Alex Harvey finally broke through for his first podium of the season, winning the bronze in the penultimate stage of the seven-race Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme, Italy on Saturday afternoon.
Consistently in the medal hunt all season and bitten with three, fourth-place finishes, the 29-year-old was rock solid throughout the 15-kilometre classic-ski mass start race where he finished third with a time of 38:41.2.
“This was a good result, especially in classic. It is my first podium in classic-skiing since the World Championships in 2015, and to do it on a really hard course here is really good,” said Harvey.
It was the 25th World Cup medal for the 10-year veteran on the Canadian squad, and his eighth career podium on the Tour de Ski.
Harvey has had great success at the second last stage of the Tour – a punishing course in Val di Fiemme – where he has finished second and third at the mass start classic-ski race in the past. One of his five career World Championship medals also came in Val di Fiemme when he was third in a classic-ski sprint race in 2013.
The Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges resident was in control at the front of a large pack for the first 10 kilometres of the race.
“I knew some guys were struggling so I was really trying to lead the pace today. I was feeling good and I took my responsibility because I really wanted to make it hard and keep the speed high in the front for some of those guys struggling,” said Harvey.
“After the second lap, the guys at the front started pushing the pace and I was able to go with them. It was game on from there.”
Harvey broke away with a group of five in the fifth of six laps. In the final 2.5-kilometre loop, the lone Canadian in the field was in a group of four left at the front to battle it out for the podium.
“I was taking my pulls at the front. It was hard on me today, but I knew it was hard on everybody else. When we had a bit of a break, I wanted to make sure we kept going. Dario (Cologna) and I did a lot of the work. He was fourth in the sprint finish so maybe we used up a bit of energy but we were able to separate ourselves (from some of the top guys in the overall).”
With the four race leaders charging down the finish stretch, it was Alexey Poltoranin finishing on top, posting a golden time of 38:40.3. Russia’s Andrey Larkov was on Poltoranin’s heels in second at 38:40.7 with Harvey in third.
The King and Queen of cross-country skiing will be determined on Sunday in a nine-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race with the final 425-metres straight up Alpe Cermis – an alpine ski hill. Harvey remains in fourth place heading into the final stage. His best finish on the prestigious Nordic skiing event came in 2016 when he was fifth.
“The goal tomorrow will be to not work too much on the flats, but keep at it,” said Harvey. “I don’t want to save my energy as much as I can for the climb, and not get caught by the guys behind me. It’s not my best event but the guys around me are all in the same boat.
“We have very good support staff around me. We are a small but efficient team and I think that is a competitive advantage that we have. I just need recover well and be ready for tomorrow.”