January 01, 2011 (Oberhof, Germany) –
A hard-charging Petter Northug (NOR) attempted his patent strategy making spectacular gains as the finish approached but fell short moving up from the mid 20s to place 6th. Kershaw’s team mate Alex Harvey had a strong race as well finishing 9th. The USA’s Kris Freeman, another classic specialist, also made strong gains starting in 55th to finished 26th overall. Ivan Babikov (Can) placed 32nd and Andy Newell (USA) was 58th.
The silver is Kershaw’s best ever distance result. “It was an amazing race perhaps my best ever,” said Kershaw in a phone interview with SkiTrax. “Once we got going I knew my legs were good. Our techs did a great job and our skis were great – I was frustrated with my performance in the Prologue so I was charged up to improve.”
Experience told Kershaw how the race would unfold. “As expected the pace was fast until we caught Hellner so I stayed mid-field conserving energy knowing the pack would slow down once we reeled Hellner in which is what happened. Then I started to move up wanting to stay near the front and cover any attacks. I felt comfortable and ended up in the lead by accident – then it was my time to push it and I thought I could win but couldn’t hold off Cologna at the end.”
He’s now in second place overall at the Tour de Ski coming into the sprints in Obertsdorf on Sunday and hopes Team Canada can continue with more strong performances. “Alex was 9th at the classic sprints in Kuusamo (Fin) so we’re fired up to see what we can do tomorrow,” added Kershaw.
“I was a little tired in the warm up but things felt better soon after the race started,” said Harvey. “It was a tricky day for waxing and no one had perfect skis but our team did a great job for us. I felt good and was able to move up but couldn’t bridge to the lead group with Devon near the end and started to cramp dropping a few spots. Overall my form felt good and I’m really happy for Devon.”
Watch the FIS XC Big Step – Men’s 15km classic Race video HERE.
Early on the Russians looked like they’d be a force with Legkov and Ilia Chernousov leading the chase to reel in Hellner and at once point there were five Russians at the front of the pack. Then defending TdS champ, Lukas Bauer (CZE) flexed his ski muscles and took up the mantle as Hellner was caught but Bauer’s efforts may have cost him later as he faded to end up 13th.
“Of course I’m satisfied. I had a good feeling and didn’t want to push too much as it’s a long race, but on the last hill I gave it my all,” said the winner to FIS XC. “I won here in 2008 and afterwards I was the winner of the Tour – so that’s a good sign. I was not afraid of loosing contact with the Russians, I was pleased the speed was higher. It is always good to be in front, and to cover first position.
“I am not afraid of Northug, I knew that I was in the first position and that was more important. I thought Northug was coming, but luckily he didn’t. My goal is to take as many bonus points as possible in the Tour. The sprint is important, and I want to be in the semi finals tomorrow.”
“I felt good out there and despite the tricky conditions it was a solid day… I was able to move up steadily but I’m still not where I want to be as I couldn’t find my top gear near the end,” said Freeman from the team bus as they headed to Obertsdorf for tomorrow’s sprints.
It’s Freeman’s first Tour so what are his impressions? “Overall things are good and it feels a bit chilled out. Noone’s over-amped as it’s still early in the Tour so we’ll see how things unfold.” Freeman has raced at Obertsdorf and knows the scene there. “I haven’t qualified for a WCup sprint yet so we’ll see how I do tomorrow.”
US Team head coach Chris Grover referred to today’s efforts as a mixed bag. “Andy blew up which was too bad but Kikkan had a decent day as did Kris. I think Bird and his coach Zach Caldwell are satisfied with his efforts today. He picked off a lot of skiers and was as high as 12th or 13th at one point but couldn’t manage to hold the pace. We had a good transfer to Obertsdorf and we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s sprints.”