Alex Harvey completed his final tune-up for the prestigious Tour de Ski with a ninth-place finish in the World Cup cross-country classic-ski pursuit race in Toblach, Italy.


Starting in fourth spot 14 seconds back – time behind the leaders based on Saturday’s skate-ski event –  the 29-year-old was poised to strike onto the podium for the first time this year. Harvey, of St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que., did not have the jam on Sunday to match the pace set by the leaders, finishing ninth at 33:47.4.


Harvey was skiing with a group of four for most of the first two kilometres, which expanded to an eight-pack by the midway section of the race. Tactically working his way in the pack, Harvey took his turns in the lead until the final two kilometres when Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov broke the front group, and only Norway’s Johannes Klaebo was able to respond.


No early season podiums? Fear not – the two-time Olympian Harvey has had his best start to a World Cup season in his 10-year career. Harvey has circled the podium with two, fourth place finishes, a sixth and is regularly in the top-10.


“These other countries are fighting for spots at the Olympics so they have to be on the podium every race. My goals are to be reaching my top gear by the Tour de Ski. Racing has been good training for that, and I’m exactly where I want to be at this time of the year,” said 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.”


Norway’s Johannes Klaebo set a World Cup record with his seventh victory before Christmas, winning the gold medal with a time of 33:31.1 on the hilly Toblach tracks.


Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov skied to the silver medal at 33:14.1, while Alexey Poltoranin, of Kazakhstan, bolted from 14th place into the bronze medal position on the podium, posting a golden time of 33:35.6.


Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., moved into 33rd spot with a time of 35:33.9. Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alta., dropped two spots to 50h (37:13.1). Russell Kennedy, of Canmore, Alta., was 66th (38:36.9), and Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, grabbed six spots on the field to finish 76th (39:51.9).


The Norwegians dominated the women’s 10-kilometre classic-ski pursuit race. Marit Bjoergen stormed onto the top spot of the podium with a time of 25:19.3, edging her teammate Ingvild Oestberg at the finish line. Oestberg settled for the silver at 25:19.6. Heidi Weng finished just .8 seconds behind in the sprint finish, placing third at 25:20.1.


Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, skied to 53rd (29:33.8). Dahria Beatty, of Whitehorse, picked up four spots, placing 63rd with a time of 31:04.0. Cendrine Brown, of St-Jérôme, Que., dropped to 66th at 31:04.0, while Katherine Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., placed 70th (32:50.8.)


The World Cup now takes a holiday break until the Tour de Ski which kicks off in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on December 30.