Alex Harvey will take a lot of positives away from a course he has struggled on throughout his career following a solid 10th-place effort in the men’s 15-kilometre individual cross-country skate-ski race on Saturday in Davos, Switzerland.
A course situated in high altitude, the St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que. product climbed his way into the top-10 for the first time while competing in a World Cup at the ski resort town that winds through the Swiss Alps. Harvey followed the race plan to near perfection en route to posting a time of 34:57.4.
“I have always struggled at altitude so this is by far my best result here in Davos,” said Harvey. “Altitude is really a physiology thing. It is never going to be perfect for me, but we have found ways to prepare for it and get better little by little each year. I couldn’t ask for much more today. The goal is always to be in the top-10.”
Altitude is one thing – compound that with an individual start race – and the cards weren’t in the Canuck’s favour.
The leader of the Canadian squad has traditionally battled to find his pacing and finish strong in the individual start races.
But there was little fear in the eyes of Harvey on this day.
Starting conservatively in his first of three laps on Saturday, the 29-year-old picked up the tempo while powering up and down a large hill the provides the biggest challenge on the five-kilometre loop.
“I knew that first lap was going to be hard anyhow with the altitude and then I also knew I had to push it a bit more than normal. It was hard, but I was happy with it. I have gotten much stronger on the individual starts this year. We have worked a lot on making sure I have enough left in the tank for the finish,” added the two-time Olympian.
“Today the shape was great and I continued to build throughout each lap, with my strongest lap being the last one. That is what you want.”
Harvey slowly picked his way through the field until the final loop where he hammered his pacing to grab a few more spots up the leaderboard and lock up the final spot in the top-10.
Maurice Manificat, of France, set the top time of the day at 33:56.2. Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov was second at 34:00.2, while Alexander Bolshunov, also of Russia, completed the 15-kilometre trek in a time of 34:10.8 for the bronze medal.
Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., placed 44th at 35:56.0. Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., skied to 59th (36:24.0); Russell Kennedy, of Canmore, Alta., finished 68th (36:39.6); and Julien Locke, of Nelson, B.C., was 94th (38:23.7).
Cendrine Brown, of St-Jérôme, Que., finished in the middle of the pack to lead the Canadian women with a 45th-place finish at 27:34.4 in the 10-kilometre skate-ski race. Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, placed 50th (27:46.9), while Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) was 73rd at 28:21.5, and Katherine Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.) finished 79th at 29:13.1.
The Norwegians skied to the top two spots on the women’s podium, Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg set the time to beat at 25:28.5. Ragnhild Haga was second at 25:34.4. Finland’s Krista Parmakoski was two seconds back of Haga in third at 25:36.4.
The Canadian team will stay in Davos to train until Thursday when they will make their way to Toblach, Italy for the final World Cup races before the holiday break followed by the start of the Tour de Ski.
“I do feel I’m exactly where I want to be at this time of year,” added Harvey. “I have been a little bit better than last year at this time. I have a lot of confidence now knowing that I can be in the top-10 even when I’m not at my best. I do have to be at my best to be on the podium.
“The plan is to build towards the Tour de Ski and the Olympics. The shape is good right now. The skis have been great and I think we are on track.”