January 9, 2010 (Alpe Cermis, Italy) – It’s over. The 5th annual FIS Tour de Ski finished atop Italy’s Alpe Cermis today, crowning Swiss super star Dario Cologna as the best all-round ski racer in the world. Cologna had little trouble defending his commanding lead on the 9km uphill climb.
Norway’s Petter Northug claimed 2nd over all, but the real story was Czech Lucas Bauer’s phenomenal display of climbing prowess. Like Therese Johaug (NOR) in the women’s race Bauer hurled himself up the mountain, posting the fastest time of the day and vaulted himself from 10th to 3rd in the over all.
Canadians Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey, who throughout the Tour have posted some of their country’s most impressive World Cup results ever, finished in 7th and 10th respectively overall.
In come-from-behind moves of their own, Canadian Ivan Babikov and US skier Kris Freeman posted impressive results on the final day. Both skiers have struggled during the Tour, but today they left that all behind, skiing together and snagging the 6th and 7th fastest times of the day respectively – Babikov ended up 21st overall and Freeman was 28th.
For Freeman having the 7th best time up Alpe Cermis behind Babikov in 6th was a final coup for him at the Tour and retribution for yesterday’s waxing debacle in the 20km classic.
“For sure today was an attempt to make good on yesterday which was a 19-km sufferfest. I felt good going into the 20km on Stage 7 but knew after the first kilometre I knew that I was in trouble – it was a frustrating day out there and no one felt good about it.”
An interesting twist to Freeman’s day was forgetting his transponders, “a rookie move” as he put it. “I was distracted today because of yesterday and some personal issues and only realized at 1.5km into today’s race that I’d forgotten my transponders – a rookie move. Chris [Grover, Head Coach] appealed to the jury later and I was super lucky that they understood and allowed my day to count.”
For the first few kilometres of the race things stayed relatively calm. At 3.5km Harvey was skiing very well, having moved into 3rd behind Cologna and Northug with Kershaw in 6th. But by the 5.6km mark, Harvey had been overtaken by Italy’s Roland Clara and France’s Jean Marc Gaillard who had passed Kershaw now in 7th… as Bauer lurked behind in 10th.
Nothing much changed by the next interval at 6.5km but soon after everything did. Just as the skiers hit the toughest point on this toughest of courses, Bauer dropped the hammer and suddenly attacked vaulting himself into 3rd by the 7.4km mark. From there, it was all about masochism, and Bauer certainly knows how to punish himself.
So too, does Babikov, who last year took the win in the Tour’s final hill climb. The former Russian skier, and veteran of three tours said he felt strong on today’s stage.
“I always felt pretty confident on this stage,” said Babikov. “I knew I had a chance for a good time on the day, so I went for it hoping to get some points.”
He said this year’s edition of the challenging stage was especially tough.
“Every year it seems longer, or maybe I’m just getting older. Either way, it’s tough. Some places are very narrow and it’s hard to pass. With the 6th fastest time, I’m happy,” commented Babikov.
Devon Kershaw was quick to agree with his teammate.
“Hill climbing is super hard,” said Kershaw. “I moved into 7th, and I’m happy to have stayed in the top 10. Losing time in the overall is a little disappointing, but with four podiums and such solid races, we must have done some good training.”
With one bronze, two silvers and a gold medal from this Tour, Kershaw also takes home some significant prize money. Cologna will take home 150,000 Swiss Francs ($155,000US) for the overall win, with Northug picking up 100,000. Bauer get’s 50,000 thanks entirely to today’s powerful showing…not bad for a day’s work.
All told Kershaw will head back to Canada with 25,000 Swiss Francs. When asked about his plans for the cash, Kershaw joked, saying “The guys have been razzing me about my old ’96 Saab…maybe it’s time I passed it along and might get something newer in the spring.” A new set of wheels is certainly a well-deserved reward for Kershaw’s impressive results of late.
Canadian head coach Justin Wadsworth couldn’t be happier with how this year’s Tour has gone.
“I knew Dev and the guys would ski well,” said Wadsworth. “They’ve been working hard. I thought one podium for sure, but four… I couldn’t have predicted that.”
U.S. coach Chris Grover was also gratified with Freeman’s solid day to end the Tour. “Considering our wax issues yesterday it was really important for Kris to have a good day – it was a great finish for him on good skis.”
Freeman heads to Munich later today and will be home tomorrow where he’ll take a short break and then prepare for the Nordic Worlds in Oslo in Feb.
Alex Harvey echoed his teammates enthusiasm for their accomplishments over 10 days of grueling racing.
“It’s like a circle,” he said. “Dev medals, and we all get pumped, and it pushes us. Then it happens again and it keeps coming around.”
Harvey posted some very strong splits early in today’s race, even taking over 3rd place for a short while.
“It was really good, I’m really happy with how my body felt. The real skiing, in the stadium and early on felt really good…but when I hit that wall, man, with all that off setting…my legs just cramped up. That climb is just so hard.”
Harvey also heaped praise on the coaching and wax staff, pointing out how well taken care of he, Devon and Ivan were.
“Justin’s been really good, pushing us on recovery and stuff like that. Having the bus was a huge advantage. It’s a great lounge for us after the races. We’ll have it again next year.” The Canadians may just be on to something. The tour bus has been such a hit that it’s likely other teams will follow suit.
For now, the Canucks are heading home. Kershaw and Babikov will head back to Canmore, and Harvey home to Quebec for a month of recovery and prep training before returning to Europe for World Championships. But Harvey will first make a quick stop at the U23 World Champs.
“It’s my last year U23,” he said. “And I want to use that. I’d like to go for a U23 World Champs title while I can.”
Men’s 9km Pursuit Results HERE.
Men’s 9km Pursuit finishing order HERE.
Final Overall HERE.
Final Overall detail HERE.