On the final individual race of the Junior World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, Raphaël Couturier (CNEPH) finally grabbed the spotlight away from the Canadian women. He finished the 20 k skiathlon in 49:25.0 for 17th place in a race where Russia owned the podium, lead by Dmitriy Rostovtsev in 47:40.2.
Couturier was happy, writing “17th is great to me, my best result this week and I’m for sure really satisfied.” He planned to ski the classic leg efficiently and stay out of trouble.
“I felt great,” he said. “I was really smooth in the classic which allowed me to save up a lot of energy for the skate part.
“My plan was to start the skate section with a lot of energy left in the tank, and it’s pretty much what happened so I caught up seven places on the second half which allowed [me] to be in the top 20.”
David Palmer (Black Jack) was second Canadian to come through in 51:35.4, good for 46th place.
Alexis Turgeon (CNEPH), the third Canadian, was not happy with his 56th place. “I was about 30 positions better last year on the same race,” he wrote.
Where Couturier executed on his plan, Turgeon’s didn’t come through.
“I felt really bad in the classic leg,” Turgeon wrote. “I didn’t do a proper warm-up and as I was starting [well] back I had to fight my way through.”
Though frustrated with the first half of his race, Turgeon picked it up in the second half. “As soon as I put the skate skis on it felt better and I had energy to ski relaxed, smooth and powerful,” he said.
Zeke Williams (Nakkertok) was the fourth Canadian in 59th with a finish time of 52:46.8.
“I didn’t have a personal best — and to post a decent result at Worlds a personal best is mandatory,” he said. “After the chaos of the start, I felt good striding up some of the climbs.”
On the fourth lap, Williams tripped on the big climb. “I took a bit longer than I’d have liked to get back on my feet since it was a herring-bone section and people kept stepping on my skis,” he said. Despite starting the skate portion tired, Williams was able to gain a few places back.
In the women’s race, Frédérique Vezina (CNEPH) notched her best result of the trip in the women’s 10 k skiathlon, placing 29th in 29:35.0, two minutes and twelve seconds behind race-winner Teresa Stadlober (AUT). She was pleased with the result, writing, “I am really happy to be in the top 30 even after a crash 200 m before the finish line!”
Vezina, who prefers the longer races, said she “felt way better than on the 5 k two days ago.”
“I wanted to start fast and build up my speed throughout the race,” she wrote of her race plan. “That’s what I did and I was able to pass a group of girls on the last uphill. That was such a great feeling!”
Anne-Marie Comeau (CNEPH) was the second Canadian to finish in 29:41.3 for 34th place. A fall in classic section got her race off to a rough start but the skate leg went more smoothly.
Cendrine Browne (CNEPH) and Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok) finished together in a group for 43rd in 30:12.1 and 45th in 30:13.0. Like the other Canadian women, they enjoyed the skate leg more than the classic.
“Cendrine and I skied together and took turns leading, we helped push each other, it was a lot of fun!” Stewart-Jones said.
Several of the junior women struggled in the mass start with a large, highly competitive group of 71 starters.
“Everybody at the start was aggressive so I fell a few times and so did a few others,” Stewart-Jones wrote. “My tactic was to be relaxed and stay out of trouble but unfortunately I ended up breaking a pole anyway!”