—Devon Kershaw solid in fourth, Ivan Babikov eighth, Emily Nishikawa ninth—
GALLIVARE, Swe.—Alex Harvey put a silver lining around the final preparations to his World Cup season while hopping onto the podium in a 15-kilometre skate-ski race on Sunday in Gallivare, Sweden.
The Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que. resident pushed the pace off the start, leading the race by five seconds over the first five-kilometres before Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov countered over the second half of the race to pull away from the field. The 27-year-old Harvey proved his fitness heading into the World Cup season, clocking a time of 32:40.4 on the hard-packed snow conditions.
“It is always good to get the season started, and I’m excited to head to Finland with two solid results under my belt.” said Harvey. “I tend to start slow in individual starts which is not great if you want to contend for the podium. I went maybe a little to hard today, but I’m happy.
“It is one thing to have good feelings in training, but until you get the results in a race it is hard to tell where you are at. It was a good weekend to get the routine dialed in. There are so many little details to the minute from the time you wake up that goes into having a strong race.”
Harvey was sandwiched on the podium between two Russians. Ustiugov set the golden pace at 32:12.9, while Evgeniy Belov skied to his second straight bronze medal with a time of 32:55.1.
Harvey’s World Cup comrade, Devon Kershaw, will also take some good vibes with him into the start of the World Cup season next weekend. Looking to rebound from a season plagued with illness and injury, the veteran of the National Ski Team from Sudbury, Ont., showcased he is poised to get back into podium contention this year with a rock solid fourth-place finish. The 32-year-old Kershaw clocked-in at 33:17.9.
Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., cracked the top-10 with an eighth-place result at 33:51.5, while Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., placed 11th (34:19.8).
There are big expectations on the Canadian phenom Harvey this year. The two-time Olympian made history once again in 2015 becoming the first Canadian ever to win two World Championship medals in the same year with a silver and bronze in Falun, Sweden.
“It’s such a long season, but you have to really make sure your shape is in top from Christmas onwards,” added Harvey. “My target this year is to win the Overall title. I didn’t necessarily believe that I could do that in the past, but I do believe I have a shot at that title this year.”
Meanwhile, Emily Nishikawa squeaked into the top-10 as the lone Canadian in the women’s field at the FIS race in Gallivare, Sweden. The 26-year-old from Whitehorse battled through the cool conditions to place ninth at 27:43.9.
American Jessica Diggins finished on top for the second straight day after stopping the clock at 25:08.7. Petra Novakova, of the Czech Republic, skied to the silver with a time of 25:19.4, while Caitlin Gregg, also of the United States, finished 30 seconds off the pace in third at 25:38.8.
The Canadian National Ski Team open the World Cup season in Ruka, Finland, November 27-29.
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Sergey Ustiugov, RUS; 32:12.0; 2. Alex Harvey, Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que., CAN, 32:40.4; 3. Evgeniy Belov, RUS, 32:55.1; 4. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., CAN, 33:17.9; 5. Stanislav Volzhentsev, RUS, 33:26.1
8. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 33:51.5; 11. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta., 34:19.8
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Jessica Diggins, USA, 25:08.7; 2. Petra Novakova, CZE, 25:19.4; 3. Caitlin Gregg, USA, 25:38.8; 4. Elizabeth Stephen, USA, 25:56.8; 5. Rosie Brennan, USA, 25:58.6
9. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, CAN, 27:43.9