Praz de Lys Sommand, France – Liz Stephen (USA)and Morgan Arritola (USA) finished 7th and 8th respectively in the 10km freestyle in the first U23 Championship race. The race was won by Sylwia Jaskowiec (POL). Jaskowiec, a veteran of 20 World Cup races with a career best finish of 23rd, outdistanced the field by 42 seconds. Betty-Ann Nilsen (NOR) was second, edging Spain’s Laura Orgue by 1.5 seconds.
Stephen completed the 10km course in a time of 30:00.1, 1:21 behind Jaskowiec, and 39 seconds out of 2nd place. Arritola was 15 seconds in back of her teammate.
Stephen skied a consistent race, ranking 6th at the midway point. Arritola, on the other hand, turned in a significantly stronger second 5km to move up from the 12th position. All the skiers ahead of the two Americans have significant World Cup experience, with the top four all scoring points in European events.
Alexa Turzian, the final US starter, finished 17th, 45 seconds out of the top 10. Turzian also moved up during the second half of the race, advancing from 22nd.
Brittany Webster led the Canadians in 22nd with teammates Amanda Ammar and Alysson Marshall in 31st and 33rd respectively.
The men’s 15km freestyle was won by Maurice Magnificat (FRA) by 31 seconds over Alexey Poltaranin (KAZ). Alexander Bessmertnykh (RUS) finished third.
“I’m very satisfied because I came here to Praz de Lys with this goal: to win a gold medal at home,” said Magnificat, who lives quite close to Praz de Lys. “We had very good conditions – nice weather, good snow conditions and a lot of supporters from my Skiclub. I had a fast start and was leading since the beginning. The gap with Poltaranin increased after each lap. I’m satisfied, that’s a good end of January and a big motivation for the next world champ in Liberec.”
The Canadian men bettered the US women by one place with Frederic Touchette and Len Valjas finishing 6th and 7th. 2.5 seconds separated the two, with Touchette one minute in back of Magnificat. Brent McMurtry completed a strong Canadian day in 17th.
The US was led by Matt Gelso in 19th. Gelso sat in 27th after 5km and consistently moved up throughout the race, finishing 40 seconds out of the top-10. Tad Elliot was just 3.7 seconds behind in 21st and Simi Hamilton took 28th.
Racing continues on Saturday with a 15/30km pursuit.