Kuusamo, Finland – Canadian Devon Kershaw bounced back from disqualification in yesterday's sprint to finish 5th in the men's 15km classic World Cup. For the 26 year old Kershaw, this was his top finish ever in a World Cup distance race. In 2006 he cracked the podium in the sprint, finishing third, and last season he posted a fifth in Lahti, again in the sprint. His previous best distance finish was a 12th place in December 2007 in Rybinsk, Russia.
â€œI felt like I had something to prove today after yesterday’s debacle in the sprint race,â€ said Kershaw, who was disqualified in his opening heat after being pegged for skate-skiing in a classic format. â€œI felt like my shape was really strong this weekend, and tested my body today. I am ridiculously excited about today, but need to keep things in perspective.â€
Kershaw's time of 38:12.8 was was 20.3 seconds slower than winner Martin Johnsrud Sundby's (NOR), and placed him a mere 6.3 seconds off the podium. Often a fast starter, Kershaw skied a consistent race, placing either 5th or 6th at every intermediate checkpoint. As usual, the field was tight – four seconds slower would have dropped the Canadian star to 9th position.
â€œThe Kershaw way in the past has been to go hard at the beginning and then I just hold on at the end,â€ said the 2006 Olympian. â€œI have been working hard at skiing on an even pace which is the key to any endurance event. I didn’t have a sprint in me for the final kilometer today, but I stayed relaxed, used my technique and this is a huge step forward for me.â€
This was victor Johnsrud Sundby's first individual World Cup victory, though he does have three relay wins and one team sprint win under his belt. Posting a faster time in the second half of the race, the Norweigan was able to move up from 4th at 8.1km to the top position at 13.1km. He edged defending World Cup Champion Lukas Bauer (CZE) by 3.5 seconds. Sami Jauhojaervi turned in a strong performance for the hosts, claming third, .6 seconds ahead of another Norweigan, Eldar Roenning. This performance matched Jauhojaervi's top career result and marked his second-ever World Cup podium appearance.
Said Sundby after the race: “It's gorgeous – I can't believe this. Tenth place was my best result yet. Also during the race I didn't trust it. And now I'm on top of the podium – it's awesome!”
Bauer seemed unconcerned with his scond place finish saying, “I know that I'm not in 100% shape yet, but I don't mind. Second place today is really good, and my focus of course are the World Champs, and I still have time until then.”
American Kris Freeman turned in another solid performance, finishing 16th after placing 20th last week in the 15km freestyle in Gaellivare, Sweden. Freeman finished 51.5 seconds behind the winner, and 14 seconds out of the top-10. The top American distance skier normally starts slowly (note his 77th position at 2.3km in Gaellivare), but today he was skiing in 13th at 2.5km, and climbed as high as 10th at the 8.1km mark. The early consistency and World Cup points is a good sign for Freeman, though the American team is looking for podium results, and will not be satisfied with top 30's.
Two other Americans took to the snow this morning: Chris Cook and Torin Koos placed 64th and 65th respectively, half a second apart. Both Cook and Koos started stronger, ranking in the top 46 at the early checkpoint, before fading back as the race progressed. With Koos coming off illness, and both skiers relatively inexperienced in World Cup distance events, these results are positive steps for both skiers. In fact, this was Koos' first ever individual distance start on the World Cup, and his 57 FIS points is second only to his performance at last year's 50km classic at Canadian Nationals. For Cook, this was his third ever World Cup distance race, and he also set a personal best, both in result, and more importantly in points – his 57.31 was significantly better than the 79.43 performance he turned in in Kuusamo in February of 2007. The hope is that both skiers will continue to improve with more experience. The duo finished 2:43 behind the winner.
Stefan Kuhn (CAN) coming off a career-best performance in yesterday's sprint finished 68th, +2:56.3.