The Canadian cross-country team didn't win any medals at the World Cup opener in Beitostoelen, Norway this past weekend. In fact, only one athlete finished in the top-30 of an event.
However, the team had a solid debut at an event where more than 100 athletes were competing in both the men's and women's races. Athletes had to contend with falling snow and temperature fluctuations that made waxing a great challenge.
The highlight for the Canadian men was the 4x10 km relay on Sunday where Canada placed 10 th out of 26 teams. Devon Kershaw raced first, literally breaking trail through the snow for the first seven kilometres of his leg, and was still in third place overall when he passed off to Ivan Babikov. Babikov slipped back to seventh as other teams surged. He then passed off to Alex Harvey who held onto the status quo. Graham Nishikawa, a newcomer to the men's relay team, was passed by a few racers but raced hard on his second lap to break away from the chase pack and make it a photo finish against the Belarus team. Belarus finished ninth by a tenth of a second, relegating Canada to 10 th place.
Norway took the win by five seconds, followed by Russia and Germany.
"I was happy because I skied the conditions exactly how I wanted to," wrote Kershaw on his blog, www.the-nish.com. "I went to the front, controlled the race and led for about six to seven kilometres. I ended up tagging off to Ivan in third place with the leaders. It was a good solid race for me. I skied strong and relaxed and (it) was the perfect way to wash out the bad taste of Saturday."
Kershaw came to Norway after one of the best results of his career, winning a 15 km freestyle warm-up event against some of the top racers in the world.
He had trouble in the 15 km freestyle at Beitostoelen on Saturday, crashing a few times in the warm-up and then having trouble gripping the course with his skis in the changing conditions. "I was Bambi on ice," he wrote on his blog.
He finished his day in 37 th place, 1:17 back of the winner.
Babikov did slightly better with a 28 th place finish, one minute back of the leader. Harvey was 43 rd , Nishikawa 66 th and Brian McKeever - a visually-impaired Paralympic champion - placed 80 th .
The win went to Ronny Andre Hafsaas, a Norwegian biathlon racer. He was followed by Cincent Vittoz of France and Finland's Mattie Heikkinen.
In the women's 10 km freestyle only one woman raced for Canada. Chandra Crawford, making her comeback from injury, placed 86 th .
The win went to Mari Bjoergen of Norway, followed by Charlotte Kalla and Anna Haag of Sweden.