Antoine Cyr Narrowly Misses First Career Podium in Fourth at Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme
VAL DI FIEMME, Ita.—Canada’s Antoine Cyr was a split-second shy of his first career podium, finishing fourth in the penultimate stage of the grueling seven-race Tour de Ski while Katherine Stewart-Jones skied into the top-10 for the first time in her career.
Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., finished one-tenth of a second shy of the podium in the men’s 15-kilometre classic-ski race, completing six laps on the challenging course in Val di Fiemme, Italy in a time of 40:00.5.
“It is awesome to get such a good result,” said Cyr, who moved into eighth place in the overall Tour standings with one punishing race remaining. “All of the guys around me have had podiums on the World Cup. To be so close is such a huge accomplishment and I am just so happy to give a good result like this to the team, the staff and everyone back home supporting us.”
Exhausted and sore from the strain of the opening five races, Cyr woke up questioning what he had left in the tank.
“I was feeling it from yesterday’s sprint heats. My back was sore this morning and I just told myself ‘lets do one lap at a time and see how it goes, how my body is feeling.’ I was progressing throughout the race and skiing the smoothest I could,” he said.
Skiing in a good size pack for the first half of the mass start race, the pack stretched on the fourth loop when the world’s elite bolted for bonus points. Cyr dug deep to match the surge for the bonus time and a showdown for his first podium.
“On that fourth lap, I was feeling good, skiing down the pack. The leaders accelerated in the bonus sprint and it was at that point I was really feeling the race,” added Cyr. “I was right up there on top and thought I was skiing one of the best on the climbs.”
Cyr skied comfortably in a pack of eight that opened a small gap on the field through to the final lap which came down to the final critical climb and a sprint finish that determined the podium.
“The last climb is so important here. I decided to go with the guys, and I was near the front. I had skied really relaxed, drafting in the first five laps, making the moves at the right time and that pays off in the end when everyone is maxing out and seeing stars,” said Cyr.
“It would have been a dream come true to be on the podium, but in the end, it was close but no cigar as they say. I skied a pretty perfect race and did everything I could. This is a big confidence boost for the rest of season which is still young..”
Norway’s Johannes Klaebo remained unbeaten in this year’s Tour, taking the sixth stage with a time of 39:59.2, just 1.3 seconds ahead of the young Canadian.
Paal Golberg, also of Norway, was second at 39:59.6, while Italy’s Francesco De Fabiani edged out Cyr at the finish line to take third at 40:00.5.
Competing in his first Tour de Ski which takes the world’s best cross-country skiers on a seven-race journey through Europe that included stops in Switzerland, Germany and Italy over nine days, the 24-year-old Cyr proved he is ready to tangle with the gladiators of the sport following a sixth-place sprint finish on Friday.
The 24-year-old competed in his first ever head-to-head sprint final at the World Cup level where he crossed the line in sixth place.
“Looking back on yesterday, I felt I made a few mistakes and was a bit disappointed thinking what if this is my only chance,” added Cyr. “But it was so awesome to be right up there again today with the best in the world. Now I feel like I know I can be there on a good day.”
Olivier Léveillé (Sherbrooke, Que.) had a solid day, finishing 31st. The fourth-fastest athlete on the day under the age of 23, Léveillé stopped the clock at 41:01.3. Russell Kennedy (Camore, Alta.) skied to 42nd spot at 42:02.5. Sam Hendry (Canmore, Alta.) placed 46th at 42:20.4, while Remi Drolet (Rossland, B.C.) was 54th for the second-straight day with a time of 44:02.1.
Feeding off Cyr’s breakthrough results, Katherine Stewart-Jones celebrated one of her own on the elite international cross-country ski circuit.
The 27-year-old battled up and down the demanding hills of the spectacular Val di Fiemme track to post her first career top-10 finish.
“I am stoked. I’ve been close a couple of times and I didn’t want to go for anything less than a top-10 today,” said Stewart-Jones.
The leader of the Canadian women’s program punched the clock at 45:02.9.
“I told myself going into the race that I may as well go for it. I wanted to ski well for the first couple of laps. It was a fast course. I played it tactically well. I definitely went for better grip (wax) today over the climbs. This feels pretty awesome,” added the 2022 Olympian from Chelsea, Que.
A consistent all-around skier, Stewart-Jones has been regularly delivering personal-best results in the first year of the new Olympic quadrennial while eyeing down the opportunity to demonstrate her potential while on stage at her first Tour de Ski.
“I know that my fitness is the best it has ever been and I’m at a level that I know on a good day I can be up there with the best, so my confidence is high,” said Stewart-Jones who was committed to playing the long game on the Tour that is the ultimate test of mental and physical fitness.
“I was so close to top 10s in period 1 (on the World Cup) that I felt I had it in me. I am more of an endurance athlete, and I felt I had an opportunity later in the Tour because I do well under fatigue. I knew I just had to be patient.”
Germany’s Katharina Hennig won the sixth stage with a time of 44:26.7. Sweden’s Frida Karlsson maintained her overall lead on the Tour de Ski with a second-place finish at 44:27.4. Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen skied to third place at 44:27.5.
Canada’s Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) was 37th at 50:05.5.
The energy is high on the young Canadian squad as they ready themselves for the final test of the Tour – a 10-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race with the final three kilometres straight up Alpe Cermis which boasts a 28 per cent hill grade to determine the King and Queen of cross-country skiing.
“It is really cool when we all do well. The staff work so hard to give us fast skis, so everyone gets so excited (when we have good results),” said Stewart-Jones, who sits 18th overall. “We are exciting heading into the final stage. I know it will be painful, but I am going into it with an open mind. There is an easy section before the climb, but I don’t want to waste any energy. Tomorrow will be about who has the legs, but who can tolerate the most pain.”
Modeled after the Tour de France in cycling, the 17th annual Tour de Ski is the ultimate test of fitness to determine the king and queen of cross-country skiing. The seven-race Tour through three countries in Central Europe tests the world’s best cross-country skiers in all race formats, culminating with a 425-metre climb to the top of Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 8.