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Big finish for Canadians at FIS Tour de Ski

XC team finishes nine-day tour with four medals



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"Every time I put on a race bib now I look to get on the podium. I know I can be there in both classic and skate skiing so it is just a really good feeling to get my first podium on the year. This is where I got my first last year as well so I am really happy, and it gives me a lot of confidence knowing the World Championships are here this year as well."

The final stage of the tour was a nine-kilometre skate ski pursuit race, with the last three kilometres on a steep, uphill section with a 28 per cent grade. Ivan Babikov has been Canada's top climber in recent years and proved it once again with a second place finish behind Sweden's Marcus Hellner.

"It feels so good, I am just so happy right now to be a part of this Canadian team," said Babikov, who started the day in 17th and finished seventh overall after passing 10 skiers on the gruelling course. "I'm super pumped. Our team pushed me really hard this summer to be better, and it is paying off."

As for why he's such a strong climber, it's a mystery to Babikov.

"I have no idea why I'm good," he said. "Where I grew up there were no hills. Everyone feels the pain at some point on the hill. Maybe I am able to cope with the pain a little better than others. People always ask me why I'm good at it and I don't know. I just love climbing and I just go with it."

Alexander Legkov of Russia went on to place first overall in the tour with a combined time of three hours, 29 minutes and 28 seconds on the seven stages, followed by three-time tour winner Dario Cologna of Switzerland in 3:29:47 and Maxim Vylegzhanin of Russia in 3:30:09. Babikov was seventh in 3:31:33 with personal bests in most events and consistent performances all around. Devon Kershaw, despite being blocked off the podium, placed a solid 12th in 3:32:26, while Valjas was 23rd. Harvey opted to save himself by not racing in the final stage and dropped out of the top 30.

No Canadian women took part in the tour this year. Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk won the title for the fourth straight year, followed by Therese Johaug and Kristin Stoermer of Norway. In total, Norwegian athletes took four spots in the top 10, followed by Finland with three.

The next stop on the World Cup tour is the team and individual sprint at Liberec, Czech Republic, taking place this weekend.