Canada’s Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw skied their way into the elite group of 30 in the men’s 15-kilometre classic-ski individual start race at the World Cup in Ruka, Finland on Saturday.
Building on a solid effort in Friday’s sprint race, the 29-year-old Harvey climbed his way into 13th place while the three-time Olympian Kerhsaw fought his way into 26th.
“It was a good one for the first distance race of the season. I really tried to find the balance of not starting too fast or slow. I was feeling good and it was good to be in the game today,” said Harvey, who is now 12th in the overall standings for the three-race mini-tour.
Harvey, of St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que., grinded out a strong effort in each of the three five-kilometre loops on the classic-ski course that tests the world’s best with its long, steep climbs, finishing with a time of 34:28.5.
“Individual starts are always very difficult. It took me a while to figure them out because I always started too slow from the beginning. It’s about starting fast enough so you are putting the hurt on yourself in the first lap, but staying patient and not going too fast to kill yourself,” said Harvey. “You have to bite your teeth a bit in these races.”
Harvey met up with his longtime World Cup mate, Kershaw during the veterans five-kilometre mark. Skiing together, the two Canucks pushed their way up the standings. Kershaw (Sudbury, Ont.) was in 55th at the time before he began pushing the pace with Harvey to climb 19 positions and stop the clock at 34:54.0.
“That was sweet to have someone there. It was good for both of us and really helped pull us both around,” added Harvey.
The Norwegians skied to the gold and silver steps of the podium for the second straight day. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo set the time to beat at 33:38.8. Didrik Toenseth was the next best finisher at 33:54.1. Finland’s Iivo Niskanen thrilled the hometown faithful with a bronze-medal effort, punching the clock at 33:56.5.
Other Canadian finishers included Toronto’s Len Valjas in 48th (35:46.8); Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., in 58th at 36:02.2; Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, placing 87th at 36:58.4; Julien Locke, of Nelson, B.C., in 100th spot at 37:35.2; and Jesse Cockney, of Canmore, Alta., in 109th (38:59.5).
Emily Nishikawa (Whitehorse) was tops of the three Canadians who hit the start line for the women’s 10-kilometre classic-ski race. The 2014 Olympian completed her two trips around the challenging Finish track in a time of 27:31.8 to finish 56th. Cendrine Brown, of St-Jérôme, Que., placed 76th at 28:31.2, while Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) was 84th with a time of 29:01.1.
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen snagged the gold at 25:07.6. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla narrowly claimed the silver medal (25:24.6) edging out Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg by one second. Oestberg skied to the bronze at 25:25.4.
The three-day World Cup mini-tour wraps on Sunday in Ruka, Finland with the 10- and 15-kilometre skate-ski pursuit races.
“The goal coming in this weekend was to be top-10. Tomorrow is going to be a manhunt. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to fight to the end to catch the guys in front,” said Harvey.