Lillehammer, NOR—Like a lion focusing in on its prey, Alex Harvey continues to circle the top prize on the World Cup with his second 10th-place finish, seeking an opportune moment to pounce onto the podium.
Feeding off two strong results, the 28-year-old mixed it up with the top cats on the World Cup circuit once again on Saturday in a 10-kilometre skate-ski race, locking up the final spot in the top-10 in consecutive days with a time of 23 minutes, 28.4 seconds.
“The top-10 is always the standard for me to be happy. A 10-kilometre race goes by really fast. The goal was not to lose any time on the first lap, and then fight hard for the second half. I went out hard today, but lost a couple of spots near the end,” said the two-time Olympian.
“This is the fourth World Cup of the season, and we’ve had skis good enough to win. We have nothing to worry about with the equipment and that’s a good sign for the team!”
Harvey, of Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que., was in with the top-six for the first half of the race, but it was the final five kilometres on the icy, hard packed and relentless Nordic tracks in Lillehammer that got the best of him.
“This is one of the hardest courses on the World Cup for sure. It is so hard on the legs. There is lots of steep terrain that shoots you into downhills, and offsets. You want to ski technically, but it is a really physical course so it is the shape that counts,” added Harvey.
“To be in the top-10 two days in a row shows my general fitness is good but now I’m not at my best either and now we have to build on it. Racing is so hard no matter how fit you are, but it feels different when you are in good shape. It is equally painful for all of us, but there is a lot more enjoyment when you can go fast – it makes the fight more rewarding.”
Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson was rewarded with being invited onto the top step of the podium for the second straight day. The Swede set the time to beat at 23:04.9. Marcus Hellner, also of Sweden, clocked-in at 23:05.7, while Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov skied to the bronze medal with a time of 23:11.6.
Harvey sits in eighth spot overall heading into the 15-kilometre classic-ski pursuit set for the final day of the three-race mini-tour in Norway.
“I’m within striking distance for sure. I have lots of good guys within my group, and I think we will be fighting for that top-three. I still enjoy the mass starts more so I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” said Harvey.
Six other Canadian men hit the start line on Saturday. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., skied to 40th place at 24:21.6. Toronto’s Len Valjas had a solid distance race placing 42nd (24:24.0), Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., was 64th (24:51.5), Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, was 73rd (25:26.9), while Thunder Bay, Ont. athletes Bob Thompson (26:08.3) and Andy Shields (26:11.2) were 88th and 89th respectively.
Meanwhile, Cendrine Brown of St-Jérôme, Que., was the top Canadian woman in the five-kilometre skate-ski race. The 23-year-old Brown stopped the clock at 13:54.8 for 50th spot. The Whitehorse girls rounded out the Canadian contingent. Emily Nishikawa was 52nd at 14:00.2, while Dahria Beatty was 62nd with a time of 14:14.7.
Jessica Diggins, of the United States, captured her first victory of the season with a time of 12:40.3. Diggins was joined on the podium by two Norwegians. Heidi Weng was second at 12:45.1, while Marit Bjoergen fought for the bronze medal at 12:56.1.
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
- Calle Halfvarsson, SWE, 23:04.9; 2. Marcus Hellner, SWE, 23:05.7; 3. Sergey Ustiugov, RUS, 23:11.6; 4. Finn Haagen Krogh, NOR, 23:12.3; 5. Simen Hegstad Krueger, NOR, 23:18.1
- Alex Harvey, Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que., 23:28.4; 40. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 24:21.6; 42. Len Valjas, Toronto, 24:24.0; 64. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta., 24:51.5; 73. Knute Johnsgaard, Whitehorse, 25:26.9; 88. Bob Thompson, Thunder Bay, Ont., 26:08.3; 89. Andy Shields, Thunder Bay, Ont., 26:11.2
Top-5 Women’s and Canadian Results:
- Jessica Diggins, USA, 12:40.3; 2. Heidi Weng, NOR, 12:45.1; 3. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 12:56.1; 4. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, NOR, 12:56.7; 5. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, NOR, 12:57.5.
- Cendrine Browne, St-Jérôme, Que., 13:58.8; 52. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 14:00.2; 62. Dahria Beatty, Whitehorse, 14:14.7