VAL DI FIEMME, Ita.—Alex Harvey reached the top of Mount Cermis in Val di Fiemme, Italy and the finish line of the grueling seven-race Tour de Ski in a career-best seventh spot on Sunday.
Enjoying his most consistent string of results on the prestigious journey through Europe, the 28-year-old Harvey dug deep for a seventh-place finish with a time of 33:07.4 in the final stage – a nine-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race that finishes with the final three kilometres straight up an alpine ski hill that boasts a 28 per cent hill grade.
“It was quite good today. That was the best position ever for me up the climb, and I had the 14th best time on the day,” said Harvey, who also skied faster than the overall leader Sergey Ustiugov on the day. “I was skiing with Manificat and Heikkinen who had the top-two times on the day. I was with them for a bit, but it was just a bit to fast for me. They crushed everyone on the hill.
“This gives me a lot of confidence for next year to know that if I’m in the top-three I am fast enough to keep it together on the last day and get on the overall podium.”
Starting in sixth spot and time-behind-the-leaders based on results of the opening six stages, the St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que. resident was skiing on fumes with the world’s best all-around Nordic athletes in a race that throws tactics out the window – forcing man against hill.
“The first part is not so bad, but when you hit that first pitch your legs feel like concrete and then you have to tough it out for the last 15 minutes,” added Harvey. “Normally you have a downhill, and flats, to recover, but here you don’t flush any lactate. You just keep going and it is a battle against yourself.
“If it was a one day race it would be relief when you reach the finish line. Throw in six races before this race and it is absolute relief when you get to the top.”
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov was crowned the king of cross-country skiing after winning the final stage and overall Tour de Ski. Ustiugov won an unprecedented six of the seven stages – finishing with a winning time of 30:27.7.
Saturday’s race winner, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, was second to reach the top of the mountain with a time of 31:30.6. Switzerland’s Dario Cologna finished 45 seconds off the leading place in third at 31:46.8.
Canada’s only other finisher was Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont. One of only three athletes in the world to have started all 11 Tours, Kershaw finished in 25th place on Sunday with a time of 39:59.9.
Only 40 of the 85 athletes who started, successfully finished the ultimate test in high-performance sport that witnessed athletes skiing more than 75 kilometres in seven races at four venues in Switzerland, Germany and Italy over the last nine days.
Ustiugov won the renowned Nordic event by 63 seconds with a total time of 3:24:47.9. Sundby was second at 3:25:50.8 and Cologna hopped onto the third step of the overall podium with a time of 3:26:07.0.
Harvey enjoyed a career-best seventh place finish in the Tour with a time of 3:27:27.6. Harvey had four top-10 finishes including his first podium of the season, along with an 11th place result. His previous best Tour finish was 10th in 2011.
“It feels great to have my best finish ever. I had a really good start of the season with a number of top-10’s but sometimes you start to think is seventh the best I can do. I wanted to take that next step and get on the podium on the Tour and I did that,” said Harvey. “Toblach was the stage I was fearing the most. It is a bit of a dark hole for me, but I had my best result (11th) ever there. Yesterday was just a bit of a mix of fatigue and we overdid it a bit with grip on the skis. I felt quite good today and I think this was a step in the right direction towards World Championships.”
Kershaw, who had his first top-10 in more than two years in the third stage, was 25th at 3:34:20.1