(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Americans Lydia Blanchet and Ian Torchia.)
U23 World Championships (Goms, Switzerland): 10/15 k classic
Russia put two in the top three in both the women’s and men’s races on Wednesday at U23 World Championships in Goms, and for the second-straight race, Canada’s Katherine Stewart-Jones landed in the top 30.
In the women’s 10-kilometer classic, Russia’s Yana Kirpichenko pulled out a 13.9-second victory over fellow Russian Anna Zherebyateva, finishing with the winning time of 27:46.1 minutes. Switzerland’s Nadine Fähndrich returned to the podium for the second race in a row (after placing second in Monday’s skate sprint), finishing third, 29.6 seconds behind Kirpichenko.
In Monday’s sprint, Kirpichenko qualified fourth and ended up fifth in the final. She is a bronze medalist in the 15 k skiathlon at last year’s U23 Worlds.
Stewart-Jones, of the Canadian National U25 Team and National Team Development Centre (NTDC) Thunder Bay, started relatively early on Wednesday in bib 19 and ultimately placed 29th, 3:07.3 out of first. She sped up as the race progressed, from 40th at 2.4 k to 32nd at 5 k and up to 30th at 7.4 k.
So far in all five races she’s competed in over the last two years at U23 Worlds, Stewart-Jones has finished in the top 30. Her best result is 21st in last year’s 15 k skiathlon, and at the Junior Worlds level, she had a best individual result of 14th in the 10 k skiathlon in 2015.
American Lydia Blanchet (Dartmouth Ski Team) started fifth on Wednesday and ended up 30th (+3:10.4) after skiing in the top 30 throughout the race. Her Dartmouth teammate Lauren Jortberg followed in 34th (+3:28.9) and Nicole Schneider was 49th (+5:23.8). Julia Kern did not start.
For Blanchet, a Dartmouth junior, this week marked her first time racing at the Junior/U23 World Championships level. So far, she has placed 32nd in the freestyle sprint and now 30th in the classic distance race.
“This is my first time racing internationally, and I tried to go into the races with no expectations,” Blanchet explained in an email. “I was excited to get as close as I did to qualifying for the sprint, but it was definitely bittersweet—missing heats by 0.3 seconds left me regretting some of the smaller details of my race. Still, it is really exciting to know that I can compete on the world stage!”
After the sprint, she made a goal of finishing in the top 30.
“I really like hilly, rolling courses—especially ones with very technical downhills—and this course definitely fit that bill,” she wrote of the classic distance course. “I am really happy with my race, all things considered. I didn’t feel great while I was racing – my legs flooded pretty hard a few km’s in – but I think I did a good job of holding myself together and staying strong mentally. I know I have the ability to do even better, which is motivating and exciting. I am looking forward to get to ski head-on against the whole field in the skiathlon, and I’m excited to try and pick my way forward from my bib number. I’m also really excited to go home and race carnivals with the Dartmouth team.”
Canada’s Laura Leclair finished 40th (+4:20.9), Sophie Carrier-Laforte was 43rd (+4:19.2) and Maya MacIsaac-Jones 47th (+4:47.3) out of 53 finishers.
Nicole Bathe of the Midwest-based Central Cross Country (CXC) Team, who races for Great Britain, placed 37th (+3:43.8), for her second top 40 of the week after placing 39th in the skate sprint.
In the men’s 15 k classic that followed, Norway’s Mattis Stenshagen edged Russia’s Denis Spitsov by 4.8 seconds for the win in 36:28.3. Also for Russia, Ivan Yakimushkin placed third, 35.2 seconds back.
Canada’s Alexis Dumas, of the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre (CNEPH) was the top North American in 31st, 2:51.7 out of first. He worked his way up from 40th at 5 k to 35th by 10 k, and finally just 0.2 seconds outside of 30th at the finish.
American Ian Torchia (U.S. Ski Team D-team/Northern Michigan University) followed in 32nd (+2:55.9) and Bill Harmeyer (University of Vermont) finished 39th (+3:43.3). Also for the U.S., Thomas O’Harra placed 43rd (+4:17.3) and Zak Ketterson was 57th (+5:37.6).
Torchia, an NMU junior, has been to two Junior Worlds in 2015 and 2016, but this marked his first U23’s.
“The jump from juniors to U23s is quite a leap. I missed the first year of being a U23 last year due to mono so getting back into international racing was a shock to the system,” he explained in an email.
As for his goals for the 10 k, he was hoping for a top 15 or 20, but moreover “wanted to race smart and feel good out on the course technically and physically,” Torchia wrote. “This was the hardest course I have ever raced with 600m of climbing throughout the 15k and I was excited to showcase my striding ability out there…
“However, from the first km I was in the pain cave (even though I didn’t open that fast!) and it was a fight the entire way,” he continued. “I need to work on staying technically strong when hurting and I did not do a good job of executing that today. The eventual second place Russian started as I was looping around for my 2nd lap so I was able to see and feel what a podium performance looks like. Going to have that image in my head throughout the next year!”
For Friday’s 30 k skiathlon, Torchia wrote that he would be “throwing all place goals out the window and focusing on skiing technically well and racing smart. Looking forward to channeling my last skiathlon in Kazakhstan which went really well [he placed 11th in the 20 k at 2015 Junior Worlds] and moving up from my starting position.”
Canada’s Gareth Williams finished 41st (+4:00.2) on Wednesday, Philippe Boucher was 45th (+4:22.7) and Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier 47th (+4:24.3) out of 63 finishers.
- 2018 U23 World Championships
- Alexis Dumas
- Anna Zherebyateva
- Bill Harmeyer
- Denis Spitsov
- Gareth Williams
- Ian Torchia
- Ivan Yakimushkin
- Katherine Stewart-Jones
- Laura Leclair
- Lauren Jortberg
- Lydia Blanchet
- Mattis Stenshagen
- Maya MacIsaac-Jones
- Nadine Fähndrich
- Nicole Bathe
- Philippe Boucher
- Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier
- Sophie Carrier-Laforte
- Thomas O'Harra
- U23 World Championships 10 k classic
- U23 World Championships 15 k classic
- Yana Kirpichenko
- Zak Ketterson