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Cross Country Canada —Ivan Babikov celebrates back-to-back top-10 finishes, three Canucks in men’s top-20—

CANMORE, Alta.—Alex Harvey has celebrated podium performances around the world, but nothing in his mind, compares to the fourth-place effort he put down Friday at the penultimate stage of the eight-race Ski Tour Canada on the Canmore Nordic Centre trails.

“It is one of best races of my life here,” said Harvey. “A top-five is really unexpected for me today. I really think it is one of the best performances of my life.”

Located at altitude, the world-renowned Canmore Nordic Centre features relentless climbs that mercilessly leave the legs screaming for a break with none to be found. If that isn’t enough – throw in slushy conditions for the 15-kilometre skate ski race – and one has the ingredients even the world’s best Nordic skiers can’t handle.

But, the 27-year-old leader of the Canadian squad was up for the challenge and powered his way through the slow conditions with his eyes focused squarely on the podium. Harvey clocked a time of 35:38.0.

“I have just had a lot of bad races here in Canmore,” said Harvey, of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que. “This specific course just doesn’t suit my style of skiing. I never thought I’d be strong racing internationally on a course like this. Now being fourth tells me, and shows kids, anything is possible. Doing well on a course like this is something I’ve been working towards over the last five years, and it is paying off. I am amazed.”

Harvey had the Canadian crowd on the tips of their toes throughout the individual start. Starting in 34th spot, the four-time World Championship medallist was targeting his 18th career World Cup medal for most of the day.

Leading throughout the first half of the race, Harvey crossed the finish line in second spot where he agonizingly waited, with his world-leading wax team who put lightening quick skis on his feat, for the rest of the field to finish.

Dropping to third with the first 50 athletes having completed the course, it was late starter, Sweden’s Marcus Hellner, who nudged Harvey off the podium.

“The skis were so fast today. They were awesome,” said Harvey. “The guys have given us the best skis over the last two days which was a big difference.”

Finland’s Matti Heikkinen clocked a golden time of 35:16.3. Russia’s Evgeniy Belov was second at 35:29.9, while Sweden’s Hellner was 13.9 second behind the leading pace at 35:30.2.

Equally impressive as Harvey, was the effort put in by the entire men’s team with three in the top-20.

Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., delivered the first back-to-back 10th-place finish of his career. Nicknamed “The Bulldog,” the hardnosed Canuck relished the difficult conditions on his home track to post a time of 36:16.5.

“I love it. Uphills and altitude are my thing and it is even harder today with the soft conditions. The tougher the better for me,” said Babikov, who also had a fourth-place finish in the individual start at the 2005 World Cup in Canmore. “The body felt good, the skis were amazing, the team was amazing and the crowd was behind us all day. It is such a great feeling, and to have a good race multiplies it. It was all heart today.”

Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., skied to the final spot in the top-20. The three-time Olympian stopped the clock at 36:46.3 for 20th.

“I was a little nervous coming into this week. I love Canmore, and training here at the Nordic Centre but these tracks punish me,” said Kershaw. “I had some bad cramping in the skiathlon, but our massage therapist worked pretty hard on me and the body was great today. I felt really good for about 12.5 kilometres and then just had nothing left. It was great to have a good one today.

“Our wax team did an incredible job. There is a reason we have three of us in the top-20 again. They went above and beyond that is for sure.”

Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., cracked the top-30, placing 29th with a time of 37:04.7.

It was World Cup veteran, Emily Nishikawa, once again leading the way for the Canucks in the women’s 10-kilometre skate-ski race. The Whitehorse resident, who competed at the 2014 Olympics, gutted out a 35th place finish on the challenging Canmore Nordic Centre. Nishikawa clocked a time of 25:31.4.

“There is just not much left in the tank. This is our seventh race and so I just gave it everything I had out there,” said Nishikawa. “I didn’t feel great at all this morning. My body is very tired, but the crowd was great and helped push me through today.”

Nishikawa’s teammate and fellow Whitehorse native, Dahria Beatty, fought for the final spot in the top-40. Beatty, who had a breakthrough performance with a 15th-place finish in the sprint races on Tuesday, posted a time of 25:54.0

Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg set the time to beat at 23:20.1. Heidi Weng clocked the second-fastest time at 23:43.1, while Finland’s Krista Parmkoski narrowly grabbed the final spot on the podium with a time of 23:44.6.

The eighth and final stage of the grueling Ski Tour Canada is set for Saturday at the Canmore Nordic Centre with the pursuit races.

Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov takes a 32.3 second lead into the final stage over Norway’s Petter Northug. Martin Johnsrud Sudby, of Norway, sits 39.6 seconds off the leading mark, while Harvey is two minutes 10.3 seconds back.

Norway’s Heidi Weng has a 30 second lead in the women’s Tour standings.

The inaugural Ski Tour Canada, which is also serving as the World Cup Finals, consists of eight races at four renowned Nordic venues in the country starting in Gatineau, Que., Montreal, Quebec City, and ending with four stages in Canmore, Alta., over a 12-day period.

For complete men’s and Canadian results: http://bit.ly/1RcRViu

For complete women’s and Canadian Results:http://bit.ly/24V9uhl

CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, and Mackenzie Investments – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1. Matti Heikkinen, FIN, 35:16.3; 2. Evgeniy Belov, RUS, 35:29.9; 3. Marcus Hellner, SWE, 35:30.2; 4. Alex Harvey, Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., 35:38.0; 5. Robin Duvillard, FRA, 35:45.1

Canadian Results in Top-40:

10. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 36:16.5; 20. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 36:46.3; 29. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta., 37:04.7

Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:

1. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, NOR, 23:20.1; 2. Heidi Weng, NOR, 23:43.1; 3. Krista Parmakoski, FIN, 23:44.6; 4. Kari Oeyre Slind, NOR, 23:44.7; 5. Jessica Diggins, USA, 23:52.7

Canadian Results in Top-40:

35. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 25:31.4; 40. Dahria Beatty, Whitehorse, 25:54.0

*****

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Chris Dornan

Media and Public Relations

Cross Country Canada

T: 403-620-8731