While Norwegians continued to assert their dominance on the World Cup podium, the Canadian National Team had a difficult day in Saturday’s 10/15 k freestyle in Davos, Switzerland.
Ivan Babikov posted the strongest North American result in the men’s race, finishing 34th overall. He trailed race winner, Anders Gløersen of Norway, who crossed the line in 34:27.9, by 1:18.4. Teammate Alex Harvey finished in 38th (+1:24.1), while Devon Kershaw was 52nd, and Graeme Killick was 54th (+1:49.9 and +1:56.1, respectively).
Babikov, who skipped the last weekend of World Cup racing in Davos for a quick trip back home to see family and train in Canada, was unable to match his most recent World Cup finish, where he earned the 10th-fastest time in the 15 k classic pursuit in the Lillehammer mini tour. In Saturday’s race, he was 12.7 seconds out of the top 30.
With no Canadians in the points, Harvey said the team was disappointed with the results.
“It’s not a good picture of where I’m at physically and shape-wise, and it’s the same for Ivan and Devon,” he said in a phone interview.
The 26-year-old Harvey explained that the team went for “a pretty aggressive hand structure” on their skis, as they expected the sun to provide wetter snow conditions. However, the snow remained fairly dry and granular throughout the course, leaving the team’s skis “biting” along the stadium and during the long climb.
“I think today we missed on the skis a little bit … we just have to forget about this one,” he said.
However, the leading Canadians made up a ground after the early splits — Harvey was 73rd after the first 2 k, while the 34-year-old Babikov was 64th.
Harvey’s result comes after his 17th -place finish in last week’s 15 k classic, which also took place in Davos. Despite his lack of points from Saturday’s race, he is now fifth in the World Cup distance ranking and 12th in the overall ranking. Babikov is 28th in distance and 48th overall.
Canadian World Cup coach Tor-Arne Hetland said in a phone interview that the team was “disappointed” but emphasized that “there will be new chances,” including in Sunday’s freestyle sprint. In addition, he said that because Babikov had arrived from Canada a few days prior to the race, he did not have much time to adjust and prepare.
He also explained that Killick had the speed for a top-10 finish (he was 20th after 7.8 k) but “blew up” in the last 5 k. Despite the final result, Killick’s effort demonstrated the 25 year old’s potential.
In the women’s 10 k race, the lone Canadian starter was Emily Nishikawa, who finished 49th. She finished 2:32.4 behind World Cup leader Marit Bjørgen of Norway, who earned a time of 24:57.7 and continued her progression of strong performances. Nishikawa’s result follows a 29th place finish in the Davos 10 k classic earlier in December.
Nishikawa’s race was thrown off by a tricky downhill section where she crashed and broke a pole.
“I came into the corner too fast, and didn’t have enough control,” she wrote in an email.
Despite the crash, Nishikawa, 25, said she was pleased with how she skied the final 7 k following the crash, making up enough time to crack the top 50.