VAL DI FIEMME, Ita.—Canada’s Ivan Babikov nearly defended his title as the King of the Mountain when he finished fourth in the final and toughest stage of the 10-day Tour de Ski – a 10-kilometre pursuit race up a mountain in Val de Fiemme, Italy on Sunday.
In one of the most difficult races on a cross-country skier’s schedule that begins in the stadium with six kilometres of classic skiing, the final march to the finish ends with a 425-metre climb to the finish line at the top of Alpe Cermis.
The relentless Babikov charged to the front of the pack with the world’s best skiers to clock a fourth-place time of 33 minutes 48.7 second, and his best finish of the year in the 10-kilometre pursuit race. Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., also finished fourth at a World Cup in Canmore in 2005.
“I am pretty satisfied, but I do think I was giving mercy to myself and I could have taken a little bit more pain,” said Babikov, who posted the fastest time at the sixth stage of the Tour and was just under three seconds off the fastest time today. “I just tired to keep fighting the whole time and never give up. I tested myself to the limit and passed as many people as I could so I have to be satisfied.”
Babikov made history at the top of the final climb, which is regularly used as an alpine ski run, last year when he won the gold medal in the final stage – making him the first Canadian since Pierre Harvey to win a World Cup race. The strong performance on Sunday moved him into ninth spot overall on the Tour de Ski.
“This is my best Tour finish so it was a good experience, but our whole team could not perform at this level without the amazing job our wax team and support staff did out here,” said Babikov. “We’ve been racing so many days in a row that it is hard to believe we have tomorrow off. But I’m looking forward to getting home. My shape is good and I’m ready to prepare for the Olympics.”
Lukas Bauer, of the Czech Republic, captured one of the most prestigious titles in the cross-country skiing world by winning the Tour de Ski and the final stage after stopping the clock at 33:43.4. Sweden’s Marcus Hellner was second at 33:45.8, while Jean Marc Gaillard, of France, grabbed the bronze in Italy with a time of 33:45.9.
Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., and Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., who both also found their way into the top-10 during the extremely tight eight-event Tour de Ski, which had the top male cross-country skiers competing over 102 kilometres of terrain on five venues in three different countries.
Kershaw finished 16th overall in the Tour after a 21st place finish in Sunday’s pursuit with a time of 35:35.1. The 21-year-old Harvey, who proved he belongs with the world’s best over the last 10 days, finished 22nd overall after completing the final stage in 31st (36:17.5).
Meanwhile, Olympic silver medallist, Sara Renner was the lone Canadian woman to take on the fourth edition of the Tour de Ski. A model of consistency, Renner finished in 17th spot overall after placing 24th in the women’s nine-kilometre pursuit when she clocked a time of 37:56.2.
“This race we did today is the most difficult thing anyone can do in the world and I arrived at the finish with no gas left in the tank,” said Renner, who added the final stage modeled the Tour de France in cycling with thousands of spectators ringing bells and blowing horns on the sidelines. “I watched the men’s race and can’t believe the amount of pain on peoples faces. I know mine was the same, but it was pretty spectacular to see it myself.”
The 33-year-old leader of the National Ski Team has been slowly progressing into elite form with just over one month until the start of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Renner posted her best result of the Tour de Ski on Saturday where she was 14th in a 10-kilometre mass start race.
“The result yesterday was really good for me and I have gained a lot of confidence on the Tour that I can ski with the best in the world. I think I needed to do a series of hard races to find that,” said Renner. “I’m excited to go home and I think preparing for the final World Cup and the Olympics in Canmore around my family will be a huge advantage for me.”
Source: Cross-Country Canada