—Devon Kershaw steady in 17th, Ivan Babikov 29th, Emily Nishikawa leads Canadian women—
MONTREAL—Alex Harvey battled through bitter cold, heavy winds and soft snow conditions to finish ninth at the second stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Montreal’s Parc du Mont-Royal on Wednesday.
Wearing bib number 10 following yesterday’s sprint result, the 27-year-old Quebec hero clocked a time of 46:21.8 in the 17.5-kilometre classic-ski mass start race.
“It was good day. Coming in I was only nine seconds behind the leaders so I tried to go for the podium in the second lap, and I kind of blew up,” said Harvey. “I was just dead so I drafted the whole way around and settled for a top-10.”
With Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov and two Norwegians breaking away from the field near the end of the first 3.5-kilometre lap, Harvey tucked into a chase group that included overall World Cup leader, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, for most of the remainder of the five-lap race that started and finished near Montreal’s George-Étienne Cartier monument on Parc Avenue.
“It was tricky out there today. It was quite cold, and the snow was soft on the corners. I have to be happy. I was able to move from 10th to sixth in the overall so I am happy with where my position is,” added Harvey, who hails from Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que.
Harvey may have been hanging on until the finish, but it was Canada’s three-time Olympic veteran, Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., who was charging the entire route up the difficult climbs, down the fast descents and around the tight turns.
Positioned well back on the start grid with bib 50 on his chest, the 33-year-old had his eyes focused on the top-10 while steadily working his way through the pack, but ran out of real estate, finishing 17th with a time of 46:44.3.
“Finishing in 17th place is not something we are going to be lighting fireworks off for, but at the same time it is a step in the right direction,” said Kershaw. “The conditions were the toughest thing today no question. It was windy and really soft snow, but to race in front of my friends and family here in Montreal, which has the best hockey team in the world, is a pretty neat feeling.”
Sergey Ustiugov led 84 of the world’s best Nordic skiers through the woods and alongside the city streets of Montreal’s highest point until midway through the final lap where Norway’s Emil Iversen and Petter Northug put a world of hurt on the Russian over the last two kilometres.
Iversen double poled down the finishing stretch alongside Parc Avenue to win the second stage with a time of 45:05.4. Northug settled for the silver at 45:10.7, while Ustiugov collapsed at the finish after posting the third fastest time of the day at 45:19.9.
Canada’s Ivan Babikov also had a steady showing, clocking the 29th-fastest time of the day at 47:37.5. Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., was 50th (49:16.1).
For complete men’s and Canadian results: http://bit.ly/1WVqZbz
Mother Nature also tired to steal the the show in the women’s 10.5-kilometre mass start classic-ski race with howling winds and blowing snow ripping through Montreal’s core. But it wasn’t enough to outshine another dominant Norwegian performance.
Norway’s Therese Johaug put on a clinic for the world’s best cross-country skiers. Fighting her way to the top of the pack on the first 3.5-kilometre laps, Johaug put the pedal down and never let up until the finish, dusting the field over the next two laps. Johaug clocked a winning time of 30:05.6.
Johaug’s teammates, Heidi Weng and Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, finished one minute behind in second and third place respectively. Weng stopped the clock at 31:05.9, while Jacobsen grabbed third place with a time of 31:15.4.
Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse, was the top Canadian, crossing the finish line in 45th spot with a time of 34:45.3.
“It was super cold especially at the start but once we got going it was okay. It was the same conditions for everyone,” said Nishikawa, who is the lone Canadian woman racing full time on the World Cup this year.
“There was a huge pile up after the first downhill that I was caught in, and my skis got tangled in the fencing. I just got back up and gave it everything I had.”
Cendrine Brown, of St-Jérôme, Que., finished three spots behind Nishikawa in 48th spot at 35:18.1.
“The fresh snow made the course soft especially going up the hills,” said the 22-year-old Brown. “I am still very young so this is a good result for me to be second best Canadian. Racing on this Tour is a good experience for me and I’ll learn a lot from it.”
For complete women’s and Canadian Results: http://bit.ly/1RoK4ig
The Ski Tour Canada will take Thursday off to travel to Harvey’s home region in Quebec City for the next two stages – a sprint race on March 4 followed by a pursuit race March 5 that passes the provincial Parliament and snakes through the Plains of Abraham.
The inaugural Ski Tour Canada, which is also serving as the World Cup Finals, consists of eight races at four renowned Nordic venues in the country starting in Gatineau, Que., Montreal, Quebec City, and ending with four stages in Canmore, Alta., over a 12-day period, March 1-12.
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Emil Iversen, NOR, 45:05.4; 2. Petter Northug, NOR, 45:10.7; 3. Sergey Ustiugov, RUS, 45:19.9; 4. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR, 45:45.2; 5. Maxim Vylegzhanin, RUS, 45:56.8
Canadian Results in Top-50:
9. Alex Harvey, Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., 46:21.8; 17. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 46:44.3; 29. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 47:37.5; 50. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta., 49:16.1
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Therese Johaug, NOR, 30:05.6; 2. Heidi Weng, NOR, 31:05.9; 3. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, NOR, 31:15.4; 4. Maiken Caspersen Falla, NOR, 31:47.6; 5. Justyna Kowalczyk, POL, 31:48.4
Canadian Results in Top-50:
45. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 34:45.3; 48. Cendrine Browne, St-Jérôme, Que., 35:18.1.