by Chris Dornan
March 15, 2014, FALUN, Swe. (ISN) – Alex Harvey rediscovered his magic while skiing to his fourth career victory at the World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden on Saturday.
Showcasing his shape, Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., separated himself from the field with the top-two skiers on the World Cup standings in the men’s 30-kilometre skiathlon, and didn’t back down. The 25-year-old powered his way to his fifth podium and third victory of the season, while posting a time of 1:18:07.6.
“I think it was the best race of the season for me,” said Harvey. “I was a bit sore from the sprint (yesterday) because it is such an intense sprint course, but by the end of my warm-up I was feeling good. My body felt really good and the equipment was there too. I was bit surprised to be skiing with two of the world’s best skiers. I just used good tactics and it was great to get the win.”
The two-time Olympian skied the opening 15-kilometre classic leg in the middle of the pack before taking centre stage with World Cup leader Martin Johnsrud Sundby from Norway and the Olympic champion in the 50-kilometre race from Russia, Alexander Legkov. With Sweden’s Daniel Richardsson fighting to hang in with the lead group, the big three pushed the pace with 10 kilometres remaining in the skate leg.
Calm and collected powering his way up the hills on the 2015 World Championship course, and taking advantage of the fast glide on his skis on the downhills, Harvey confidently tucked himself at the back of the leading trio until jumping into the front at the five-kilometre mark.
Harvey carried the pace until one kilometre remaining where he exercised the same brilliant tactic he used in Friday’s sprint race where he finished fourth. Harvey shuffled to the side and moved into the back to draft on the final downhill and slingshot his way to gold. Making his move in the last hill circling into the stadium where Legkov broke a pole, it came down to a sprint finish to the line between Harvey and the top Nordic skier on the planet this year in Sundby.
“I knew Legkov and Sundby were good climbers so I wanted to keep ahead of them so they didn’t drop me,” said Harvey. “I raced that sprint course four times yesterday. They didn’t get to do that, and I know when you get to the top of the course you don’t want to be in the lead heading into the stadium so I just used that tactic to step aside and let them go ahead, and it worked.”
Sundby settled for the silver medal at 1:18:08.0. Legkov hung on for the bronze with a time of 1:18:13.5
It was the fifth podium finish of the 2014 World Cup season for Harvey, and 12th of his career. He also won a sprint race in Poland earlier this year, along with a gold, silver and bronze on this year’s Tour de Ski over the holiday season. Harvey also has two World Championship medals on his resume. He won gold in the team sprint with Devon Kershaw in 2011, and finished third in the individual sprint race last year in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Harvey has had a great deal of success in Falun. His first World Cup victory came in Falun in 2012 when he won a gold and bronze at those World Cup Finals. It is the same venue where his father, Pierre, also won his first of three World Cup medals in 1987.
“I just love racing and Falun is always at the end of the season,” said Harvey. “I think some guys when they feel tired at the end of the year they shut down in the head a bit, but I just love to race. When there may be tired bodies at the end of the season, I like to keep going. The course is so hard and it requires sustained work, and I just enjoy racing here.”
Harvey now sits fourth in the overall World Cup standings with the final 15-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race set for Sunday. Harvey has a 26-second lead in the World Cup Finals three-race mini-tour.
“I am for sure taking my chances for tomorrow. I will ski the first lap at my pace, and see if I gain or lose some seconds. I know if they catch me they will have to work 26 seconds harder,” said Harvey, whose career-best Overall World Cup finish was sixth in 2012.
“This has been the best season of my life. Obviously we didn’t have that magic we needed at the Olympics which was the goal, but I have five podiums this year, three victories, and this just reconfirms all of the work we did in the summer. I’m confident in my tactics and finishing ability so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
It was a solid outing for the other two Canadians that made it into the World Cup Finals with the top 50 athletes on the planet. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., had one of his top distance races of the season, placing 12th with a time of 1:19:21.3. Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., finished 23rd (1:21:49.6).
Earlier in the day it was Norway grabbing the top-two spots in the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon. Therese Johaug finished on top with a time of 41:08.9. Marit Bjoergen skied to the silver step on the podium with a time of 41:42.5. Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen locked up third place at 42:05.5.
Andrea Dupont, of Timmins, Ont., was the lone Canadian woman in 45th at 50:23.4
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Complete Results: www.fis-ski.com/cross-country
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., CAN, 1:18:07.6; 2. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR, 1:18:08.0; 3. Alexander Legkov, RUS, 1:18:13.5; 4. Daniel Richardsson, SWE, 1:18:32.3; 5. Maxim Vylegzhanin, RUS, 1:19:01.5
Other Canadian Results:
12. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 1:19:21.3; 23. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 1:21:49.6
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Therese Johaug, NOR, 41:08.9; 2. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 41:42.5; 3. Kerttu Niskanen, FIN, 42:05.5; 4. Heidi Weng, NOR, 42:16.5; 5. Charlotte Kalla, SWE, 42:16.8.
45. Andrea Dupont, Timmins, Ont., 50:23.4