Europe seems to suit Sadie Bjornsen just fine. Nearly a month into her first long-term overseas tour, Bjornsen is skiing fast and appears to be getting faster. She led a contingent of a US World Championship skiers in the 5km classic FIS race in Beitostolen, Norway, placing 8th overall.
The race was won by former overall World Cup runner-up and current Norwegian World Championship team member, Astrid Jacobsen. The veteran posted a time of 15:02, 19.8 seconds ahead of runners up Martine Ek Hagen and Ragnhild Haga who tied for second.
Bjornsen was 16 seconds off the podium and 37.9 seconds in back of Jacobsen.
“I love 5k classic, so I went out there with a good amount of confidence and just skied a strong race,” Bjornsen wrote in an email to FasterSkier. She had Jacobsen starting 45 seconds behind, and entered the race with the goal of holding of the Norwegian.
“I just charged from the start and didn’t ever look back,” Bjornsen said. “I had the feeling I was having a good race…it was my goal to hold her [Jacobsen] off, and if I couldn’t, I was going to stick on her like glue!”
US Ski Team athlete Morgan Arritola placed 12th, +48 seconds, with Jessie Diggins in 15th, another 1.3 seconds down. Liz Stephen skied to 28th and Ida Sargent in 35th rounded out the US field.
Sprinter Chandra Crawford paced the Canadian team, finishing 18th, 51 seconds in back of Jacobsen, a solid performance for a skier who prefers both short distances and the freestyle technique.
Her teammate, Brooke Gosling, skied to a 99th place finish. One hundred and ninety-six skiers completed the race, and quite a few more opted not to start.
Temperatures were quite cold at the start, and the race was delayed 30 minutes. Bjornsen said that it ended up not being “too bad,” and that the day just required some extra layers.
Hamilton Leads Men
In the men’s 10km classic event, Simi Hamilton set the mark for the North Americans, placing 19th, 1:20 behind winner Ronny Fredrik Asnnes (NOR).
A day after sending two men to the A-Final, the Americans started just two athletes, and had significantly less success. Tad Elliott also raced, placing 74th, +2:32.5. Elliott just missed out on the sprint heats yesterday, but was unable to take appreciable revenge.
Junior Skyler Davis continued to gain valuable experience, placing 227th out of 486 starters.
Canadians Ivan Babikov and Len Valjas finished 29th and 30th respectively, separated by just half a second.
Devon Kershaw did not start for Canada, while Andy Newell, Torin Koos, and Noah Hoffman sat out for the US.
Kershaw never traveled to Beitostolen from Lillehamar, where the Canadian team has been training.
After a tough travel day on Wednesday, Kershaw opted not to take any chances with World Championships jsut around the corner.
“I didn’t really eat anything Wednesday and Thursday (for those two days my total food intake was: 3 pieces of white bread and a pretzel) and was (obviously) having some stomach issues,” Kershaw wrote in an email to FasterSkier.
“I am feeling better today (no more stomach issues), and my appetite is slowly coming back so I don’t think it will be a big deal for next weekend and beyond,” Kershaw said.
After Friday’s sprint, Newell told FasterSkier that he might not start the 10k if the weather was too cold, but despite “chilly” temperatures, the American sprint star told FasterSkier that it was “really nice outside.”
Newell cited a poor night of sleep due to an allergic reaction as the reason for skipping the event.
Koos dislocated his shoulder in the A-final of the sprint, and was not expected to race today following the injury.
Hoffman was listed on the start list, but the decision was made some time ago for the young American to remain in Sjusjoen to train over this weekend.
For all the North American athletes, with the exception of Davis, these races are serving as tune-up events for next weekend’s World Cup events and the World Championships immediately following.
Temperatures are supposed to be even colder on Sunday for the scheduled for 15/30km freestyle, and there is a chance the event will be canceled.
“The Norwegians are very smart about not racing when its too cold,” Bjornsen said, “so I can see postponing happening, if not canceling.”
Overnight lows are predicted to be -5F with temperatures just getting above 0F by race time.