LRICEHAMN, Swe.— Alex Harvey has put his name in the history books as the first cross-country skier in Canada ever to ski to back-to-back gold medal victories in consecutive weekends on the World Cup.
The 26-year-old racked up his third podium of the year after winning the men’s 15-kilometre World Cup individual start skate-ski race in Ulricehamn, Sweden on Saturday.
Harvey, of Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., also won gold last week with Toronto’s Len Valjas in the team sprint relay in Toblach, Italy.
“We’ve had a lot great champions in Canada. It is nice to be able to own a statistic like that, but I do it for the result and to be the best I can be each race,” said Harvey. “If that means that I win back-to-back then that is a bonus.”
Beckie Scott also won in back-to-back races during her memorable 2005-06 run, but not on consecutive weekends.
“It does feel great to win again today,” said Harvey, who won his first individual race since the World Cup Finals in 2014. “Everything was clicking today. This is a new place for us, but the course was really good and suited my abilities. I was in it from the beginning and felt good the whole way today.”
Traditionally a slower starter, the two-time Olympian took advantage of quick speed and awesome equipment the second he busted out of the gate where he skied in the top-five until the midway point of the race on the gradual terrain that featured short ups and downs with twisting corners.
“The plan was to start fast and be in the hunt. Sometimes when I start fast I can’t handle the pace, but I was in the top-five for the first three kilometres. When I got the splits that I was leading midway, I knew I could push to the end,” said Harvey. “There was one really long steep hill which is not my normally my strength, but the rest of the course was a lot of fun. You had to be proactive and always working and pushing the entire way.”
It was the 20th World Cup medal, and sixth victory for Harvey to go along with his four World Championship podiums. Saturday’s win marked the first time he has ever won a 15-kilometre skate-ski race in his nine-year career.
“Individual starts have been harder for me in the past. It gives me a lot of satisfaction and confidence to know that I can be in the hunt in all race disciplines,” said Harvey, who edged closer to third, but remains in fourth place in the overall World Cup standings “I really believe I can be on the podium every time I race and that’s important. When you don’t throw all your eggs in one basket in one discipline like a sprint race, it takes the pressure away of having to perform on one single day. I’m fortunate to have been born with that ability to race in sprints or distances and in classic and skate-skiing, but I’m also working really hard for it as well, and that feels great to see it pay off.”
Harvey was joined on the podium by Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who finished six seconds back at 32:52.2. Sweden’s Marcus Hellner won a tight race for the bronze with a time of 33:00.5
Valjas had another solid effort himself, placing 35th at 34:03.9. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., rounded out the Canadian men’s contingent in 38th at 34:08.4.
Cendrine Browne, of Saint-Jérôme, Que.,was the lone Canadian in the women’s 10-kilometre skate-ski race, finishing 35th at 25:38.3. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen set the time to beat at 23:46.3.
The World Cup continues on Sunday in Sweden with the relay events.