Oberhof, Germany – With four skiers in the top-30, Canada is off to a good start in the 2010 Tour de Ski. Led by Devon Kershaw, who climbed up to 10th place today, the Canadians are in striking distance of the podium.
Kershaw was a disappointing 37th in yesterday’s prologue, but with times packed close, he did not face much of a deficit today, starting 37 seconds down. With the field closing up quickly, he was able to make up the ground, and progressively moved toward the front.
“I didn’t have a sprint gear at the end, but it was a solid day for sure”, said Kershaw, “I struggled to find my energy in the first five or six kilometers, but I was able to settle in with the pace, and stay out of trouble in the mass start where lots can go wrong.”
He posted the 6th fastes time on the day, and sits just 10.9 seconds behind leader Petter Northug. This start is simlar to a year ago. Kershaw hopes to avoid trouble in the sprinting – last year he qualified well, but struggled in the ehats, costing him valuable time.
But is biggest potential enemy is illness. Kershaw has started the Tour every year, and every year he has fallen sick.
“I have been sick every year so I’m really trying to stay calm this year. I am trying to evaluate things in a hurry following each race and then let it go because there is no time until you have to get back out there,” said Kershaw, who is getting over sickness which he suffered over the holiday season. “You need everyone on the team to pitch in from good skis, to getting dry clothes, and having proper food to survive this thing. Today our wax techs were awesome, we all had great skis, and our whole team pulled together and did a great job.”
Ivan Babikov had a similarly impressive day, moving up from 50th to 23rd. He will try to maintain a solid position in the upcoming sprints – a distance he does not excel at.
“The Tour Day#2: That was a very hard stage, moved up to 23rd place 30sec off the lead now. Next 2 sprints in the row,and I don’t like that!” Babikov tweeted.
If he can stay near the top-30 entering the final climb, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Alex Harvey slipped in the standings, from 18th to 27th, but is still in a strong position entering the sprints – just 31.5 seconds off the lead.
George Grey was the least successful of the Canadian men, slipping from 17 to 51st.
In the women’s race, Sarah Renner climbed up the standings, and now sits in 21st. The women’s field is much more spread out than the men’s, and she is 1:25 behind Justyna Kowalczyk (POL).
“I haven’t started the season the way I wanted, but it has been a gradual progression and I can feel it coming,” said Renner. “I think it is important for the confidence to have good races prior to the Olympics, and I am definitely going in the right direction. You have to make yourself go out there and suffer a bit and I’m starting to feel the pace again.”
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.