The skiers parade to the sound of bells shaken frantically by the supporters, in the middle of the finally snow-covered conifers of the Jason Lamy-Chpuis stadium in Les Rousses.

Cross-country skiing enthusiasts can finally encourage the French at home, more than six years after the last passage of the world circuit in La Clusaz (Haute-Savoie).

For most members of a rejuvenated French team, this is a first, as for sprinter Lucas Chanavat.

"It's important to show that cross-country skiing also happens in France, that we can have a popular fervor, because our performances deserve it. It's good for the federation, for us, for the sponsors", notes the beefy 28-year-old with 15 podiums, including two victories, in the World Cup.

Frenchman Lucas Chanavat during the Tour de Ski, counting for the cross-country skiing World Cup, on January 6, 2023 in Val di Fiemme (Italy) © Marco BERTORELLO / AFP/Archives


This little party, which brings together several thousand spectators, almost did not take place after a particularly warm start to winter which had caused the snow in the Jura mountains to disappear.

Ten days before the event, the international federation had granted a final deadline to the organizers, who were able to take advantage of the return of the cold in mid-January.

"It was a huge risk-taking. Guns are IT, you can have breakdowns, wind, it's not always an exact science", explains Nicolas Michaud, director of the site inaugurated in 2018 , whose modernity and twenty or so snow cannons made it possible to hold the race.

"Without this stadium, it was dead. We have impressive firepower. In four days, we are able to snow a 3 km World Cup track. Normally for such a track, organizers take a month or two. We also have competent people who have worked day and night".

Holding the event was vital for the future of international racing in the region, after two cancellations linked to Covid-19, including that of last year at the last minute.

"We couldn't cancel again, otherwise I think we were folding the thing for good. When you cancel a World Cup, you have already committed money and we are a small association. Last year , we had committed 200,000 euros which we had to fill. It could not be repeated. We are finally launched, "said Mr. Michaud, relieved.


The organizers of the Nordic Combined World Cup in Chaux-Neuve (Doubs), a less well-equipped neighboring site, were less lucky with the weather a week before and had to cancel their event.

In the Jura massif, with nearly 2,000 km of cross-country ski trails, Nordic skiing, threatened in the coming years by global warming, is part of the local folklore and economy.

For example, for the child of the country, double Olympic biathlon champion, we do not speak of "Fillon Maillet" but of "Quentin", on which each inhabitant hastens to tell an anecdote with tenderness.

"I saw former high-level skiers crying at the edge of the track, too happy to see this competition here," adds Mr. Michaud.

The last time was 23 years ago, when the World Cup took the Transjurassienne as its support, a long-distance race (70 km) emblematic of the region.

© 2023 AFP