it's almost like the new cycle begins. Even three years ago we were looking toward Sochi," Newell said during a recent interview in Bennington. "But now that we're a year out, it's like everything is just going to be magnified this year.

"It makes it seem like each workout matters even more."

In March, the two-time Olympian completed his best World Cup campaign since 2010, finishing fifth overall in the sprint and 29th in the world across all disciplines -- tops among American men. Better still, it was the best showing since his decision to change his off-season training program after the last Olympics.

Despite finishing that season fourth in the World Cup standings and heading to Vancouver in top form, a crash at the Games led Newell to reassess how he spent his months preparing for winter.

"I'd spent four years preparing for this one race and then I crashed and it was over. Just like that," he said.

So Newell resolved to train more in Vermont, rather in Park City, Utah, with most of the U.S. Ski Team.

More time running and roller-skiing in the Green Mountains also meant more time enjoying summer from the seat of his 1970 Triumph motorcycle.

"I realized you've got to be happy, first of all. I wanted to be around more of my friends and more of my family because I saw that the most important thing is having fun and enjoying the process of winning a medal," he said. "Because you can get there and have everything going your way and it could still not work out."

After slipping in the standings in 2012, Newell rebounded this year with 18 top-10 finishes, including five top-5s. In Sochi, at a brand-new venue where the Olympic cross country races will take place next February, he claimed sixth in qualifying and 13th in the final.

"[Sochi] was some of the hardest ski trails I've ever seen," Newell said. "They built the trails just for that event.

"I'm excited to go back."

Between now and then, though, there will be weeks spent building fitness in southern Vermont, either in and around Bennington or at Stratton, where Newell helped form a new professional team at Stratton Mountain School last year. There will be trips to Oregon and points abroad to find snow. There will be the early-season World Cup events to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.

There will be plenty of time to think about returning to Sochi.

"I have six months, basically, to get in the best shape I can," Newell said. "So when you break down a year into six months and six months into [six-day training weeks], that comes out to be not that many days to get yourself where you want to be.

"When an Olympic year comes around we start to really focus on stuff like that. Really making every day count."


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