Ski Tour Canada: Norway's Sundby captures skiathlon
Canada's Alex Harvey 7th, Ivan Babikov 10th at Canmore
Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby won the Ski Tour Canada's 30-kilometre skiathlon Wednesday at the Canmore Nordic Centre, while Canada's Alex Harvey was seventh and regained an overall ranking of fourth on the tour.
The skiathlon was the sixth of eight races in the Ski Tour Canada which concludes the 2015-16 World Cup season. The men switched from classic to skate skis midway through Wednesday's race.
Russia's Sergey Ustiugov was second just 2.8 seconds back of Sundby to retain the overall leader's bib. Matti Heikkinen of Finland placed third. Harvey finished 7.8 seconds back of Sundby in seventh.
The 27-year-old from Saint-Ferreol-Les-Neiges, Que., had slipped from fourth overall to fifth when he was eliminated in the quarter-final of Tuesday's sprint. Harvey won a silver medal and was fourth in a pair of Quebec City races last week.
"It was a tough day especially in the skate," Harvey said. "We were pushing hard from beginning and that's how I wanted it.
Harvey's focus on Top 5
"I think I'm too far back for the top-three, but they can always have a really bad day. My focus will be on staying in the top-five in the final two stages."
Harvey, along with Babikov, Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., and Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., were in a large lead group of skiers for the entire classic-skiing leg. The pace separated the field into a lead pack of 13 for the four skate-skiing laps.
Harvey and Babikov worked together while skiing with the lead pack until it stretched out as the finish approached.
"It was great to see Babs rocket out there. When you see your teammate in the lead group, we definitely try to help each other and scream where to go, searching for the fast snow," said Harvey. "That big wall on the classic was tough and on the skate the course is a steady climb the whole way. The pace made it really challenging."
Killick matched his career best World Cup finish by skiing to 19th. The 27 year old was rock solid, matching strides with the world leaders on the Canmore tracks that wind in front of Mount Rundle, finishing with a time of 1:18:03.9.
Babikov is 17th overall, Kershaw 18th and Killick in 27th.
Norway's Petter Northug Jr. placed 11th on Wednesday and remained second in the overall rankings, 47.3 seconds back of Ustiugov. Not only did Sundby jump from fourth to third, but put considerable time distance on Harvey, who is 1:47 behind him.
Norway's Emil Iversen dropped from third to fifth finishing 17th Wednesday. Ivan Babikov of Canmore placed 10th in the skiathlon.
"Everything just came together today. The skis and the body were both really good. I'm super happy," said Babikov. "I know this course like the back of my hand. I train here every day in the winter and summer so I'm super happy with the effort."
Weng remains women's leader
Norway's Heidi Weng won the women's 15k skiathlon and remained tour's overall women's leader. She edged teammate Therese Johaug by less than a second Wednesday.
Their countrywoman Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen was third. Johaug and Jacobsen also rank second and third among women in the Ski Tour Canada.
Earlier in the day, Emily Nishikawa finished as the top Canadian in the women's 15-kilometre skiathlon race. The lone Canadian woman to compete full-time on the World Cup this year, Nishikawa skied to 37th at 43:57.6.
"I'm starting to suffer from the fatigue. Racing at altitude on this course is one of the toughest things to do," said Nishikawa. "To be the top Canadian, and lead this group of incredible young women is special. The course is amazing. I love racing here in Canmore, but my body is definitely starting to feel the fatigue. I was quite tired today."
Cendrine Brown, of St-Jérôme, Que., is edging closer to the elite group of the top-30. The 22 year old enjoyed her career-best result on the World Cup, finishing 38h at 44:00.9.
The Ski Tour Canada concludes with Friday's interval start and Saturday's pursuit.