TOBLACH, Ita.—One week removed from finishing a career-best seventh at the challenging Tour de Ski, Alex Harvey headed down the highway to Toblach, Italy to put on a race bib and get back to the start line where he and Len Valjas both cracked the top-20 in a World Cup sprint race.
Harvey, of Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., finished 17th while Toronto’s Valjas was 20th in the rare 1.3-kilometre skate-sprint race in Toblach that welcomed fresh snow overnight.
“It was pretty good today. I think that was my best qualifier in two years so I was a bit surprised,” said Harvey, who was only going to start the team sprint on Sunday with Valjas. “It was such an easy trip to come down to Toblach. I just felt if I’m doing race prep I might as well put a bib on and see what happens. I felt a lot of speed today and was quite happy.”
Qualifying in eighth spot for the head-to-head heats with the top-30 athletes, Harvey tried to make his move on his six-man quarter-final heat on the final uphill, but was boxed out of advancing to the semifinals after crossing the finish line fourth. Only the top-two in each heat and the next two fastest times overall advance.
“It’s a good course here that has you always turning left. You need to keep on the inside lane because it is a little quicker, especially with the fresh snow, so if you took the lead it was hard for someone to go by you. I was just not quick enough from the start,” added Harvey.
“I felt really good and was in contention the whole way, but there was a bit of elbow playing the entire race and I was not good enough to move on. I was feeling really good though so I’m pleased with the effort.”
It was a similar story for fellow 28-year-old Canadian, Len Valjas, who secured his spot in the heats after qualifying 23rd. Skiing at the back, Valjas remained in contact with the pack, but wasn’t able to kick it into the final gear to grab a spot in the semis after finishing fourth in his heat as well.
Norway’s Sindre Bjoernestad Skar won the men’s sprint. Simeon Hamilton, of the United States, finished second in the photo finish, while Norway’s Joannes Hoesflot Klaebo locked up the bronze medal.
With only two of the top-10 skiers from the Tour de Ski in the field, it is the first time Canada’s Harvey started a World Cup the week after the seven-race trek through Europe. Harvey made the trip to Toblach to do his first team sprint race with Valjas in preparation for the World Championships.
“Normally this weekend I’m doing intervals and we always kept the option of pulling the plug if I felt really tired. I was only coming here to do the team sprint, but it was such an easy trip, that I thought I might as well put a bib on, wake up the body and give it shot,” said Harvey. “It is always a better workout when you are doing a race and have people around to push you that much harder. Sometimes it is harder to be home and training. I’m happy with how it all went.”
The result bumped Harvey one spot up the overall World Cup standings into fourth.
The World Cup team sprint is set for Sunday in Toblach.
Top-Five Men’s and Canadian Results:
- Sindre Bjoernestad Skar, NOR; 2. Simeon Hamilton, USA; 3. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, NOR; 4. Federico Pellegrion, ITA; 5. Jovian Hediger, SUI
- Alex Harvey, Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que.; 20. Len Valjas, Toronto