(ISN) – RYBINSK, Rus.—Canada’s cross-country ski athletes struggled to find their top gear during a World Cup skate-ski sprint race in Rybinsk, Russia on Saturday.
Alex Harvey, of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was the lone Canadian to qualify for the head-to-head sprints with the top 30 qualifers.
Matched up against a group of top sprinters, the 26 year old Harvey positioned himself fourth within the pack of six as the group charged through the fresh dusting of snow falling down on the rolling terrain that made up the 1.3-kilometre track.
Battling to find his legs as the lone athlete in the pack that started Friday’s 15 kilometre race, Harvey’s struggles compounded when he narrowly missed getting caught in a dust up as American Simeon Hamilton fell at the start of the course’s featured climb. Harvey’s day came to an end when he was not able to respond to the surge down the finishing stretch, placing him 28th overall. Only the top-two athletes in each heat advance.
“It was not a good sprint for me today,” said Harvey. “I wasn’t in the greatest spot before the climb and got stuck behind a fall. I am now focusing on tomorrow’s 30 kilometre.”
Italy’s Federico Pellegrino won the race. The Russians grabbed the next four spots in the standings for the second straight day. Sergey Usiugov was second, while Andrey Parfenov hung on for the bronze medal.
Toronto’s Len Valjas finished two seconds off the qualifying pace in 42nd. Jesse Cockney, of Canmore, Alta., was 47th, while Patrick Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., placed 52nd.
Alysson Marshall, of Salmon Arm, B.C., was the lone Canadian to start the women’s race. Marshall finished in 43rd spot.
“It wasn’t a good sprint race for us at all,” said Tor Arne Hetland, coach, National Ski Team. “Our sprinters have a big job to do before (World Championships) Falun if they want to reach the top-12. Our speed in the prolog is just not good enough.”
Sweden’s Jennie Oeberg won the women’s gold. Russia’s Natalia Matveeva skied to the silver, while Switzerland’s Lauren Van Der Graaf rounded out the podium in third.
The World Cup wraps up in Rybinsk, Russia on Sunday with the distance races.
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Federico Pellegrino, ITA; 2. Sergey Ustiugov, RUS; 3. Andrey Parfenov, RUS; 4. Nikita Kriukov, RUS; 5. Alexey Petukhov, RUS
28. Alex Harvey, St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que.; 42. Len Valjas, Toronto; 47. Jesse Cockney, Canmore, Alta.; 52. Patrick Stewart-Jones, Chelsea, Que.
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Jennie Oeberg, SWE; 2. Natalia Matveeva, RUS; 3. Lauren Von Der Graaf, SUI; 4. Anastasia Dotsenko, RUS; 5. Jessica Diggins, USA.
43. Alysson Marshall, Salmon Arm, B.C.