December 28, 2013, OBERHOF, Ger. (ISN) – Canada’s Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw are back making history! The Canadian duo not only got off to their best-ever start at the eighth-annual Tour de Ski by winning the gold and silver medal in the 4.5-kilometre skate-ski prologue, but it is the first time ever Canada has finished one-two at an elite international cross-country skiing event.
The 25-year-old Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., captured the first title of the seven-race Tour through Europe with a time of 9:03.4, while Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., clocked a second-place time of 9:07.5 in Oberhof, Germany. Norway’ Chris Jespersen locked up third place with a time of 9:13.6.
“It feels so good to be back on the podium after a slower start to the season,” said Harvey. “My training has felt good, but I have not been able to confirm those good feelings during the races this year. To do that today is a huge relief for me and the entire program.”
It was the second World Cup victory for Harvey in addition to his World Championship title with Kershaw when they also became the first Canucks to stand on top of the Cross-Country Skiing World Championship podium. It is also the second time that Harvey and Kershaw have shared the World Cup podium in cross-country skiing. The last time came in 2012 when Harvey and Kershaw finished one-three respectively in a prologue race at the World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden.
“It is so good be on the podium today and especially to share it with a teammate. It is just awesome for the whole team,’ said Harvey. “You need these results for the whole team, including the staff who are working so hard, because everyone needs to be rewarded.”
While Harvey captured two of the four podium finishes for the Canadian squad last year including a bronze in the 15-kilometre classic race at last year’s Tour in Val di Fiemme, Italy before winning another bronze in a classic-sprint race at the 2013 World Championships, which were also held at the challenging Val di Fiemme track, his World Cup comrade Kershaw has been shut out of the medals since the World Cup Finals in Falun which capped off his record-setting season.
“This is huge today,” said Kershaw, who finished second overall on the World Cup in 2012. “After a difficult season last year, and a vicious start this year, this came as a big surprise today. I’m still pretty shocked.”
Kershaw and his Canadian mates struggled to crack the top-half of the results this year, but that was not indicative of the team’s shape.
“I knew I did good training and preparation this summer and fall so I was perplexed with how things started,” said Kershaw. “I have had good feelings in training, but they have been night and day when I have been racing. I had good feelings again this morning warming up. I said to myself that if these feelings don’t relay into racing today then I don’t understand this sport at all. I just tried to ski as efficiently as possible. This such a huge relief for all of us.”
The only Canadian to compete in all eight of the unique Tour de Ski’s, which is modeled after the Tour de France, Kershaw’s breakthrough into an international cross-country ski star came at the 2011 Tour when he won four medals including his first World Cup victory.
“I love the Tour de Ski. I think it is the coolest event of the year that showcases so many different strengths,” said Kershaw. This is my eighth time doing this and it is pretty special for me to win my 15th World Cup podium today. To do that with Alex and finishing one-two is amazing. That has never happened in cross-country skiing history.”
The third member of the Canadian men’s squad, Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., also shattered his personal best time in the prologue by finishing 26th at 9:28.2. Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., was the top Canadian in the women’s three-kilometre prologue, finishing 37th (7:01.3), while Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Alta., placed 47th at 7:03.2.
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen won the women’s race with a time of 6:34.4. Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt, Jacobsen was second at 6:36.3, while Poland’s Sylwia Jaskowlec skied to the bronze with a time of 6:41.4.
The prologue forces athletes to move fast, yet pace themselves to the finish with the distances being double that of a sprint race. Annually it marks the official beginning of the nine-day affair, modeled after the Tour de France in cycling, which wraps up in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 5. One of the featured events on the Nordic calendar tests some of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world in seven punishing races at four different venues in three countries to determine the king and queen of cross-country skiing.
The Canadian men will be back in action on Sunday when the Tour continues in Oberhof, Germany.
Cross Country 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 58,000 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,. 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.
Complete Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/cross-country/
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., CAN, 9:03.4; 2. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., CAN, 9:07.5; 3. Chris Jespersen, NOR, 9:13.6; 4. IIia Chernousov, RUS, 9:16.8; 5. Robin Duvillard, FRA, 9:17.2
Other Canadian Results:
26. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 9:28.2
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 6;34.4; 2. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, NOR, 6:36.3; 3. Sylwia Jaskowlec, POL, 6:41.4; 4. Denise Hermmann, GER, 6;42.8; 5. Jessica Diggins, USA, 6:43.6
37. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta., 7:01.3; 47. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont., 7;03.2