Canadian Devon Kershaw earned a bronze medal in the men’s 15 km classic double pursuit race at the Tour de Ski World Cup races Dec. 31, and Ivan Babikov finished the series with a gold medal in the seventh and final stage, an 11 km freestyle pursuit race Jan. 4.
Babikov, who skied for Russia in the 2006 Winter Games and only recently became a Canadian citizen, is only the second male Canadian to win a gold medal in a World Cup event. The first was Pierre Harvey in 1987.
The Tour de Ski consists of seven events over nine days, Dec. 27 to Jan. 4, staged at resorts in Germany, Czech Republic and Italy.
Babikov finished the last race at Val De Fiemme, Italy in 33 minutes, 51.2 seconds, 1.5 seconds ahead of Tom Reichelt of Germany and Giorgio Di Centa of Italy. Kershaw also cracked the top-30, finishing 22 nd .
Before Italy, Babikov’s best World Cup result was a fourth place finish.
“I am so thrilled and totally couldn’t believe it when I was standing on top of the podium,” said Babikov, adding that he almost didn’t race. After a strong start, the men’s team was struck with an illness that left them struggling through the middle races of the Tour.
“Our entire men’s team has been sick and yesterday was so hard for us, but I have been looking forward to this uphill climb all year and told myself to pass as many skiers as I could today.”
The race was almost all uphill, with skiers gaining roughly 425 metres (1,300 feet) from the start to the finish.
On the women’s side, Sara Renner was the only woman to start the 9 km freestyle pursuit, placing 22 nd .
Other races in Italy were the men’s 20 km classic mass start race, where the team illness kept the racers out of the top-30. Renner was 12 th in the women’s 10 km classic mass start race, less than 30 seconds back of a podium.
The national cross-country team’s next event is at Whistler Olympic Park Jan. 15-18, which is part of a 10-day Nordic Festival featuring cross country, ski jumping and Nordic combined World Cup events. Races on the schedule include classic sprints, freestyle team sprints, and the men’s 30 km pursuit and women’s 15 km pursuit.
CVTC racers at Canmore
While the World Cup racers were posting strong results in Europe, Canada’s development skiers faced off in a series of Haywood NorAm Cup races at Canmore Nordic Centre. Skiers from the Callaghan Valley Training Centre took part.
In the women’s 10 km freestyle, interval start, Tasha Betcherman of CVTC was 10 th out of 62 starters. In the men’s 15 km free, Dan Roycroft placed ninth, just over a minute back of the podium. Pate Neumann was 14 th out of 103 starters.
In the Tech Sprints, free technique, Christopher Werrell was ninth for the CVTC, or third in the B Final, while teammates Thomsen D’Hont and Jesse Heckrodt were 14 th and 15 th .
In the women’s 15 km classic or free pursuit race, Tasha Betcherman was 17 th for the CVTC, while Dan Roycroft earned a bronze medal in the men’s 30 km race, just 5.2 seconds back of gold. Jesse Hecrodt and Pate Neumann were 12 th and 13 th .
In the junior women’s 10 km category, Leah Kirchann was 24th, while Alistair Hardy-Poirier was 30 th in the junior’s men’s 20 km.