Canada’s Len Valjas raced to a sixth-place finish in a classic cross-country ski sprint Saturday, in a final tuneup for next week’s world championships.
Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin won the gold, Switzerland’s Dario Cologna was second, while Italy’s Federico Pellegrino skied to the bronze medal.
He posted an impressive performance in the quarter-finals, but a slow start nearly cost Valjas.
The 24-year-old from Toronto started from the back, and came to a standstill on the 1.5-kilometre track as three skiers had to untangle themselves, allowing the two leaders to open a lead of nearly 100 metres on the pack.
The six-foot-six Valjas closed the gap to finish second and move onto the semi-finals.
“Len was at a complete standstill and I thought he was done,” said Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth. “What he did is something I have never seen before in World Cup cross-country skiing. I had coaches from around the world amazed. It shows he is in phenomenal shape.”
Valjas booked his spot in the final with a third place in the semis, but said he had little left in the tank by that point.
“I knew on the start line in the final it was not going to be pretty,” said Valjas. “I am happy with today though. I’m feeling really good and exactly where I want to be.”
Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., sprinted to eighth for the second consecutive week.
Alex Harvey of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., racing for the first time since injuring his shoulder two weeks ago, was 39th. Phil Widmer of Banff, Alta., was 46th.
Daria Gaiazova of Banff, Alta., was 12th in the women’s race, won by Poland’s Jusyna Kowalczyk.
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen skied to the silver medal, while Finland’s Anne Kylloenen won bronze.
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