Antoine Cyr and Katherine Stewart-Jones Lead Canucks to Top-20 Tour de Ski Finishes
VAL DI FIEMME, Ita.—Antoine Cyr and Katherine Stewart-Jones were the first Canadian cross-country skiers to reach the top of Mount Cermis and the finish line of the grueling seven-race Tour de Ski on Sunday in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
In a head-to-head battle of man/woman against mountain, Cyr was 16th across the line in the men’s race while Stewart-Jones finished in 18th spot.
Coming off near podium misses in back-to-back career-best sprint and distance finishes, the 24-year-old Cyr was skiing on fumes with the world’s best all-around Nordic athletes in the final and most difficult stage yet – a 10-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race with the final three kilometres straight up Alpe Cermis which boasts a 28 per cent hill grade.
Starting time-behind-the-leaders based on results of the opening six stages, the Gatineau, Que. resident dug deep and took the final stage head on – a race that throws tactics out the window pitting human versus hill.
Cyr was the first Canuck to cross the finish line in 16th after posting the 36th best time of the day at 33:51.2.
Norway’s Johannes Klaebo was crowned the King of cross-country skiing after topping the mountain first in the men’s race. Klaebo won six of the seven stages. He posted the sixth-fastest time on the hill climb.
Simen Krueger, also of Norway, finished second overall after clocking the top time in the final stage at 31:20.4.
Olivier Léveillé (Sherbrooke, Que.) was the next best Canuck in 32nd spot. The 21-year-old was 40th fastest on the day at 33:54.2.
Russell Kennedy, of Canmore, Alta., was the top Canadian in the final stage, moving him into 39th overall. The experienced Kennedy had his best result of the epic nine-day journey through Europe, clocking the 23rd fastest time on the hill at 33:14.3.
“The hill climb was intimidating at the start, especially with how my results had been so far, but when I started my legs felt super good. It is hard to do for the first time because I wasn’t sure exactly where the finish was,” said Kennedy. “I went a little hard too soon but was very happy with the day as a whole.
“Finishing my first Tour was huge. I have been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, so I was stoked to be able to get one under my belt.”
Sam Hendry, of Canmore, Alta., finished the Tour in 48th place. He clocked the 41st best time in stage seven at (34:08.4). Remi Drolet, of Rossland, B.C., was the only other Canadian male to finish the Tour, placing 53rd overall. He completed the 10-kilometre pursuit in a time of 35:45.5 for 51st best on the day.
Canada’s Katherine Stewart-Jones also put the finishing touches on successfully completing her first Tour de Ski.
Coming off the first top-10 finish of her World Cup career and a string of consistent results, the 27-year-old Stewart-Jones dug deep in pursuit of the finish line at the top of Alpe Cermis.
“I’ve always wanted to do the Tour de Ski, so it felt pretty satisfying to finish these nine days by emptying the tank at the top of a mountain,” said the Chelsea, Que. skier. “It is extremely difficult. TV does not do it justice. There were a lot of people out cheering, which definitely helped me make it up the hill.”
Stewart-Jones finished 18th on the day and in the Tour, clocking a time of 38:27.2 on Sunday.
“For the entire Tour to run smoothly, there is so much work done behind the scenes by our staff,” added Stewart-Jones. “We have such an awesome team, and a really good team dynamic. That is what has made this Tour both successful and a lot of fun.”
Sweden’s Frida Karlsson was crowned the Queen of cross-country skiing. The first woman to reach the top of the mountain, Karlsson, who was 15th quickest on the day, completed the 2023 Tour de Ski with four podiums, including two victories.
Daphne Claudel, of France, posted the top time of day for the women in the punishing test of endurance, stopping the clock at 36:35.4.
Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) was 37th on the day and in the overall Tour standings after finishing the stage with a time of 44:38.5.
Only 53 of the 101 men and 37 of the 71 women who started the 2023 Tour de Ski successfully finished the ultimate test in high-performance sport that challenged athletes with more than 70 kilometres of skiing in seven races at three venues in Switzerland, Germany and Italy.
“This experience as a whole was huge,” said the 31-year-old Russell Kennedy. “As the old dude on the team now, it’s amazing to see these young guys making such big moves this year. I think this Tour was huge for Canada as a whole, and we are hungry for more races and results. I am really looking forward to see what the rest of the season holds for everyone.”