TOBLACH, Ita.—Alex Harvey dropped one spot to fourth in the overall Tour de Ski standings following a hard-fought 11th-place finish at the fifth stage as the nine-day nordic affair made its way into Toblach, Italy.
On the heels of his first podium performance of the season, the 28-year-old Harvey clocked his best finish on the unique Toblach course, placing 11th with a time of 22:22.1 in the men’s 10-kilometre individual start skate-ski race.
“He just keeps delivering and it is really impressive to watch,” said Babikov. “This was his toughest day on the Tour, yet it was his best ever skate result here in Toblach. “We shouldn’t be greedy. He is consistently right there every day, and this 10-kilometre race was very quick with the podium under 21 minutes. Alex missed a little speed today, but the skis were good and he is still feeling good.”
Harvey has traditionally struggled on the five-kilometre loop at the Toblach Nordic Arena, but the 11th-place result was proof he is on his game and ready to make a run heading into a big weekend.
“The course here in Toblach is not hard or steep, but it is gradual which makes it challening,” added Babikov. “You cannot have a bad day on the Tour, and today he minimized the damage with a solid result. He pretty much maintained his position on the Tour. Of course we are hungry for more, and tomorrow is going to be a really good race.”
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov appears to be skiing away with the title after racking up an unprecedented fifth straight stage win. Ustiugov battled through the cold weather and hard-packed trails to set the time to beat at 21:47.9.
Maurice Manificat, of France, was second at 21:48.3, while Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger locked up the final spot on the podium with a time of 22:04.5.
With only two races remaining in the seven-race Tour, recovery is critical for many of the world’s best Nordic stars.
Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., and Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, lacked a bit of snap on Friday in the short 10-kilometre course, but dug deep to post solid results of their own. Kershaw placed 32nd with a time of 22:53.9, while Killick was 35th at 22:59.8.
“It is so tight out here, and the conditions were really fast. Devon and Graeme really only missed the points by a couple of seconds and were only 30 seconds behind Alex,” said Babikov. “They just lacked a bit of punch and acceleration, but they are both ready to fight for the final two races of the Tour.”
Harvey, of Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., remains in the hunt for the overall podium. Harvey is less than one second behind Switzerland’s Dario Colgna who sits in third.
Ustiugov has a 94 second lead on Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby as the Tour makes its way to Val di Fiemme, Italy for the final two stages – a punishing Nordic venue where Harvey and his Canadian mates have had success throughout their careers.
Next up is a 15-kilometre classic-ski mass start race on Saturday.
The Tour de Ski consists of seven races in nine days at four Nordic venues in three countries. The ultimate grind in high-performance sport tests some of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world to determine the king and queen of cross-country skiing when they cross the finish line of the Tour in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 8, ending with a 425-metre climb to the top of Alpe Cermis.
Top-Five Men’s and Canadian Results:
- Sergey Ustiugov, RUS, 21:47.9; 2. Maurice Manificat, FRA, 21:48.3; 3. Simen Hegstad Krueger, NOR, 22:04.5; 4. Matti Heikkinen, FIN, 22:05.2; 5. Marcus Hellner, SWE, 22:13.7
Other Canadian Results:
- Alex Harvey, Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., 22:22.1; 32. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 22:53.9; 35. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta., 22:59.8