Young Nordic Skiers Continue Learning Curve Against World's Elite at Tour de Ski

FasterSkierJanuary 2, 2007

—Devon Kershaw finishes as top Canuck in 25th place, moving into 12th overall—

Oberstdorf, GER—While they have all but mastered the sprint discipline, Canada’s next generation of World Cup cross-country skiers continue their paces on a dedicated journey towards excellence in the distance races.

The national ski team competing in Europe this week, which consists of six men and four women ranging from age 20 to 28, took another step forward on their learning curve Tuesday in the 10- and 20-kilometre pursuit races in Oberstdorf, Germany, marking the second stage of the inaugural Tour de Ski.

“It was a difficult day, and we had to battle extremely tough conditions including hurricane winds, rain and snow,” said Dave Wood, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team following the pursuit races, which combines classic technique with skate skiing. Athletes enter a transition area midway through the race to change equipment. “We had some challenges finding the right skis today, but we have another race tomorrow and we’ll learn from it.”

Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., continues to lead the way for the Canadian squad while enjoying a breakthrough season. The 24 year old moved into 12th spot in the Tour de Ski standings after finishing 25th with a time of 51 minutes 48.6 seconds in the men’s 20-kilometre race.

Benefiting from training alongside Olympic medallists, Beckie Scott and Sara Renner for years, Kershaw and his young teammates relative to the rest of the world’s best, are all committed to ensuring Canada’s cross-country ski program remains at an elite level in all disciplines heading towards the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

“You can’t develop an elite skier overnight. It takes time and patience,” said Wood. “Beckie and Sara started hitting their stride when they were around 26. We have a young group, and we need to balance their exposure to really strong competition and domestic races where they have an opportunity to win. It is good to give them the experience racing against the best, and it will go a long way in helping their development.”

Joining Kershaw in the men’s field was 25-year-old Drew Goldsack, of Red Deer, Alta. in 38th at 52:18.2, George Grey, 27, of Rossland, B.C. in 52nd (53:24.1), Stefan Kuhn, of Canmore, Alta., in 59th (53:54.2), Sean Crooks, 23, of Thunder Bay, Ont., in 74th (56:37.9), and Dan Roycroft, 28, of Port Sydney, Ont., in 76th (57:51.3).

France’s Vincent Vittoz led the way in the men’s pursuit finishing with a time of 50:55.9. Russia’s Alexander Legkov was second at 50:56.8, while Germany’s Tobias Angerer was third (50:58.4).

Meanwhile Montreal’s 23-year-old Dasha Gaiazova led a young quartet of Canadian women in the 10-kilometre pursuit Tuesday. Gaiazova finished in 44th spot with a time of 31:30.2. Perianne Jones, 21, of Almonte, Ont., who is competing in her first stint on the World Cup after blazing an international trail on the junior circuit over the last three years, finished in 51st spot at 32:44.1. Olympic gold medallist in the sprint event, Chandra Crawford, 23, of Canmore, Alta. continues to focus her training efforts on the distance races finished 52nd, while 20-year-old Amanda Ammar, of Onoway, Alta., was 56th (33:40.9)
It was Norway’s Kristing Stormer Steira who taught the Canadians a valuable lesson in the German pursuit, after winning the second leg of the Tour de Ski with a time of 29:27.6. The 25-year-old, who has only one World Cup victory to her name, was fourth after the midway point in the race, but quickly grabbed the lead after putting on her skate skis.

The Norwegian finished 13.3 seconds ahead of Valentina Shevchenko, of the Ukraine (29:40.9), while Russia’s Olga Savialova was third at 29:44.8.

The Tour de Ski continues on Wednesday with the men’s 10- and 15-kilometre classic races in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada. Its 45,000 members are athletes, coaches and officials, including members of the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team and Canadian Disabled Cross-Country Ski Team. Cross-country skiing is Canada’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually.

Complete Results:

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1.Vincent Vittoz, FRA, 50:55.9; 2. Alexander Legkov, RUS, 50:56.8; 3. Tobias Angerer, GER, 50:58.4; Nikolai Pakratov, RUS, 50:59.0; 5. Anders Soedergren, SWE, 50:59.2.

Canadian Results:

25. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 51:48.6; 38. Drew Goldsack, Red Deer, Alta., 52:18.2; 52. George Grey, 53:24.1; 59. Stefan Kuhn, Canmore, Alta., 53:54.2; 74. Sean Crooks, Thunder Bay, Ont., 56:37.9; 76. Dan Roycroft, Port Sydney, Ont., 57:51.3.

Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:

1. Kristin Stoermer Steira, NOR, 29:27.6; 2. Valentina Shevchenko, UKR, 29:40.9; 3. Olga Savialova, RUS, 29:44.8; 4. Katerina Neumannova, CZE, 29:45.5; 5. Riita Liisa Roponen, FIN, 29:46.4.

Canadian Results:

44. Dasha Gaiazova, Montreal, 31:30.2; 51. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont., 32:44.1; 52. Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta., 32:50.0; 56. Amanda Ammar, Onoway, Alta., 33:40.9.

Source: Cross Country Canada


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