by Chris Dornan
January 4, 2014, VAL DI FIEMME, Ita. (ISN) – Battling through snow and rain on one of the most challenging cross-country ski courses in the world, Alex Harvey finished fifth at the penultimate stage of the seven-race Tour de Ski – a 10-kilometre individual start classic-ski race in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
With the Norwegians stealing the show in Italy, Harvey continued his stellar run on the epic journey through Europe – matching strides with the world’s best on a difficult day on the trails. The Norwegians grabbed the top-four spots on Saturday. The 25-year-old Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., was the next best in the world in fifth place at 25:21.1.
“It was pretty messy weather today but overall my skis were good and I felt good the whole way,” said Harvey. “I started aggressive and fought for the podium the whole way. I think I paced things well and attacked where I needed too which is key to an individual start.”
Petter Northug finished on top at 24:45.6. Martin Johnsrud Sundby was second at 24:55.3, while Chris Jespersen completed the podium sweep after clocking-in at 25:01.6.
Now dropping into fourth spot in the overall Tour de Ski standings, Harvey will not start the final punishing nine-kilometre pursuit race, which ends with a four kilometre climb up Alpe de Cermis – a race that throws tactics out the window – forcing man against hill with pitches nearing 30 per cent grade.
Harvey has completed the stage in the past, but 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 and circulation.
“For me it was pretty clear before the Tour started that I wasn’t going to climb that hill,” said Harvey, who also pulled out at the final stage last year. “Being in the lead and the top-three for the Tour opened the door to thinking about it, but there is just so much to lose for me physically when the blood flow shuts down completely when I’m working so hard. We don’t know exactly how long it takes to recover, and I just don’t want to risk anything especially with the Olympics coming up.”
“With his leg condition, it takes at least one week for Alex to recover from something like that,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “Alex knows he will not be able to fight for the top-3 tomorrow with his leg. So looking at what is really to gain he made the smart decision not to race.”
Harvey had one of the most successful Tour de Ski’s ever for Canada. Solid from start-to-finish, Harvey was in the top-three of the overall standings until the final weekend after rattling off three podium finishes including one gold, silver and bronze. He also finishes the Tour in third place in the overall sprint standings.
Devon Kershaw, who grabbed the silver medal in a one-two finish with Harvey at the Tour opener in Oberhof, Germany, has the best Canadian finish at the Tour when he placed fourth overall at the 2011-12 event.
Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., had a solid outing on Saturday placing 27th (26:02.7) in classic-ski race distance that he doesn’t typically excel in. Fatigued after a difficult pursuit race Friday, Kershaw placed 52nd at 26:47.8.
One of the top hill climbers in the world, the 33-year-old Babikov has twice posted the fastest time on the final stage of the Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
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. Petter Northug, NOR, 24:45.6; 2. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR, 24:55.3; 3. Chris Jespersen, NOR, 25:01.6; 4. Sjur Roethe, NOR, 25:14.6; 5. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., 25:21.1
Other Canadian Results:
27. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 26:02.7; 52. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 26:47.8