Val di Fiemme, Italy - Ivan Babikov (CAN) won the final stage of the 2008-2009 Tour de Ski. Babikov completed the 11km freestyle event in a time of 33:51.2, 1.5 seconds faster than German Tom Reichelt.
Babikov skied well in the first two Tour distance races, placing 22nd and 25th in the 15km classic events. He contracted a cold, however, and finished way back in 48th in the 20km Mass Start yesterday. But he bounced back in a big way, skiing strong from the start and holding together on the brutal 400 meter vertical, 2.5 kilometer final stretch. He posted the 4th fastest time on the climb.
"I am so thrilled and totally couldn't believe it when I was standing on top of the podium," said Babikov following the awards ceremony, who added he nearly didn't' even race today because of an illness rolling through the team. "Our entire men's team has been sick and yesterday was so hard for us, but I have been looking forward to this uphill climb all year and told myself to pass as many skiers as I could today."
The victory puts Babikov in some prestigious company. The only other Canadian male to win a World Cup cross-country ski race is Pierre Harvey who made three trips to the top step of the podium. Babikov's previous best finish was a fourth-place result at the Alberta World Cup in Canmore, Alta. in 2005.
"A World Cup win is something you dream of," said Babikov, who is a gritty, tough skier that specializes in long distances and challenging climbs. "Our team has been so strong throughout this tour and I am just so happy to be a part of a great team. I have been waiting for this final day and glad it happened."
Babikov's new team extends far beyond the sport of cross-country skiing. The 28-year-old Babikov received his Canadian citizenship nearly one year ago after emigrating to Canmore from Syktyvkar, Russia. Babikov, who now resides in Canmore, Alta. with his wife Svetlana and two-year-old son Sergei, raced for Russia at the 2006 Olympics and is competing in his first full season with the Canucks.
The victory marks the second podium appearance by the Canadian men during the seven-race Tour de Ski that was contested in three countries over the last two weeks. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., won a bronze medal in the men's 15-kilometer classic race at the second stage of the Tour in Oberhof, Germany. Battling illness which nearly forced him to the sidelines, the 29-year-old Kershaw sucked up the pain to finish 22nd on Sunday with a time of 35:11.8, putting him 21st overall.