LA CLUSAZ, Fra.—Alex Harvey put down the best result of the early World Cup season, finishing seventh, but he leaves La Clusaz, France feeling he missed an opportunity for his first podium of the year.
Skiing at the top of the pack in fifth place on the third of eight laps in the 15-kilometre skate-ski mass start, Harvey crashed and dropped way back in the pack into 26th spot on the narrow two-kilometre loop made entirely from man-made snow.
“There is no snow at all in Europe so they actually cut blocks of ice from a lake to create a base on the track and put snow on it so the corners were icy. We are used to that, but I just lost my focus for a bit and crashed on my own,” said the 28-year-old who has consistently been in the top-10 this year.
“The hardest lap was the one right after. When you crash you are super tense, but I was able to recover and get back into relaxed mode. The course was super narrow so it was hard to pass. I slowly made my way up to the front. I felt really good, but I think it was a missed opportunity today.”
Harvey, of St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que., clocked a seventh-place time of 34:35.3 in the extremely warm conditions.
“My shape is good and really steady. I was really hoping for a breakthrough today. The skis were great and I love this format, but once I fell that was the race. By the time I got back near the front, four guys broke away from the field. I’m a little disappointed with myself.”
There was a good fight for the medals in the men’s race. With Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby leading most of the way, it was his teammate Finn Haagen Krogh who made a late charge for the finish line, edging out Sundby for the gold medal with a time of 34:09.3. Sundby settled for the silver medal, finishing a boot-length behind at 34:09.6. Russia’s Alexander Legkov snagged the bronze medal at 34:12.4.
Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, was the only other Canadian to finish, placing 63rd (37:59.4). Devon Kershaw pulled out mid-race with illness. Andy Shields, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was lapped.
Meanwhile, Dahria Beatty is showing steady progression in her first full season on the World Cup. The 22-year-old chalked up the best distance result of her career, finishing 26th with a time of 25:22.2 in the women’s 10-kilometre race. It was the second-straight race the 22-year-old from Whitehorse has finished in the points with the elite group of 30.
“It was honestly better than I expected. I was able to ski on the outside up to about 35th place on the first lap after being caught behind a little crash at the start. I was feeling good today and on my second and third lap was able to slowly move up through the field,” said Beatty. “The last two laps were really hard but I new that all I had to do was hold my position to score my first ever distance World Cup points, which kept me moving. I am thrilled with the result!”
Beatty has finished in the top-30 only two other times in her career. The first came last year at the Ski Tour Canada when she captured the nation’s attention with a 15th-place finish in a classic-sprint race at the Canmore Nordic Centre. She finished 25th in a skate-sprint race in Davos, Switzerland last weekend.
“It is a huge step for me to have this distance result. I have been working hard to attain this level and it has finally come together. I’ve always wanted to be known as a good all-round racer and not just a sprinter so this result is great for my self belief. I really hope I can carry this energy I have right now into the New Year and onto U23 World Championships.”
The Norwegian women swept the podium. Heidi Weng was first to cross the line with a time of 23:43.5. Marit Bjoergen continues to impress in her comeback, skiing to the silver medal at 23:45.6, while Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg completed the medal sweep for the Norwegians with a third-place time of 23:46.4.
Cendrine Browne, of St-Jérôme, Que., was the next best Canadian in 41st with a time of 26:15.8. Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, was 48th at 26:35.9.
Sickness has rolled its way through the Canadian camp, wiping out the men’s team from starting Sunday’s highly anticipated 4×7.5 kilometre relay. Alex Harvey is now heading to Davos, Switzerland for the holiday break and to prepare for the Tour de Ski. The Canadian women’s team will start the 4×5 kilometre relay Sunday before returning to Canada for the Christmas.