Alex Harvey rings in New Year with silver medal at Tour de Ski in Switzerland

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Cross Country skiing Canada

by Chris Dornan

December 31, 2013, LENZERHEIDE, Sui. (ISN) – Canada’s Alex Harvey put a silver lining around 2013 after claiming second spot in a skate-ski sprint race to mark the third stage of the Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on Tuesday.

Qualifying for the head-to-head heats in 24th spot with the fastest 30 athletes, the 25-year-old Harvey executed his race tactics to near perfection through the first two heats to secure a spot in the final. Skiing in the middle of the pack for most of the final sprint around the Swiss track, Harvey blasted down the huge downhill into the stadium, and rounded into the final straight away in fourth spot where he reeled in two Norwegians to lock up the silver medal.

“I have three sprint podiums in my career and I have qualified in the 20’s every time so I know when you get into the heats, and the gun goes off, it is a fresh start,” said Harvey. “My tactics were perfect all day. I wanted to leave a little gap at the top of the last hill, but still be close enough to carry the draft. I was able to do that and generated a huge amount of speed around the final corner into the finish stretch.”

It was the ninth World Cup medal for the St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que. native, and second of the 2013 Tour de Ski. He opened the seven-race Tour through Europe with his second World Cup victory on Saturday. One of the best talents ever to develop through the Canadian cross-country ski program, Harvey also has two World Championship medals to his credit.

American Simeon Hamilton held off Harvey’s charge to win the gold medal. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby grabbed the bronze.

Harvey extended his Tour lead approaching the mid-way mark of the grueling Nordic event, which showcases all race disciplines. The Canadian will wear the overall leader’s bib into Wednesday’s 15-kilometre classic-ski mass start race in Switzerland.

“It is awesome to have the leaders bib. Every day I start with it on my shoulders is extra special,” said Harvey. “Maybe not as big, but this is still like the Tour de France for us. It is a big event for our sport. Lots of people are fighting to grab the bib from me so it is special to keep putting it on. Who knows – maybe that even makes me go faster.”

Despite a slow start over the last two seasons, Harvey has been a bright spot for the National Ski Team in 2013 by winning the bronze medal at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. The Nordic phenom also wrapped up the year with three podium finishes on the World Cup – all coming on the Tour de Ski over the last two seasons.

“Our team has had slow starts, but our focus has always been on the World Championships last year and the Tour de Ski,” said Harvey. “Outside the World Championships and Olympics, the Tour de Ski is the next biggest thing for us. I can take a lot of confidence into the Olympics this year knowing that I have been able to get on the podium when the lights are shining and everyone is racing in their top form.”

Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., has also grabbed a share of the spotlight with Harvey. Now sitting in eighth spot overall after qualifying in 56th, Kershaw was part of Canada’s historic one-two finish where he won the silver medal in the prologue at the Tour opener in Oberhof, Germany. Harvey’s and Kershaw, who became the first Canadians to win the 2011 World Championship team sprint, were fourth in that event at last year’s World Champs.

Distance specialist, Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., placed 97th on Tuesday.

No Canadian women qualified for the heats. Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., was the top Canuck in 39th spot. Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., placed 45th.

Norwegian athletes grabbed the top-two spots on the women’s sprint podium. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg finished on top. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen was second, while Germany’s Denise Herrmann rounded out the women’s podium in third.

Modeled after the Tour de France in cycling, the nine-day Tour de Ski wraps up in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 5. One of the featured events on the Nordic calendar tests some of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world in seven punishing races at four different venues in three countries to determine the king and queen of cross-country skiing.

The world’s best Nordic atheltes will be back in action on Tuesday when the Tour continues in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 58,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas,. Canadian Pacific and Statoil – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Own the Podium, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com.

Complete Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/cross-country/ 

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1. Simeon Hamilton, USA; 2. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., CAN; 3. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR; 4. Federico Pellegrino, ITA: 5. Finn Haagen Krogh, NOR

Other Canadian Results:

56. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.; 97. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta.

Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:

1. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, NOR; 2. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, NOR; 3. Denise Herrmann, GER; 4. Laurien van der Graaf, SUI; 5. Hanna Kolb, GER

Canadian Results:

39. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont.; 45. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta.

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