Kershaw adds another medal to Tour de Ski tally 

Two Canadians in top 10 of multi-stage cross country race

Heading into this year's Tour de Ski competition, Devon Kershaw had been on exactly one World Cup podium, in 2006 - that's despite numerous top five and top 10 results over the years as one of Canada's top cross-country athletes.

Ten days later, Kershaw had four more podiums, winning one stage, placing second twice and then finishing third on the second-last day to place seventh overall on the Tour de Ski leader board.

More incredibly, teammate Alex Harvey placed 10th overall on the Tour de Ski, the first time that two Canadian men have ranked so highly in the event.

Kershaw's bronze medal came on the seventh of eight stages, the 20-km classic race at Val di Fiemme, Italy.

"There is not much else I can do now," he said. "Four podiums is unbelievable. I'm still fired up. I raced my best again and I finished on the podium. I have always dreamed of being on the World Cup podium and winning a World Cup race, so to be a part of it is amazing."

The Tour de Ski was introduced in 2007 as Nordic skiing's equivalent of the Tour de France bike race, with four World Cup events over 10 days. Every type of race is held - a prologue, a classic pursuit race, a classic sprint race, two distances of freestyle pursuit, a freesyle sprint, a classic mass start event and a freestyle pursuit hill climb.

This year's Tour de Ski included two stops in Germany and two in Italy.

In addition to the 20-km classic race, Kershaw also placed second in the 15-km classic pursuit, second in the classic sprint and first in the freestyle sprint.

"People are surprised," said Kershaw. "I'm surprised too, but we really shouldn't be. We are not a bunch of bums skiing in Canada. We have a great group of skiers in our country and our men's team has taken our turns at the podium over the last few years. From myself to Alex (Harvey) and George (Grey), we have worked really hard and we shouldn't be surprised.

"There are so many reasons for why this has come together. I keep saying (head coach) Justin (Wadsworth) has been a real asset to my training. He has changed me as a skier, but I think just the group of skiers I train with in Canada has been important. The competition is getting so good and we keep pushing each other to be better."

Kershaw anchored the Canadian team at the Olympics with a fifth place finish in the 50-km marathon, but was also part of the fourth place effort in the team relay - the best result ever for the Canadian men at a Winter Games.

Alex Harvey was ranked as high as fifth at the halfway point of the Tour de Ski (Kershaw was second), but slipped to 10th. He placed ninth in the 15-km classic pursuit, seventh in the classic sprint and fifth in both the 20-km classic mass start and 35-km freestyle pursuit.

On the final day of racing, a 425-metre vertical hill climb over nine kilometres of trail, Canada's Ivan Babikov had his best result of the Tour, placing sixth. It's been a disappointing season and Tour de Ski for Babikov, but in the end he was happy how it finished.

"It was not the best Tour for me this year," he said. "I had a lot of tough luck, but I didn't stop fighting. I knew this race was my strength. I never seem to mind the pain. That is the way I train and it prepared me for these types of races. It was nice to end with a good result."

Kershaw and Harvey were 12th and 20th respectively on the final day.

Dario Cologna of Switzerland took the title with a combined time of 4:28:02, followed by Petter Northug of Norway in 4:28:29 and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic in 4:29:46. Kershaw finished in 4:30:33 and Harvey in 4:31:11.

No Canadian women competed. The top female racer was Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland in 2:47:31, followed by Therese Johaug of Norway in 2:48:52 and Marianna Longa of Italy in 2:50:11.

 

 

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