(ISN) – LILLEHAMMER, Nor.—Alex Harvey finished just shy of the podium in fifth spot to kick off a three-race mini-tour on Friday at the second stop of the Cross-Country Skiing World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway.
The lone Canadian to qualify for the knock-out rounds with the fastest 30 qualifiers in the skate-ski sprint, Harvey of Saint-Ferreol les Neiges, Que., took advantage of two lucky loser finishes in the first two rounds to secure a spot in the finals. The top-two athletes in each six-man heat advance, with the next two fastest times.
“I’m really happy today and it is setting me up for a good weekend,” said Harvey. “The qualifier I really didn’t feel well and I just found I was lacking snap on the steep terrain. I started to feel a bit better and it came around in the heats.”
Executing three different race tactics, the 26-year-old all-round skier started near the back of the pack in his quarter-final round tucking in behind the Norwegians who controlled the pace on Friday. Forced to the outside lane on the final turn into the stadium, Harvey struggled to match stride with the frontrunners, but held on to finish third in the quick heat.
Harvey jumped out to the front of a slow semifinal heat to put some time on the pack before the steep hill. Leading for most of the heat, the two-time Olympian once again began to drop back during that final climb, but held on for third spot and another lucky loser position for a shot at his first medal of the season.
Harvey executed a third race strategy in the final where he tucked into second spot of the group, but was not able to respond to a final surge put on by the pack and skied to fifth spot.
“Generally I’m not quick enough off the start to take the lead so I always try get be top two or three, but that doesn’t always happen,” said Harvey. “My plan was to just approach that hill with good energy but going up against those sprinters that are going 100 per cent, I just wasn’t able to respond. It is a good start and I’m looking forward to the weekend now.”
Norway’s Paal Golberg was the eventual winner. Russia’s Alexey Petukhov skied to the silver medal, while Finn Haagen Krogh won the bronze.
The Norwegian women dominated the women’s sprint race for the second straight week grabbing the top-four spots in the standings. Marit Bjoergen remained unbeaten in sprint racing during the young season with her second-straight gold. Celine Brun-Lie was second while Heidi Weng completed the Norwegian podium sweep in third.
Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., just missed out of qualifying with the round of 30, placing 33rd.
Other Canadian men who were not able to qualify included: Jesse Cockney, of Canmore, Alta., in 34h; Toronto’s Len Valjas in 45th; and Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., in 64th. Distance specialists starting the sprint race as part of the mini-tour included Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., in 94th; and Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., placing 110th.
The World Cup continues on the weekend in Lillehammer, Norway with two distance races.
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Complete Results: www.fis-ski.com
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Paal Golberg, NOR; 2. Alexey Petukhov, RUS; 3. Finn Haagen Krogh, NOR; 4. Juho Mikkonen, FIN; 5. Alex Harvey, Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que., CAN
Other Canadian Results:
34. Jesse Cockney, Canmore, Alta.; 45. Len Valjas, Toronto; 64. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.; 94. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta.; 110. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta.
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Marit Bjoergen, NOR: 2. Celine Brun-Lie, NOR; 3. Heidi Weng, NOR; 4. Maiken Caspersen Falla, NOR; 5. Denise Hermann, GER
33. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont.