OBERSTDORF, Ger.—The Canadian contingent will leave Germany on a high after putting down their best all-around performance in the first four stages of the Tour de Ski.
World Champion teammates, Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., and Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., stormed into thetop-eight, finishing sixth (50:29.9) and seventh (50:32.2) respectively in the men’s 20-kilometre pursuit race in Oberstdorf, Germany on Sunday.
“Today was a great day to have both Alex and I in the top eight and Ivan was right there with us until he unfortunately crashed in the final lap,” said the 29-year-old Kershaw, who now moves to fifth in the overall Tour de Ski standings. “It is really tight racing out here. The top-eight is not what we are looking for, but things are getting better and better and we are in the game and psyched right now.”
Kershaw and the 23-year-old Harvey had a strong day at the office tactfully plodding their way at the front of the pack through the tricky 2.5-kilometre loop while skiing a total of 10 kilometres in the classic technique, followed by 10 more kilometres of skate skiing. Athletes enter atransition zone between the two legs to change equipment with the clock still running.
“This course is really funky. It is not that physical, and it is super tactical with all of the corners and the flats,” said Kershaw. “Once again my body felt amazing. I am happy to be sixth so it washes away the bad taste from yesterday. I’m very relaxed and super pumped for the next two races.”
Working at the front of the pack, Kershaw and Harvey took their turns dropping the hammer in an effort to grab bonus time for intermediate sprints at five points throughout the eight-loop race.
“There was a lot of bonus seconds out there so Alex and I made a point of going for them. If you are well positioned you go,” said Kershaw. “I think it is important to play for those preems in these races. This race is 50 per centmore important than yesterday’s sprint. They are more important in the overall Tour than winning the sprint races.”
With several bonus seconds in his pocket, Harvey’s seventh-place showing moved him up to 11th overall in the Tour.
“The men’s race is super tactical so the pace was dead slow today,” said Harvey, who was sixth in the Tour opening prologue. “Our skis were running super awesome today and I felt great. We were just trying to position ourselves out there and I’m really happy to be back in the top-10.”
After clocking the fastest transition time, it appeared all three Canadians were heading for the top-10 as Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., bolted his from the middle of the pack to lead 93 of the world’s best skiers out on the skate portion. The feisty 31-year-old held his ground with the elite group until suffering a nasty crash in the final downhill into the stadium, dropping him to 32nd place at 51:08.0.
Norway’s Petter Northug was the eventual winner with a time of 50:27.3. Switzerland’s Dario Cologna was second at 50:27.6, while Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin clocked a time of 50:27.9 to lock up third place.
The Canadian trio hopped on their private bus following the race for a four-hour journey to Toblach, Italy where the Tour resumes on Tuesday with a five-kilometre classic race.
The ultimate grind in high-performance sport, the Tour de Ski is a demanding journey that includes nine races over 11 days. Modeled after the Tour de France in cycling, the feature event on the Nordic calendar will test the world’s best physically and mentally as athletes will be required to ski more than 100-kilometres of terrain in five cities throughout Germany and Italy to determine the king of cross-country skiing.
For complete information on the Tour de Ski, please visit www.fiscrosscountry.com on the Internet.
CrossCountry Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 55,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Teck Resources Ltd., Canadian Pacific, and Statoil – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Own the Podium, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com
CompleteWorld Cup Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&event_id=30246
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Petter Northug, NOR, 50:27.3; 2. Dario Cologna, SUI, 50:27.6; 3. Maxim Vlyegzhanin, RUS, 50:27.9; 4. Marcus Hellner, SWE, 50:28.8; 5. Kristian Tettli Rennemo, NOR, 50:29.0.
6. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.; 50:29.9; 7. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que.; 50:32.2; 32. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 51:08.0.