(ISN) – VAL DI FIEMME, Ita.—Canada’s Ivan Babikov saved his best for last, posting the 12th-fastest time in the final and most punishing stage of the Tour de Ski – the ultimately test of high-performance sport on Sunday in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Starting in 34h spot, based on the rankings after the first six races, the 34-year-old Babikov
went head-to-head with the most daunting stage of all – a nine-kilometre skate-ski pursuit with the final four kilometres straight up Alpe de Cermis, which boasts a 28 per cent hill grade. The feisty Canadian bulldog clocked the 12th best time of the day at 30 minutes, 01.0 seconds.
“I felt good and the skis were working well today,” said Babikov. “I was moving well up the hill today, but was very surprised when I heard that I got 12th on the day. The guys ahead must have been moving fast.”
A race that throws tactics out the window – forcing man against hill – the hard-nosed Canuck hammered his way up the punishing ascent that has turned the fittest men in the world into boys. The relentless Babikov also posted the fastest time up Alpe Cermis in 2009, and was second in this same race last year.Sunday’s result moved him into 31st position in the overall Tour de Ski.
“That was the fastest time up the hill out of all previous tours,” added Babikov. “I was looking forward to that race. In the overall, I’m disappointed with my performance on the Tour. We are all now trying to get in better shape for the World Cup and World Championships.”
Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., placed 40th (31:39.1) on the climb to move into 35th overall.
Italy’s Roland Clara clocked the fastest time of the day at 29:13.0, but it was Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby who was crowned the King of cross-country skiing after crossing the finish line first.
Fellow Norwegian, Petter Northug, battled to the silver medal position on the overall podium, while Russia’s Evgeniy Belov was third.
Athletes skied more than 100 kilometres while competing in seven races, over nine days at five different venues in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
Alex Harvey claimed the lone medal for the Canadians in this year’s edition of the Tour de Ski. Harvey skied to the silver in the second stage – a 15-kilometre mass start in Oberstdorf, Germany.