Devon Kershaw Boxed Out in 10th Spot at Third Stage of Tour de Ski

01 January 2012 10:00
Devon Kershaw in Oberstdorf
Devon Kershaw in Oberstdorf -

Devon Kershaw grabbed his best finish of this year’s edition of the Tour de Ski, but it is not the way he planned on ending a memorable 2011 year.

The 29-year-old of Sudbury, Ont., who qualified for the head-to-head heats with the top-30 athletes in 16th spot, was determined to hunt down his first podium of the season on a miserably rainy day for the classic-sprint race in Oberstdorf, Germany to mark the third stage of the Tour.

The two-time Olympian and World Champion was the second of two athletes in his opening-round heat to advance to the semifinals after pouncing his way to the front of the pack on the second long and steep climb of the 1.2-kilometre sprint track – a move that propelled him to the silver medal on this course one year ago.

After moving into the semifinals, Kershaw jumped to an open lane in an attempt tothrow down his patented move one more time and secure his ticket to the final, but the hard-nosed Canuck was cut off in a questionable move by Switzerland’s Dario Cologna, killing his momentum and squashing any hopes for his first podium of the season.

“I am feeling in great shape, and my skis were fast, but I was cut off on the second hill. Simple as that,” said an upset Kershaw, who was 12th and 15th in the opening two stages of the Tour. “I’m 11th and I’m not happy.”

Canada’s Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., qualified for the knockout rounds in 14th, but came up a stride short of locking up a spot in the semifinals.After dropping to the back of his six-man heat up the second demanding climb, the 23-year-old phenom made one more charge down the steep hill into the stadium before relentlessly double-poling to finish fourth in his heat, and 17th overall.

“I made a mistake on the far corner just before the last uphill where I had a bit of contact with the Russian skier that shot me wide and killed my speed,” said Harvey. “I passed one guy coming down the stretch which got me in a photofinish for third. It looks like I was only two centimetres from being the lucky loser, which is a bit of a bummer. I had to re-accelerate after that mistake in the corner and then it was too late.”

While placed solidly with the elite skiers in the 93-man event, the Canadians arestill looking for me after completing one-third of the Tour.

“It is not the results we were expecting today, but I’m not too concerned because the guys keep coming back saying they are in great shape but this or that happened,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “We get to do it all in the pouring rain again tomorrow. Our guys are all really good in the pursuit too so we are still optimistic.”

The Russians grabbed the top-four spots in the men’s final. Nikita Kriukov finished on top, while Alexey Petukhov grabbed the silver medal and Nikolay Morilov the bronze.

Distance specialist, Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., was the only other Canadian in the field and did not qualify for the heats after qualifying 81st.

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.

The Tour continues on Sunday in Oberstdorf with the men’s 20-kilometre pursuit race. No Canadian women are entered in this year’s Tour.

Contributed by Chris Dornan, Cross-Country Canada