LAHTI, Fin.—A race day he had circled on his calendar all year, Alex Harvey had the podium in his fingertips until the final corner of the men’s 30 kilometre World Championship skiathlon race where he dropped to fifth in Lahti, Finland on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Harvey was in complete control over the 30-kilometre marathon where he clocked a combined time of 1:09:50.0, finishing less than two seconds off the podium.
“It’s disappointing to be so close to the goal in my favourite race,” said Harvey. “I had really, really fast skis, and I was in good position in the top-four, but completely blew up.”
Harvey led the world’s best Nordic skiers into the transition area after the 15-kilometre classic-ski leg despite a broken ski following a crash on the uphill where he got tangled up with Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov.
He continued to set the tone, leading until the final lap of the 15-kilometre skate portion of the race where he was left battling for bronze after Ustiugov and Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby dropped the pack. A tactical error by the Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que. resident, Harvey was not able to respond to the surge.
“That is the part of the race I wish I could relive because I thought I had the legs to go with them today, but once you have a gap, it was so windy, that it is really hard to come back,” said Harvey.
Left battling for third, Harvey was in good position for the podium sitting in fourth while bolting down the final descent into the stadium, but got pinched in the final sharp corner into the finishing stretch and couldn’t respond.
“I got pushed to the outside, and that is where the podium was played,” added the four-time World Championship medallist. “I had great skate skis today. It was a really good course for me. I thought I was in a good position to react in the second lap where I was in the top-four there, but I just completely blew up.”
Russia’s Ustiugov outlasted Sundby for the gold medal. Ustiugov posted a winning time of 1:09:16.7. Sundby settled for the silver medal at 1:09:23.4. Finn Haagen Krogh, also of Norway, topped Harvey by 1.5 seconds for the bronze at 1:09:48.5.
Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., didn’t have the jam to respond to the lightening quick pace, but was the next best Canadian in 47th (1:15:40.2). Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, placed 55th (1:17:56.9).
Three Canadian women were stacked together just outside the top-30 in the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon. Cendrine Browne, of Saint-Jérôme, Que., finished as the top Canuck in 35th spot with a time of 42:13.0.
“I was starting to get tired towards the end because it was 15 kilometres, but I had a good race today and I felt good especially during the classic,” said Browne. “The crowd was crazy. It was so loud – especially at the start – I didn’t even hear the start gun go off. It was a good race and a great atmosphere.”
Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, placed 38th at 42:26.8, while Katherine Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., was 40th (42:35.6).
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen captured the women’s World Championship skiathlon title with a time of 37:57.5. Finland’s Krista Parmakoski brought the hometown crowd to its feet with a silver-medal time of 38:02.3. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla skied to the bronze medal with a time of 38:29.5.
The World Ski Championships continue on Sunday with the team sprint event.