After breaking a pole early in the 35 k Cortina to Toblach pursuit, Canadian Ivan Babikov was still able to move up the rankings in the Tour de Ski.
Babikov broke the pole just a kilometer into the race, and was forced to ski a solid 4 k before picking up a replacement from a Swedish technician at the first aid station.
In most World Cup races, held on relatively short loops close to the stadium, a broken pole is usually replaced in seconds. The Cortina to Tobalch race is unique, and skiers head out into the woods, all alone for kilometers at a time.
Babikov told FasterSkier that his goal was to pick off as many spots as possible as he gears up for the Final Climb. He was feeling good, but ended up by himself on a gradual course that favors pack skiing.
He still moved up four places, climbing from 32nd to 28th in the overall standings, helped in large part by a dozen skiers dropping from the Tour prior to the race.
“Ivan skied a really strong race after having some bad luck breaking his pole one kilometer in the race at a spot that is difficult to get too,” Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth said in a Cross-Country Canada press release.
One of the best climbers on the circuit, Babikov has won the Final Climb once before, and placed seventh in the overall Tour last season. The top-20 is just seconds away, and the top-10 not outside the realm of possibility.
Sounding discouraged after the race, Babikov said of his race, “I had way more than that today.”
He is 3:21.3 behind overall leader and today’s winner, Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway, and sits less than two seconds out of twentieth, and 1:10.7 out of tenth.
Devon Kershaw continued an up-and-down Tour, posting the 34th fastest time of the day while losing just a single place in the overall standings. He now sits in 23rd overall.
Kershaw finished fourth in the Tour in 2012, but at 3:20.3 back from leader Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway, he will be hard pressed to match that.
— Katie Bono contribute reporting
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.