Photo Credits to Felgenhauer/NordicFocus
—Harvey leads four Canadians into top-25 with 10th-place finish—
LILLEHAMMER, Nor.—Canada’s Nordic skiers put down one of their strongest performances as a team in more than two years with Alex Harvey leading four men into the top-25 in a World Cup skiathlon race in Lillehammer, Norway on Saturday.
Starting in second spot on the start line, Harvey slowly drifted back in the pack during the 15-kilometre classic-ski leg of the race, but the 27-year-old battled back with a hard-fought 15-kilometres of skate-skiing to place 10th with a time of 1:21:20.0 on the 1994 Olympic venue.
“It was really a race with two totally different phases. The classic was a struggle and I don’t know why because the equipment was good,” said Harvey. “It’s funny because in the past my classic has always been stronger, but it just hasn’t been feeling good this year.
“When you are struggling on the course you have some really dark times out there. The hardest was in the third of four classic laps. But I stayed in sight of the other Canadians and was able to hold my spot and clip into the skate-skis.”
Athletes enter a transition zone between the two legs to switch from classic to skate-ski equipment. Skiing in 27th, Harvey, of Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que., welcomed the transition to skate skis as he charged 17 spots up the leaderboard into 10th.
“My goal is to win the overall and I know that every World Cup point matters. As soon I clipped in those skate-skis it was game on. I had great skis and made up a lot of ground,” added Harvey. “I managed to battle back and get into the top-10. I’m most proud today of the way I was able to fight through those dark thoughts on the classic and end up with a good day.”
The Norwegians dominated under the warm conditions grabbing the top-four sports on the results page. Martin Johnsrud Sundby led wire-to-wire and sprinted up the final hill to win the gold medal with a time of 1:19:22.9. Niklas Dyrhaug was the next best finisher 44 seconds off the pace in second at 1:20:06.9, while Hans Christer Holund completed the podium sweep for the Norwegians with a time of 1:20:09.8.
While Harvey leads the Canucks sitting seventh in the Overall World Cup standings, the bright spot on the day was a solid 21st-place performance by 26-year-old Graeme Killick. The Olympian from Fort McMurray, Alta. showcased his progression into an elite skier after posting the second best distance result of his career with a time of 1:21:50.2. Killick’s best finish was 19th in the 50-kilometre race at last year’s World Championships in Falun, Sweden.
“I’m really pumped with todays results. The difference for me today was the focused work I put into my double pole and skating through the summer. My skis were amazing, letting me relax through the classic and stay fresh into the skate,” said Killick. “This was a huge breakthrough for me, the points have always seemed illusive, but now that I have a taste for them, I can’t wait to improve from here through the rest of the season, especially during the Canadian tour.”
Three-time Olympian Devon Kershaw finished three seconds behind Killick in 23rd place with a time of 1:21:53.5. Kershaw led the Canadians into the transition where he was in 19th spot, but dropped four places when the dust finally settled. Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., also grabbed his first World Cup points of the season, finishing one spot behind Kershaw while clocking-in at 1:21:55.2 to squeak into the top-25.
“That was our best day as a team in a really long time and we are very happy as a group,” added Harvey. Those were Graeme’s first World Cup points so everyone is really happy for him, and to do it on a day like today in Norway is amazing. That was the hardest World Cup to score points today no question. There is really positive energy for the team heading into the relay.”
Michael Somppi, of Thunder Bay, Ont., placed 60th at 1:27:14.8.
Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, placed 52nd in the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon with a time of 49:29.6.
Norway’s Therese Johaug and Heidi Weng celebrated a one-two finish in the women’s race. Johaug clocked a golden time of 42:17.7, while Weng was second at 43:47.0. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla rounded out the women’s podium in third with a time of 43:47.1
The World Cup continues on Sunday in Norway with the team relay races.
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR, 1:19:22.9; 2. Niklas Dyrhaug, NOR, 1:20:06.9; 3. Hans Christer Holund, NOR, 1:20:09.8; 4. Sjur Roethe, NOR, 1:20:36.4; 5. Maurice Manificat, FRA, 1:20:41.1
10. Alex Harvey, of Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que., 1:21:20.0; 21. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta., 1:21:50.2; 23. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 1:21:53.5; 24. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 24. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 1:21:55.2; 60. Michael Somppi, Thunder Bay, Ont., 1:27:14.8
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Therese Johaug, NOR, 42:17.7; 2. Heidi Weng, NOR, 43:47.0; 3. Charlotte Kalla, SWE, 43:47.1; 4. Nicole Fessel, GER, 44:12.5; 5. Maiken Caspersen Falla, NOR, 44:13.7
52. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 49:29.6