By Mike Maltais

Skiing “by far the best race of my life,” Olympics-bound Erik Bjornsen of Winthrop blitzed to an 18th-place finish in the men’s 15-kilometer classic at the World Cup competition in Toblach, Italy, last week.

In the last World Cup event before the XXII Olympic Winter Games begin in Sochi, Russia, on Friday (Feb. 7), Bjornsen laid down his best race results thus far in his career and outdistanced teammates Noah Hoffman (41st), Andy Freeman (64th) and Brian Gregg (69th) among the 79-man field in the classic.

Erik’s sister, Sadie Bjornsen, was cutting her own swath at Toblach that included a 17th-place finish behind Olympics teammates Elizabeth Stephen (11th) and Kikkan Randall (15th) in the women’s 10K classic on Saturday. Bjornsen followed up by placing 19th among 56 skiers in the women’s sprint freestyle the next day.

Gregg advised the News earlier this week that his first Olympic event will be the 30K Skiathlon, a combination of 7.5K classic and 7.5K freestyle, that will get underway in Sochi at 2 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 9) — that’s 2 a.m. Monday (Feb. 10) Pacific Standard Time.