—Harvey shows mental and physical toughness with ninth place finish in pursuit—
LENZERHEIDE, Sui.—Alex Harvey leaves Switzerland after the first three races of the Tour de Ski in contention for the top-three after a ninth-place result in the men’s 10-kilometre pursuit race on Sunday.
Starting in seventh spot, time behind the leaders of the first two races, the St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que. resident held on to finish ninth in one of the toughest all-around tests he’s faced this year following a slow distance race on Saturday. Harvey clocked a time of 24:19.7 in the skate-ski pursuit.
“It was really tough today. I didn’t feel like I recovered from yesterday’s 30 kilometre race. I had a bad night of sleep and just didn’t feel good when I woke up. This was the hardest race of the year for me for sure. Given that, this is a good result,” said the 27-year-old Harvey.
With Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby setting an unmatchable pace, Harvey adjusted his goal of catching up to the leaders to just hanging on when he realized early in they day he didn’t have the jam in his legs. Harvey dug deep to hold his position in the top-10.
“I just tried to stay with the group today,” said Harvey. “You have to stay strong physically and mentally. Usually the long 35 kilometre stage is later in the Tour, but this time things get tougher early on. Recovery is important, but staying fit mentally is even more important. There are parts on the course like today where you just have to hang on.
“The good thing is I’m closer in time to the top-three than I was when the day started. It will be good to have a rest day tomorrow. I’m going to make the most out of that, and be ready for the sprint on Tuesday which will be important to do well.”
The Norwegians maintained their stranglehold at the top of the standings. Sundby clocked a first-place time of 21:44.7. Petter Northug skied to the silver-medal position on the podium at 23:09.9, while Finn Haagen Krogh completed the Norwegian sweep of the podium for the second straight day by edging out Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov in a photo finish for third with a time of 23:34.9.
Meanwhile, Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., skied to 37th spot with a time of 27:53.4. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., felt stronger on Sunday after a difficult distance race. Kershaw posted a 41st-place time of 28:31.6. Toronto-based sprint-specialist, Len Valjas, placed 68th at 32:08.3.
“The Tour to this point is going okay. Alex skied a really good race today for not feeling well. The top-three is still very much in his sights, but he knows how critical it will be to qualify in the sprint on Tuesday so he will be going all out. Lenny is also looking forward to Tuesday,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, National Ski Team.
“Devon rebounded nicely today, and his fitness is good so I know he’ll put his focus on some daily podiums.”
The world’s best cross-country skiers will now have a much-needed rest day on Monday as the Tour heads to Oberstdorf, Germany for the fourth stage – a classic-ski sprint race.
Modeled after the Tour de France in cycling, the Tour de Ski features eight races over four venues in three countries over a 10-day period. The Tour wraps up in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 12 with a 425-metre climb to the top of Alpe Cermis.
Top-Five and Canadian Results:
1. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR, 21:44.7; 2. Petter Northug, NOR, 23:09.9; 3. Finn Haagen Krogh, NOR, 23:34.9; 4. Sergey Ustiugov, RUS, 23:34.9; 5. Sjur Roethe, NOR, 23:37.6
9. Alex Harvey, St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., 24:19.7; 37. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 27:53.4; 41. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 28:31.6; 68. Len Valjas, Toronto, 32:08.3.