Lillehammer, NOR—Alex Harvey put together his best race of the young season and third straight top-10 finish of the weekend – this time in the 15 kilometre classic ski pursuit – to wrap up a three-day mini-tour in Lillehammer, Norway.
Starting time behind the leaders based on the results of the opening two days, the Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que. resident quickly worked his way into a pack of seven athletes who were chasing the front-runner, Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden.
Harvey skied comfortably in the pack which grew to 10 by the midway point of the race with the pace being driven Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby. Harvey stayed with the group until the 12-kilometre mark where Sundby put down a surge to break the pack.
The 28-year-old Canadian was not able to respond to the charge for the podium, but still managed to post the sixth fastest time of the day on the demanding 15-kilometre track to finish in ninth spot at 39:53.0.
“Having the sixth fastest time on the day is my best result of the season so I’m happy with that,” said Harvey. “The Norwegians were pressing really hard from the beginning so it was a fast pace. I just spent too much energy early on and had nothing left at the end.”
Harvey demonstrated his strong early-season shape over the weekend, finishing 10th in both Friday’s sprint and Saturday’s 10-kilometre skate-ski race.
“These are great results for me on courses that historically have been tough for me. I have never been at my best before Christmas so I’m really happy with where things are right now. The big goal is the Tour de Ski, and until then, I just need to stay the course. I’m feeling good, confident and the entire wax team is working really hard and doing a great job with the equipment so I’m looking forward to next weekend.”
Norway’s Sundby finished on top of the pack on Sunday, and won the mini-tour, after skiing to a time of 39 minutes, 36.8. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, also of Norway, was second at 39:39.1, while Finland’s Matti Heikkinen skied to the bronze medal at 39:39.5.
Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont. catapulted up the standings into 27th after posting the 23rd fastest 15-kilometre race time on the day. The three-time Olympian clocked in at 41:45.3.
“Today was a good step in the right direction. After being disappointed with the first couple races at this mini-tour, I was happy to move through some bodies today and clamber into the top-30,” said Kershaw. “We had great equipment all weekend and I have been feeling pretty good so far this year, but I am missing my last gear. That gets exploited in the big leagues here on the World Cup.
“I had the 23rd fastest time which is ok, but I honestly was wanting more because this is my favourite race. Either way, we keep marching forward and I am satisfied with my feelings on the racecourse. I will take confidence that when I find that last gear I will be able to play near the top again like I have in the past.”
Toronto’s Len Valjas was 48th (43:20.8), Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., was 53rd (43:30.7), while Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, was 72nd (45:57.1), Bob Thompson, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 81st (47:53.1), and Andy Shields placed 83rd (49:34.1).
Meanwhile, Emily Nishikawa put in a solid effort to finish as the top Canadian in 46th spot in the women’s 10-kilometre pursuit. Nishikawa was able to pick off a handful of spots on the final day in Lillehammer after clocking a time of 32:54.6.
“I was happy with today, and have been feeling better and better with each race I do,” said Nishikawa. “Today I was happy with how my body felt, and how I was able to ski this really hard course. We had amazing skis that were super fast with perfect grip, so that was really fun. I’m already really looking forward to racing in Davos next weekend!”
Norway’s Heidi Weng won the women’s race with a time of 28:46.1. Weng bested her teammate Ingvild Flugstad, who finished 16 seconds back in second place with a time of 29:02.2. Finland’s Krista Parmakoski prevented the Norwegian sweep of the podium after stopping the clock at 29:07.1 to claim the bronze medal.
Cendrine Brown of St-Jérôme, Que., climbed one spot in the standings to finish 52nd at 33:27.6. Dahria Beatty, of Whitehorse, skied to 59th with a time of 34:54.3.
The World Cup now travels to Davos, Switzerland.