December 8, 2012, QUEBEC CITY (ISN) — Canada’s Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw clawed their way into fifth place after having been dealt a dose of bad luck in a spectacular World Cup skate-ski team sprint race on home snow in Quebec City on Friday.
Leading the fastest 10 teams into the head-to-head finals after winning their semifinal heat, the Canadian duo jostled for position with the world’s best cross-country sprint skiers while each completed three legs, skiing twice around the 800-metre track (6 x 1.6 kilometres), loaded with steady climbs, tight corners, bridges and one of the first jumps ever to be thrown into a sprint race.
The reigning World Champions brought the nation’s fourth-oldest city into a frenzy as the hometown hero, Harvey of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., had the Canucks in the mix for the medals after taking the final exchange from Canada’s most accomplished male skier, Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont.
Carrying the province on his shoulders, the 24-year-old Harvey tactically made his way into fourth position behind Swedish sprint star Emil Joensson. But, the Canadian’s hopes for a medal were dashed when Joensson crashed after catching an edge on the soft snow, spinning Harvey out of control into the side fencing.
“I knew right there it was done. When your hand touches the snow in sprint racing the gap is just too big to make up,” said Harvey. “That is sprint racing. The Swedes are two of the best out here and you never would expect him to go down, but there is nothing you can do. You need to find your luck in sprinting.”
Despite the hard luck, Harvey never backed down and kicked it into high gear to close the sizeable gap, chalking up the second fifth-place finish of the season for the two Canucks. Harvey and Kershaw also teamed up with Ivan Babikov and Lenny Valjas to finish fifth in the 4 x 7.5-kilometre relay in Gaellivare, Sweden.
“There is a lot of big guys out here racing with not much space, and there is a lot of knocking around that goes on so crashes happen,” said Kershaw. “Everyone out here wants to win, but we really wanted to win today. It is too bad, but you just can’t go down in sprinting.”
Toronto’s Valjas, who is battling a hand injury, powered through any pain to post a top-10 finish of his own while teaming up with Jesse Cockney of Canmore, Alta. The two 24-year-old Canucks advanced into the finals after a fast opening heat, but could not respond to the pace set by the top dawgs.
“The snow was really soft so it separated the pack. It is a fun course that makes you work the whole way,” said the lanky Valjas. “It was so loud out there. Especially going around the corners you could hear people screaming in yourear.”
The Kazakhstan team of Denis Volotka and Nikolay Chebotko won the men’s race. Russia’s Nikita Kriukov and Alexey Petukhov skied to the silver medal, while Norway’s Anders Gloeersen and Eirik Bransdal captured the bronze medal.
American’s Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins continued their torrid run to start the season by winning the women’s team sprint. Germany’s Hanna Kolb and Denise Herrmann were second, while Norway’s Celine Brun-Lie and Maiken Caspersen Falla settled for the bronze.
No Canadian women advanced to the finals. Olympic champion, Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., and Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., were the top Canadians in 17th.
Nicknamed the Prince of Quebec by his teammates, thousands of cross-country ski enthusiasts flocked to the gnarly course laid out in the downtown core in front of the gates to the old city, to cheer Harvey to the podium.
“It was absolutely incredible how many people came out here today on a Friday afternoon of a work day,” said Kershaw. “Quebec is the most passionate cross-country ski fans in the country. It was so impressive to see all of those people out there today. Alex showed everyone he is in phenomenal shape, and I fully expect him to be on the podium tomorrow.”
The first-ever World Cup in Quebec City wraps up on Saturday with the men’s and women’s individual skate-ski races. The races can be viewed live online at www.CBC.ca. Saturday’s sprint finals can also be viewed on CBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. EST.
Complete World Cup Results:
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
3. Norway I
4. Norway II
5. Canada (Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que./Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.)
Other Canadian Results:
10. Len Valjas, Toronto/Jesse Cockney, Canmore, Alta.
20. Brent McMurtry, Calgary/Phil Widmer, Banff, Alta.
23. Russell Kennedy, Canmore, Alta./Alexis Turgeon, Gatineau, Que.
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. United States; 2. Germany; 3. Norway; 4. Russia; 5. Finland
17. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta./Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta.
19. Heidi Widmer, Banff, Alta./Alysson Marshall, Salmon Arm, B.C.
20. Kate Brennan, Canmore, Alta./Andrea Dupont, Timmins, Ont.
23. Maya Macissac-Jones, Athabasca, Alta./Zoe Roy, Canmore, Alta.