Antoine Cyr Sprints to Career Best Sixth at Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme
VAL DI FIEMME, Ita.—Antoine Cyr took on the big boys in the sport of cross-country skiing while shattering his career-best sprint result with a sixth-place finish on Friday at the fifth of seven stages on the prestigious Tour de Ski.
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.
“Today was unreal. It is only the third time in my career to make the heats, and to be able to throw down like this is a big confidence boost for sure,” said Cyr. “As an athlete, you always want to be the best version of yourself on any given day, and today, I feel like I was really, really close to my best.”
Taking advantage of lightning-quick boards, thanks to the strong collaboration of the athletes working closely with the dedicated team of Canadian wax technicians on ski selection for the classic-ski sprint, Cyr qualified for the finals with the fastest 30 athletes in the 67-man field by posting the 17th-fastest time around the 1.2-kilometre track that features an early climb, followed by a technical descent and a super-fast downhill into the stadium.
Cyr followed his race strategy to perfection while striding up the challenging climbs and was strong through the technical sections on the one-lap sprint loop.
The Gatineau, Que. resident won his first-ever heat on the World Cup, crossing the line first in his quarter-final round. He punched his ticket to the finals after placing second in the semifinal heat.
The top-two athletes in each heat, along with the next two fastest times overall advanced to the next round.
“In the first two heats, I didn’t care about who I was skiing with. I just had a good plan for myself to use the first uphill to get upfront and then get in behind and stay out of trouble for the rest,” said Cyr, who was strong on the climbs and fast through the downhills all day. “I had crazy good skis and was able to do that until the final.
“I was a bit overwhelmed in the final (lining up) with all the big names in our sport. I know though if I get another opportunity like this, I will use this experience to my advantage.”
Norway’s Johannes Klaebo won his fifth straight stage in as many starts in the men’s race to hold onto his overall lead on the 2023 Tour de Ski heading into the final weekend. Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson skied to second place, while Italy’s Simone Mocellini was third.
Cyr is amongst a group of promising young cross-country skiers in Canada who are now ready to test themselves against the cream of the crop in the sport.
Competing in just his third season on the World Cup, Cyr continues to build on a steady start to his skiing career. He squeaked into the top-20 once in a World Cup sprint. His best distance race at the elite level is 11th.
He also teamed up with Graham Ritchie to finish fifth in the Team Sprint at their Olympic debut in Beijing 2022. The duo also skied to seventh at the 2021 World Championships in the team sprint event.
After battling through illness during the holiday break and early in the Tour de Ski, Ritchie was back competing in the men’s heats. The lone Canadian to qualify for the heats in the opening stage in Switzerland, finished sixth in his Friday heat in the round of 30 to place 25th overall.
Russell Kennedy, of Canmore, Alta., was 35th. Olivier Léveillé (Sherbrooke, Que.) qualified 39th, while Remi Drolet (Rossland, B.C.) was 54th and Sam Hendry (Canmore, Alta.) 64th.
Meanwhile, Katherine Stewart-Jones was the only Canadian to earn a spot in the heats in the women’s race, clocking the 28th fastest qualifying time.
Competing in the sprint heats for the first time at the elite level this season, the strong all-around skier was forced to the sidelines after placing sixth in her opening round. A 27-year-old from Chelsea, Que., Stewart-Jones was 29th on the day.
The Norwegian women swept the podium in the fifth stage. Lotta Weng was first across the line in the final, while Tiril Weng was second and Mathilde Myhrvold third.
Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) was 34th.
Sweden’s Friday Karlsson and Norway’s Johannes Klaebo will continue to wear the leaders’ bibs as the Tour de Ski heads into the final two stages in Val di Fiemme, Italy this weekend.
Antoine Cyr is in 11th place overall on the men’s Tour, while Katherine Stewart-Jones is 20th in the women’s standings.
“I am feeling good. I know that if I don’t lose too much time on the next two stages, then I can have a really strong result on the Tour,” said Cyr.
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.