January 02, 2011 (Oberstdorf, Germany) – Canada’s Devon Kershaw claimed his second silver in as many days just missing out to winner Emil Joensson (SWE) by a toe nail in the men’s 1.2km classic sprint final as the two lunged across the line in a photo finish that went to Joensson. TdS leader Dario Cologna (SUI) was third.
It was déjà vu for Kershaw, who was nipped by Cologna yesterday in the men’s 15km handicap start pursuit, but the stalwart Canuck stepped it up today taking the lead near the end of the final round looking for the win and it took everything that WCup sprint leader Joensson could muster to catch him at the line.
Kershaw’s performance puts him firmly in second place overall at the Tour at 3.7s behind Cologna with Alexander Legkov (RUS) in third at 23.1s. It also demonstrates that the 28-year-old athlete from Sudbury, Ont. is one of the most talented and well-rounded Nordic skiers in the world with second-place podiums in both distance and sprint races on consecutive days.
“I was going for the win,” Kershaw said in a SkiTrax interview post race. “I felt strong and my classic skiing has been good. I have a lot of respect for the other guys out there – Joensson and Cologna are Olympic champions. I thought I had it – my first World Cup win… that’s always my goal and I was so close.
“Joensson crept up on me at the end – I didn’t even hear him I was so focused on the finish line. We both lunged for it and I’ve got big feet which I thought would be an advantage but not this time.”
Kershaw, who was 7th in the qualifications, used a similar strategy in each heat hanging back a bit and then advancing to position himself strong for the final uphill before sweeping down to the finish for the final sprint. Earlier in his quarterfinal round with the USA’s Andy Newell the American was in control leading for most of heat until the finish when Kershaw overtook him for the win. Newell almost got caught by a Russian skier but held on to advance.
In the final Kershaw’s strategy worked again as he passed Joensson and Cologna on the last uphill and put the hammer down as they all headed for the finish but the Swede reeled him on the final stretch for the win.
“He’s worked hard and our technical crew did a fabulous job on the skis – everything came together and Devon’s got the confidence in himself to go for it at the right time,” commented Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth.
“It was really, really tight in the finish, the tightest finish in my life, I changed the tracks, closed my eyes and went for it all,” Joensson told FIS XC. “I was really happy when the announcer said I was the winner. My body was really tired, the last race was really though. Tour de Ski is getting harder, I feel tired. When the race is on, all I focus on is winning the race. I was lucky today.”
Kershaw’s team mate Alex Harvey also had a stellar day besting Petter Northug (NOR) in his quarter final round and making it to the semis where he narrowly missed advancing as he placed third in his heat to finish seventh and sits in 4th overall behind Legkov at 36.9s.
“Yeah, another great day for the team,” said Harvey, “I felt good in the qualifiers, posting a fast time (6th) to make it into the finals. In my 1/4 final, I had a good start and was 3rd behind Northug and another Norwegian. I skied easily up the first hill, pushed a bit over the top and went into 2nd place.
“On the second climb I got pushed into a wide lane so at the top I lost a position to Northug. In the finishing stretch I knew I would have to give it all because I had to pass Northug to come in 2nd – but I made it so it was kind of a personal victory – out-sprinting Northug to the line! Definitely good for the confidence!”
Kershaw, Harvey and Newell found themselves against three Swedes in their semi final heat. Marcus Hellner bolted to the front as Newell slipped and fell right at the start but held his composure and rejoined the group by the first climb.
“I felt strong today but had a lot of bad luck in the semi final,” said Newell. “I fell right out of the start gate. Not sure if the wand got stuck, or if I poled my boot or ski, or if I slipped but I went down fast. So I started about 20 meters behind everyone and was able to catch up and even ski all the way back into second going up the final hill.”
As the Swedes lead Kershaw, Harvey and Newell glided behind but over the final hill Joensson took charge with Kershaw just behind. As they rounded the last corner into the final straight-away Newell went down again.
“We all kind of came into the finishing lanes together and as we were setting up to pick our lanes Marcus Hellner’s pole caught my ski and I did a belly flop – twice on the same heat – so hopefully I got a few crashes out of the way for a while,” explained Newell who finished 12th.
Joensson and Kershaw went 1-2 in the semi setting up their match up in the final and more fireworks. The day was a mixed bag for the USA as Newell’s team mate Kris Freeman made the sprint qualifications for the first time in his career (at a WCup) but was fourth in his quarter final to finish 24th overall. Canada’s Ivan Babikov was 65th.
“It was great for Bird [Freeman] to make it in there,” said Head Coach Chris Grover. “For a distance skier like him, it was a great performance.”
Despite his back-to-back stellar days Kershaw is focused on the rest of the Tour. “Anything can happen and you’re done,” he said. “The Tour starts tomorrow with the pursuit race – you can’t lose your perspective. The key is stay relaxed and I don’t plan on trying for any bonus points.”
And what are his thoughts on the team’s magic bus? “Very cool! Great idea by Justin – we love it. It’s a great place to hang out and chill.”
Overall detail HERE.