VALCARTIER, Québec – As she rounded the penalty loop at Myriam Bédard Center on Sunday, Rosanna Crawford looked up and threw down her headband.
Winning the pursuit wasn’t going to be a walk in the park at the Canadian Biathlon Championships, and the 23-year-old from Alberta needed all the firepower she could muster.
But the shooting portion was over; Crawford missed one shot in each of the last three stages for three total misses. The final one proved to be the most crucial.
A few seconds behind, Claude Godbout of Québec had worked her way from starting fourth, 15 seconds after Crawford, to skiing in second in the 10 k pursuit. After shooting clean on the last standing stage, she was in contention for first.
Watching Godbout emerge from the range, Crawford sped up to exit the penalty and skied out in front of her. The two raced together for about half of the 2.5 k loop, then Crawford capitalized on the long downhill and secured an 11.6-second victory over Godbout.
“Halfway around the penalty loop, I hear the range go crazy so I knew that she had shot clean,” Crawford said. “Right when I heard them cheer I was like it’s on! … She led up the hill and then over the last little bump, I just hammered ahead of her. I had amazing skis today so I was able to rocket down the downhills and get to the finish line first.”
Crawford was pleased with making 17 shots, although she would have liked to have matched her performance on Thursday, when she made 18 to win the 12.5 k mass start. She went on to win Saturday’s 7.5 k sprint.
“Skiing has really felt amazing these past four days,” Crawford said after sweeping each race at nationals. “I’m really happy with it and shooting was really good, too.”
As for the psychological aspect of starting first in a pursuit with competitors staggered 5 seconds behind, Crawford said she focused on her own race. She successfully dropped Yolaine Oddou (Québec), who started 5 seconds back in second and finished third (+2:16.9) with four missed shots.
“I just try to … take it one shot at a time, one loop at a time, never really getting ahead of myself,” Crawford said. “It’s just another race but there’s people that are really close behind you.”
Godbout was the biggest threat, closing the gap on Crawford on each lap on her home course. She knew her skis weren’t as fast as Crawford’s and compensated by challenging her on the climbs.
“I knew that to win, I had to gain so much time in the uphill and hope that she wouldn’t catch me on the downhill,” Godbout said. “I was pushing really hard to try to stay with her, but then she beat me at the end.”
Godbout was especially happy to start strong and shoot clean on the first and last stages.
“Yesterday, I missed three standing, and I was with [Crawford] and she cleaned. At the mass start, same thing happened, she missed one and I missed three,” Godbout said. “Today was exactly the same and I was like, ‘Don’t screw up.’ ”
After the race, Godbout said her sports psych congratulated her for keeping it together. She said racing 15 minutes from home helped.
“It’s always fun to race in your hometown,” she said. “We train so hard here and we know the trails perfectly. Just to sleep in your bed is awesome. I think I’m spoiled to do it in my home.”
Bédard Completes Men’s Sweep
In the men’s 12.5 k pursuit, Marc-André Bédard of Québec started in front and stayed there – but not without a little excitement.
Bédard missed one shot on the first prone, which would have been fine if Scott Gow (Alberta) wasn’t right behind him. Last year’s national pursuit champion, Gow shot clean on the first stage pass Bédard and force him to play catch up after his penalty.
He did and the two skied together into the second stage, where both cleaned. Fresh off the World Championships in Ruhpolding, Germany, Bédard proceeded to put the hurt on and created a gap that culminated into a runaway victory.
Bédard beat Gow by 1:46.1 to win the pursuit in 40:57, capping off a perfect showing at Canadian Championships. After flying to Canada last Monday, he won every race from Thursday on. Considering the jet lag, he wasn’t sure how he’d fare.
“I was expecting to win, but I was definitely trying to do my best,” Bédard said. “I saw from the first race on that I was faster and I felt good, so from there I wanted to bring them all home, I guess.”
Bédard missed four total shots, including two on the last standing.
“On my last shooting, I was shaky and I was pretty tired,” Bédard said. “That was kind of playing with fire, but I did my loops quick. I didn’t know where Scott was, but I knew if I was with him or in front of him that I should be all right because I still had some energy to fight.”
Gow, who fell behind on the third of five laps, missed one shot on the first standing and three on the second. That gave Bédard even more room to breath after opening hard.
“I had already a good lead so that was fun to be able to finish so easy and enjoy it on the last lap,” he said.
The best shooter of the day with one miss, Vincent Blais (Québec) finished third, 2:29.8 behind Bédard.
Gow said it was beneficial to start closest to Bédard (5 seconds behind) and chase him. Even when he built a significant lead, it helped Gow secure second.
“It kind of just kept me in the race from the get-go,” Gow said. “I think if that hadn’t happened, the race could have been totally different, if I didn’t have him to ski with. When he got really far ahead, I had to push even harder to catch up so it was still good.”
After his penalty lap on the third stage, Gow realized Bédard might be out of reach. He needed to clean the last standing to come close, and he missed three. Regardless, Gow was happy with his effort in his last biathlon race of the season and pleased with his fitness overall.
“Second place is still really good so I’m happy to end it with second,” Gow said. “That’s still fine for me.”
Note: Many of the senior men and women will next head to the nearby Canadian Ski National Championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, and participate in strictly cross-country races.
Bédard was excited to race against Alex Harvey in the 15 k freestyle individual start on Tuesday and the skate sprints on Thursday. Gow will finish his season with the 15 k skate and skate sprints.
Crawford said she would do Thursday’s 10 k skate race, the skate sprints and the 30 k classic mass start. She looked forward to racing against her older sister and Canadian National Ski Team member, Chandra, for the first time.
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.