Alex Harvey dropped two spots in the overall standings after the second stage of the seven-race Tour de Ski following a 20th place effort in a challenging 15-kilometre individual start classic cross-country race on Sunday in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Warm weather and changing snow conditions delivered a good test to the world’s best cross-country skiers including Harvey, who battled his way around the monster five-lap course in a time of 36:27.4.
“It was just a bad day. The 15 kilometre classic is my weakest event, but I was still expecting something better today,” said the St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que. product. “I just have to forget about today and focus on tomorrow.”
Harvey started the day in seventh spot in the standings – 30 seconds behind the Tour leader Sergey Ustiugov. He remains in good position in ninth spot, 53 seconds back of the Russian, heading into Monday’s 15-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race.
“Luckily the sprint yesterday saved me and it was good, now looking back, to get the bonus seconds I did there,” said Harvey, who was seventh overall at last year’s Tour de Ski. “Yesterday’s sprint result gave me a bit of a buffer, and I’m still in a really good group so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
The 29-year-old Harvey was moving well in his first of five laps where he had the fourth-fastest opening 2.5-kilometre time, but he was not able to hold the pace while grinding his way around the next four loops of the challenging course that forces the top skiers on the planet to grind their way up two long, steady four-minute climbing sections.
“The beginning was good, but I just didn’t ski well and struggled the rest of the way. I didn’t blow up or explode. I was just bleeding time the whole way,” said Harvey. “It is a really hard course with a bit of altitude and I think I lost most of my time on the climbing sections.”
Switzerland’s Dario Cologna mastered home turf, clocking the top time of the day at 35:29.5 to claim the second stage. Alex Poltoranin, of Kazakhstan, finished just .6 seconds behind Cologna in second place (35:30.1), while Norway’s Martin Sundby made a huge move on the field after clocking the third-fastest time on the day at 35:42.6.
Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., was the only other Canadian male or female entered in this year’s grueling Tour de Ski, but was forced to withdraw after coming down with illness this weekend.
Starting time behind the leaders of the first two stages, Harvey now heads into Monday’s 15-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race amongst a strong group of distance and skate-skiers.
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov carries the lead into the final race in Switzerland before the Tour travels to Oberstdorf, Germany. Dario Cologna sits 1.6 seconds back in second place, while Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov is third, 12.7 seconds back.
The 12th annual Tour de Ski consists of seven races over nine days in three countries. The featured event on the Nordic calendar – outside of the Olympics and World Championships – tests some of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world to determine the king and queen of cross-country skiing when they cross the finish line of the Tour, ending with a 425-metre climb to the top of Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 7.