Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nordic racer Hamilton in Tour de Ski

Stage race in Germany, Italy

Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team cross-country racer Simeon "Simi" Hamilton, 24, of Aspen is one of six American athletes competing this week in the prestigious Tour de Ski Nordic stage race at sites in Germany and Italy.

Hamilton, a 5-10, 180-pounder from Middlebury College, was a 2010 Olympian. This will be his debut start in the Tour de Ski. Now in its fifth season, the intense tour features nine races in 11 days from Dec. 29-Jan. 8 at five venues.

Tour de Ski will be an interesting challenge for the Americans, enjoying their strongest season opening results in modern Nordic World Cup annuals.

"I'm really excited," said Hamilton, a member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team "B" Team. "This type of event is unique, to say the least. It takes the best parts of events like the Tour de France and combines them with the short-term excitement of cross-country skiing."

Known for his sprinting ability, Hamilton will get more chances to work on his distance racing. His U.S. teammates are veterans Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, Andy Newell of Vermont and Kris Freeman of New Hampshire, plus first-time Tour de Ski participants Holly Brooks of Anchorage and Liz Stephen of Vermont.

Freeman placed 28th in last year' Tour de Ski and Randall was ninth in the sprint ranks.

U.S. Head Cross Country coach Chris Grover said, "With no major championships this winter, the Tour de Ski is the focal point of the 2011-12 season for many athletes. This is our biggest team we've sent to the Tour. It demonstrates the U.S. is developing all-around contenders on the World Cup."

The Tour de Ski begins Dec. 29-30 at Oberhof, Germany with freestyle prologue and classic pursuit races. It moves to Oberstdorf, Germany Dec. 31-Jan. 1 for classic sprint and skiathlon skate/classic events.

In Toblach, Italy Jan. 3-5, the events include individual start classic races, skate sprints and freestyle 35-kilometer and 15k distance events. It wraps up Jan. 7-8 at Val di Fiemme, Italy starting with the classic mass start 20k and 10k races Jan. 7.

The tour is capped off Sunday, Jan. 8 with a massive 9k final climbing stage from the valley floor in Val di Fiemme up to the finish in Cavalese.

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