Alex Harvey charged his way up the standings of the seven-race Tour de Ski following a hard-fought 14th-place effort in the second-stage of the grueling Nordic test through Europe on Sunday in Toblach, Italy.
Harvey, who remained confident despite a 50th place result on a pure sprinters course at the Tour opener yesterday, bounced back to clock a time of 31:27.0 in the men’s 15-kilometre individual cross-country skate-ski race at the Toblach Nordic Arena.
Harvey finished deadlocked with Maurice Manificat, of France, in 14th spot, 52.9 seconds behind the leading pace.
“I think it is a step in the right direction today. The result is good, the body is feeling decent too and that is positive for a distance race,” said Harvey. “I was looking for a bit better, but I am really happy with that last lap. I emptied the tank and gained about six spots so that was good. I need to make sure I’m a bit further up the ranking (heading into the final lap) so I’m able to fight for the top-five or 10.”
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov won the second stage with a time of 30:34.1. Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger finished 12 seconds back in second at 30:46.3. Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov rounded out the men’s podium in third with a time of 30:56.0.
It has been a mixed bag of results for the 30-year-old Harvey throughout his career in Toblach – a venue he has celebrated two podium finishes including a bronze in a point-to-point race at the 2014 Tour and a gold with Len Valjas last year in a team sprint event.
“The course here is not hard or steep, but it is gradual terrain which makes it really challenging but suits my strengths,” said Harvey. “You need to find the right speed and then work the whole way. There is no recovery out here and lots of time to lose if the legs blow up.”
A test of mental and physical fitness – not to mention patience – the result moves the St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que. resident to 19th in the overall standings. Experience, staying smart and taking care of all details will be key to moving up the standings over the final five races. Harvey was third overall on the prestigious Tour de Ski last year.
“I was hoping to be a bit further up the rankings right now, but that’s where I’m at and it is trending in the right direction,” added Harvey. “Recovery is key in a stage event. I just have to make sure I continue to eat well, change the clothes quickly, get therapy and massage, go for light jogs at night and flush the legs. There is nothing special that is needed, but it is important to do all the little things right.”
Toronto’s Len Valjas skied to 70th (33:02.5), while Tour rookie, Bob Thompson of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 83rd with a time of 33:57.1.
In the women’s 10-kilometre race, Canada’s Emily Nishikawa had a solid performance earlier in the day.
The 29-year-old Canuck charged out of the gate and was skiing inside the top-30 for her first of two, five-kilometre loops, but faded to 35th with a time of 25:04.5.
“I was focused on skiing smooth and powerful today. I maybe could have paced it a bit better, but I’m happy with the effort I gave,” said Nishikawa. “I typically have my best results in individual start races, and I’d say the 10 kilometre distance is my favourite.”
It is the two-time Olympian’s first experience racing the Tour de Ski.
“The Tour is really fun. I love how you have so many opportunities, and how quick you have to regroup and get ready for the next race. I’m really looking forward to the next race,” added Nishikawa.
Nishikawa’s fellow Whitehorse resident on the National Ski Team, Dahria Beatty, is also putting down her first tracks on the prestigious Tour de Ski. Beatty was 56th on Sunday with a time of 25:44.2.
Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva set the time to beat in the women’s race at 23:19.9. Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg was second at 23:20.2. Russia’s Anastasia Sedova clocked-in at 23:30.8 for third place.