January 22, 2012 (Otepaa, Estonia) – It was a great day for Canada’s Devon Kershaw in Otepaa with a bronze medal performance in the men’s 15km classic and yet another podium for the Canadian team in as many days. In fact it was Kershaw’s best-ever distance result in a non-Tour de Ski World Cup commented Justin Wadsworth, Canadian Head Coach.
The Sudbury skier was in the zone and lead at both intermediate splits on the Otepaa course, arguably one of the toughest cross-country ski courses on the circuit. But in the last portion of the race he was overtaken by Lukas Bauer (CZE) who surged near the end, and eventual winner Dario Cologna (SUI).
“I went out really hard today. I went for the win and I don’t regret it,” said Kershaw in a team release. “It has been a hard couple of weeks for me personally and I didn’t know what to expect coming off the Tour. Today I was able to mentally switch off the brain and focus on skiing which felt amazing.”
“The climbs out here are are relentless and punishing. They are so long which we don’t normally ski,” added Kershaw. “The Estonians know how to set up a course to ensure the strongest man wins.”
This was his first weekend of racing since his remarkable fourth overall at the grueling nine-stage Tour de Ski that ended Jan. 8. The team jetted to the Canary Islands for a break after the Tour which may become more popular with WCup skiers given Kershaw’s medal performance today and his teammate, Alex Harvey’s 4th place in the CL sprints yesterday.
Harvey finished 19th for a solid effort and was followed by the USA’s Kris Freeman (USA), the top American in 22nd place – his best distance result so far this season. Noah Hoffman (USA) also had a strong day scoring points and a personal best World Cup classic distance result, with a 26th-place finish (he was 25th in the pursuit in Whistler at the pre-Olympics).
“The race today felt really good. I went out focused on starting under control. The course was incredibly difficult, possibly the hardest I’ve ever raced on, but more than that I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes from the 15km at US Nationals,” Hoffman explained to SkiTrax post-race. “I executed that part of my plan pretty well. I also had great skis and good energy. I was happy with the way things went. I’m looking forward to building on this result for the rest of the season.”
Canada’s Len Valjas crossed the line in 31st just out of the points coming close to his best-ever World Cup finish in a distance event which was 29th in Kuusamo.
With today’s result Kershaw is now 5th overall in the World Cup ranking while Harvey sits eighth overall. Harvey was impressed with his teammate’s skiing saying, “Just so everybody knows Devon Kershaw is the man. Third place in Otepaa but special mention for gutsiest skiing!”
For Kershaw his stellar day didn’t quite erase his disappointment at placing fourth at the Tour de Ski but he’s stoked with the Canadian team’s overall performance season
“Finishing fourth has been tough to take and it was at the Tour. It is heartbreaking, but that is the thing about cross-country skiing – there is always more,” said Kershaw. “The biggest factor for me is that I’m now feeling much stronger and more comfortable every race because of the people I’m surrounded by on our team.
“We have had an athlete in the top-five at every World Cup stop this year, which I think is a credit to the athletes we have on this team, and the support from our wax techs and coaches. Mentally it is so good for me.”