Alex Harvey fights for bronze in fifth stage of Tour de Ski in Italy

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Cross Country skiing Canada

by Chris Dornan

January 3, 2014, TOBLACH, Ita. (ISN) – Alex Harvey rattled off his third podium finish of the week after skiing to the bronze in the unique 35-kilometre point-to-point skate-ski race from Cortina to Toblach, Italy on Friday.

Starting 35 seconds behind the leader Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway, the 25-year-old Harvey tucked himself into a group of seven athletes where he did a good job conserving energy for the first 18-kilometre high-speed climb on the mountain pass before the descent into Toblach, which highlights the second half of the race.

“My plan was to fight for dear life and hang onto that group today,” said Harvey. “It went a lot easier on the climb than I thought. It is a unique race that we only do once a year and you really never know how far in you are. It is a challenge mentally and fun to chase people down and form little groups.”

With Sundby pulling off the front from the start in the longest race of the Tour de Ski, leaving the rest of the top Nordic skiers on the planet to fight for the final two spots on the podium, Harvey bolted down the finish stretch where he won the bronze medal with a time of 1:21:17.4. It was the 10th World Cup podium for Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., in his career. He also has two World Championship medals.

“I’m really happy with how things went today,” said Harvey, who sits third in the overall Tour de Ski standings with two races remaining. “Heading into the Tour I was hoping for a few top-five finishes, but to be in the top-three overall the whole way is exciting.”

Sundby clocked a golden time of 1:20:18.7, while fellow Norwegian, Petter Northug, won the sprint for the silver with a time of 1:21:16.9.

Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., held his own, skiing a strong second half of the race, to finish 23rd with a time of 1:23:24.0. Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta. rebounded to finish 28th (1:23:25.0), after skiing four of the first five kilometres without a pole.

“Ivan skied a really strong race after having some bad luck breaking his pole one kilometre in the race at a spot that is difficult to get too,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “We are happy with where the guys are at and to have Alex on the podium again. I think he did a great job conserving energy for the final weekend, whereas Sundby worked pretty hard on his own today so it will be interesting to see what he has tomorrow.”

Harvey also won gold in the prologue race at the Tour opener in Oberhof, Germany, and a silver in the sprint race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. With heavy snow and warm conditions projected for the 10-kilometre classic-ski race in Val di Fiemme, Italy on Saturday, recovery will be critical for the final two stages.

“They are expecting like 35 centimetres of snow tomorrow so those are pretty much the worst conditions possible for a classic race, which could be a nightmare,” added Harvey. “Guys will have to make the right equipment choices and the toughest guys will survive.”

Harvey will make a decision following Saturday’s race if he will hit the start line for the final punishing nine-kilometre hill climb up Alpe Cermis – a race that throws tactics out the window – forcing man against hill with pitches nearing 30 per cent grade. 

While Harvey has completed the climb in the past, a health condition may prevent him from competing to protect his left leg. The steep climb wreaks havoc with an artery in his leg. Lifting the leg going up the alpine ski hill forces the hip flexor to buldge, which impedes blood flow.

Both Canadian women – Daria Gaiazova and Perianne Jones – have pulled out of the Tour. Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen won the women’s fifth stage – a 15-kilometre skate-ski – with a time of 37:30.3.

One of the featured events on the Nordic calendar, the seven-race Tour de Ski held over nine days tests some of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world at four different venues in three countries to determine the king and queen of cross-country skiing.

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. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR, 1:20:18.7; 2. Petter Northug, NOR, 1:21:16.9; 3. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., CAN, 1:21:17.4; 4. Calle Halfvarsson, SWE, 1:21:17.7; 5. Alexander Legkov, RUS, 1:21:18.4.

Other Canadian Results:

23 Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 1:23:24.0; 28. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 1:23:25.0

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