—Harvey finishes fifth, Ivan Babikov 14th, Devon Kershaw 16th in eight race Tour—
CANMORE, Alta.—Alex Harvey dropped one spot, but put together a gutsy performance on a brutal day, to reach his goal of finishing in the top-five overall on the epic eight-race Ski Tour Canada on Saturday.
Starting nearly three minutes behind the leaders, Harvey of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., slogged through the soft, wet snow to hold onto fifth spot with a time of 50:18.0 in the 15-kilometre classic-ski race.
“I wasn’t skiing well technically. The body didn’t feel good today so it was just not a good race,” said the 27-year-old Harvey, who was passed by Maurice Manificat of France. “That is sport though. I’ve had a lot of bad days in my career. It is nothing to worry about. You can’t be on top every day.
“It is a long Tour. The body starts to feel fatigue at the midway point. I felt as good as yesterday, but midway through the race I just got really tired. To finish top-five on a long stage tour is by far my best result. This was a great Tour for me.”
Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby started nearly 40 seconds behind the leader, Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, in the final stage, but put the pedal down as he has all year and smashed the field to win the race, and the overall Tour with a time of 47:24.1.
Ustiugov settled for second spot with a time of 48:21.8. Norway’s Petter Northug finished third with a time of 49:16.6.
Harvey captured the 17th World Cup medal of his career during the sprint races on his home course in Quebec City last week. He described a fourth-place finish in Friday’s individual start competition as one of the best races of his life.
“There were lots of positives to take away from this year and the Tour. I’ve learned a lot as well,” said Harvey. “I started and ended the year with medals, but there were some not so good times in between. I was quite strong all year in the distance races, but I think this summer I need to work hard to get better in the sprints.”
Ivan Babikov and Devon Kershaw posted day times in the top-15 on the final stage to finish 14th and 16th respectively.
Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., rattled off three, top-15 finishes to close out the season. The 35-year-old followed up two 10th place results with a 14h-place finish Saturday with a time of 54:54.4.
“These conditions were so tough and that is exactly how I like it,” said Babikov. “It was another challenging day today, but I was really happy with my finish. I just kept saying on this Tour to get me to Canmore. I was happy to deliver some good results to end the year.”
Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., steadily worked his way up the pack, finishing 16th overall at 55:41.2 after posting the 14th-fastest daytime behind Babikov.
“The conditions were viciously brutal so it was just a tough day,” said the three-time Olympian. “I was really close to the overall goal so I have to be satisfied. It was just really hard out there.”
Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., finished in 27th with a time of 59:08.4.
Emily Nishikawa was the best of the final five Canadian women who completed the eight-race journey across Canada. The Whitehorse native clocked a 37th-place time of 52:26.1 in the women’s 10-kilometre classic-ski pursuit.
“There were lots of highlights along the way, but I think I’m just most proud of how this women’s team has come together,” said Nishikawa. “We started with 12 women and ended with five, but I’m very proud to be a part of these girls and hope this will help us continue to build a strong team well into the future.”
Thirty seconds back of Tour leader Heidi Weng of Norway wasn’t enough to hold her teammate, Therese Johaug, at bay. Johaug smashed the field in the final women’s stage to win the overall Tour with a time of 34:12.4.
Weng finished one minute, 7.8 seconds back at 35:20.2. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg completed the Norwegian sweep with a time of 36:25.7.
Canada sent 26 Canadians to the start line against 80 of the world’s best. With fields cut nearly in half by the final stage, seven Canadian men and five women were left standing as they hosted the world’s best for eight races on four-renowned cross-country ski venues in Canada including Gatineau, Que., Montreal, Quebec City, and ending with four stages in Canmore, Alta., over a 12-day period. It was also the first time ever the World Cup Finals were held in North America with the Crystal Globes handed out on Saturday in front of the picturesque