Devon Kershaw (CAN) followed by Alex Harvey (CAN). Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus.
After cleaning up in the bonus sprints, and finishing 10th overall in the Holmenkollen 50k classic, Devon Kershaw (CAN) moved into second in the World Cup standings, and is now 15 points ahead of Petter Northug (NOR).
Kershaw was in the mix at each intermediate sprint, and won the final two, but that was never the plan.
“I decided out there to just grab ones that wouldn’t take much out of me,” Kershaw told FasterSkier. “The pace was pretty mellow for most of the race (feeling-wise for me anyway) – I think the incredibly slow/slushy snow played into that.”
He was ultimately disappointed with his final result—Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth told FasterSkier that both Kershaw and teammate Alex Harvey were in it for the win.
Kershaw came up just a bit short, and looked solid for the top-6 before a a bunch slipped by in the homestretch.
“I was feeling pretty good, skiing smooth and relaxed,” Kershaw said. “I was in good position and of course with 10km to go I was hoping to win the thing! But some cramping and not having the ‘jam’ up the last climb there – it set me back. I tried my best, and of course hats off and mad respect to Eldar, Dario and Martin. They were so strong in the last 800m-1km.”
He was hindered at the end by “epic cramping,” and described his final sprint as an “embarrassment.”
This was caused in part by missing three consecutive feeds earlier in the race, meaning he skied for a solid 12k with no sustenance.
“That’s not good in a 50km, and even worse when it’s so warm like it was out there today. I ended up cramping up pretty badly the last bit there, and for sure it impacted my race,” Kershaw said, adding that such occurrences are part of the game.
The missed feeds came due to the congestion on the course, and bad luck to lose out on three straight.
Harvey skied with Kershaw much of the race, but slipped to 29th at the end.
After finishing on the podium in Lahti a week ago, Harvey wans’t sure what went wrong.
“It just felt hard muscularly in the race,” he wrote to FasterSkier in an email. “I was recovering fast in the downhills but it wasn’t taking much before I got tired on the climbs, and the climbs are so long here that it made it pretty hard for me.”
By the third lap he was “fighting hard,” a bad sign given the relatively relaxed pace.
He remained in the mix until the last few kilometers.
The same could not be said for teammate Ivan Babikov, who entered the day needing some solid points to crack the top-50 and earn a start in the World Cup Finals.
Babikov never got going however and ended up dropping out.
“He just said he felt really bad,” Wadsworth told FasterSkier.
The Canadians even started sprinter Lenny Valjas to help Babikov.
Wadsworth said Valjas needed a hard workout anyway, and the though was that he could take some bonus points early, hopefully knocking some others out.
Valjas did just that, placing third at the first intermediate sprint. The effort hurthim though, and he didn’t make it around again.
“After moving straight to the back of the pack I decided to pull the plug to make sure I didn’t put Wednesday’s sprint race in jeopardy,” Valjas told FasterSkier.
Wadsworth said the plan all along was for Valjas to drop out, though the exact point was not predetermined.
Valjas passed 61 people in the first several kilometers, and was spent.
Since he did not complete the race, he did not keep the bonus points.
Kevin Sandau also competed for Canada, placing 47th after staying in contact with the pack for much of the race, and Wadsworth said he was pleased with the NorAm Cup leader’s performance.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.