Alex Harvey charged into the New Year with a strong fourth-place effort in a 15-kilometre cross country skate-ski pursuit race to mark the third stage of the Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on Monday.
Starting in ninth position, 53 seconds behind Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov based on results from the opening two events on the seven-race Tour, the 29-year-old Harvey battled through warm conditions and variable snow conditions to fight his way back into podium contention.
Harvey completed the third and final stage in Switzerland with a time of 35:43.4.
“It was good to bounce back after a disappointing day yesterday,” said Harvey, who was seventh and 20th in the first two stages. “The snow was quite slow on the climbs and it was a battle the whole way. Everyone was forced to work hard today. It was great to move up the rankings and come close to third.”
Finding his time to pounce onto the podium, it was the third, fourth-place finish of the season for the St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que. resident.
“Today we weren’t really close to third until the finish,” said Harvey, who finished just one second off the podium.
“I started 14 seconds behind (Martin) Sundby so my first goal was to catch him which I was able to do at about 3 kilometres into the race. I knew he would be working hard to chase for the top three. After I caught Sundby, I skied with him and Lars Holund. They (two Norwegian skiers) took turns leading up the hills and I tried to help on the flats.”
The trio picked off many of the world’s best Nordic names that stood between them and the podium over the final half of the race.
Harvey and Sundby pushed the pace in a fight for the medals with two kilometres remaining, but ran out of real estate to claim a medal in the sprint finish.
Switzerland’s Dario Cologna, a three-time Tour de Ski winner, took over the lead as the prestigious Nordic event enters the midway point with the next two stages set for Oberstdorf, Germany. Cologna won his second-straight stage with a time of 34:56.6.
Russia’s Ustiugov dropped back into second place at 35:14.2, while a struggling Alexander Bolshunov was able to fend off a hungry Harvey and the chase group to hang on for third place with a time of 35:43.4.
Harvey now sits fourth overall 61.8 seconds behind the leader Cologna, who carries a 22.6 second lead over Ustiugov.
“I feel like the first three stages were a success and I’m right where I want to be,” said Harvey. “The body is a bit tired now. It will be good to get a rest day tomorrow, and nice to get back to sea level. We are very close to Davos where it has been challenging for me skiing at altitude so I’m glad to have those first three stages done and in good position.”
The Tour resumes on Wednesday with a classic-ski sprint race in Oberstdorf, Germany.
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.