Davos, Switzerland – If you’re a ski fan anywhere, you were probably disappointed to find out that stars Canadians Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey were sitting out of the 30 k freestyle World Cup in Davos, Switzerland, this Saturday.
Both Kershaw and Harvey are talented skaters, and seem to be in good shape – both have already recorded top 15 finishes on the World Cup already this season.
Last year, they finished in the top 10 in the Overall World Cup standinds, and it has been no secret that in 2011-2012 they are gunning for more.
So what gives? Why are just Ivan Babikov and Graham Nishikawa (last years’ NorAm leader) starting the first individual start 30 k on the circuit in over five years?
FasterSkier put the question to Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) Head Coach Justin Wadsworth on Friday.
“They both could have good races,” admitted Wadsworth.
“But when we look at the whole picture – and this whole picture is through the Tour de Ski – the focus is still on the Tour de Ski and the Overall World Cup.”
“If we look at those two things, we feel like they have better chances if we hold them back from the 30 k, and then go for the sprint hard on Sunday.”
Wadsworth has his eye on Sunday, where he feels that all Harvey, Kershaw, and Len Valjas all have a chance to do well – he mentioned that both Harvey and Kershaw picked up World Cup medals in skate sprints last year.
The style of the race figured into Wadsworth’s decision as well – the individual start 30 k is a rare beast on the current World Cup.
“If it’s a 30 k mass start it’s a totally mind-set – it’s a totally different toll on your body” said Wadsowrth.
“But being an individual start 30 k it’s one of the hardest races. It’s maybe even harder than 50 k individual start because the pace has to be so high the whole the time.”
The Canadians strategy is to use this period as training, with the eye still on the Tour de Ski.
“Here at altitude and looking for training next week also in preparation for the Tour de Ski, it’s just the decision we decided to make.”
While fans may be disappointed, Wadsworth said the pair did want to race, but understood the strategy.
“I think they both feel good now and they both feel fit,” he said.
“It’s a little tough, but I mean it’s a long season, there is a lot of races and you can’t just throw yourself into every single situation and expect to get a good net outcome at the end of the year.”
As well, Wadsworth is looking ahead to next weekend in Rogla, Slovenia, and the 15 k classic race.
“If you rank how we think they [Kershaw and Harvey] can do in races it’s probably one of the highest ranked races,” he said.
“We feel like they can win, that they can both be on the podium there.”
With Harvey and Kershaw sitting on the sidelines, Ivan Babikov and Graham Nishikawa will both have a chance to carry the torch for the Canadians.
“I’m pretty excited for both those guys,” Wadsworth said.
Wadsworth described Babikov as being in a “totally different place than last year.”
“I think he showed that in the 10 k in Kuusamo,” he said.
“That early in the season to ski that fast, I think his prospects are really good here.”