QUEBEC CITY—Alex Harvey skied to a pot of gold on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City this St. Patrick’s Day at the opening day of the World Cup Finals.
Fresh off skiing into legendary status by winning the prestigious 50-kilometre World Championship cross-country ski race two weeks ago, the 28-year-old Harvey thrilled the Canadian crowd with a victory just down the road from his hometown of Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que.
“I was just floating today. That is always the plan, but it doesn’t always work out. It just felt easy today,” said Harvey. “It takes a lot to line up a good result. The equipment was great. The body and tactics were good and you need some luck. It all came together today.”
It was the 23rd World Cup medal for Harvey, and seventh victory, in his unprecedented nine-year career. He also has five World Championship medals including two victories.
“The World Championships is a bigger event, but to win at home like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Harvey, who also won the silver medal last year in the Quebec City sprint race. “I came close last year, but I’m just so happy I was able to do it today. You always need a little bit of luck in sprint racing and I was lucky today. The hometown crowd was awesome. It was amazing today.”
Harvey welcomed the world’s best cross-country skiers to his Nordic playground, and led them on a trip around Quebec City’s most famous landmarks. After qualifying in fourth spot for the round of 30 head-to-head heats, Harvey fired his first warning shot to the field when he led wire-to-wire in his quarter-final round.
In complete control all day, Harvey was a model of perfection around the 1.5-kilometre track in the semifinals as well. Bolting out of the gate into the lead, Harvey descended down in front of the Quebec
Parliament building and around Fontaine de Tourny where he then stuck in the number-two spot while skiing back onto the Plains. He stayed in that position until the finishing stretch where he put the pedal down to win his heat once again.
“It is the same tactic for pretty much every race, but the question is whether you can do it or not. I was feeling great so the goal was to push the pace to have a fast time,” added Harvey.
Harvey’s final heat was no different. A hard-fought battle at the front of the final group of six, Harvey played cat-and-mouse with Norway’s Finn Haagen Krogh up and down the rolling terrain on Quebec’s famous battlefield.
But when all was said and down after the pack ripped around the final corner, it was Harvey playing his signature air guitar the world has become accustomed too in the finish corral after a Canadian podium performance on the Cross-Country Skiing World Cup – this victory celebrated by thousands of Canadian Nordic ski fans cheering his name.
“I was in the same position last year where I was able to slingshot wide around the final corner. This time around I waited and waited for Finn to choose his lane, and then I cut inside. I had last year in my mind, and just made sure it wasn’t going to slip through my fingers two years in a row,” said Harvey.
Harvey edged out Norway’s Krogh in the sprint to the finish line. Richard Jouve, of France, skied to the bronze medal.
It has been a storybook season for the three-time Olympian Harvey, who sits third in the Overall World Cup standings with just two races to go.
He kicked his podium run off with a bronze medal in the 15-kilometre skate-ski race at the prestigious Tour de Ski in Oberstdorf, Germany before rewriting the history books throughout the rest of January and February. Harvey became the first Canadian to win in back-to-back weekends on the World Cup circuit. He and Len Valjas won the team sprint in Toblach, Italy before Harvey claimed the 15-kilometre skate-ski race in Ulricehamn, Sweden.
As if that wasn’t enough, Harvey added another chapter to the history books when he and his three teammates became the first Canadians ever to win a World Cup medal in a 4×7.5-kilometre relay after capturing the bronze in Ulricehamn.
What did the phenom have for an encore? He became the first North American ever to win the World Championship 50-kilometre cross-country ski race in Lahti, Finland since the competition began in 1925.
The vibes are strong for the Canucks and that was evident on Friday with five Canadian men qualifying for the round of 30 in the six-man heats. Harvey’s performance overshadowed another stellar result by Jesse Cockney in Quebec City.
Qualifying in 28th spot for the second year in a row, Cockney of Canmore, Alta., shocked the world in his quarter-final heat where he blew down the finishing stretch to secure second spot and a trip to the semifinals. The 27 year old matched his 10th-place finish from last year.
Other Canadians to qualify for the heats, but did not advance past the first round included: Toronto’s Len Valjas in 19th; Julien Lock, of Nelson, B.C., in 20th; and Bob Thompson, of Thunder Bay, Ont., placing 30th.
No Canadian women secured a spot in the heats.
Sweden’s Stina Nilsson won the women’s sprint race. Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla was second, while Sweden’s Hanna Falk skied to the bronze med