Alex Harvey Sprints to Seventh at Tour de Ski Opener in Switzerland
Cross Country Canada —Devon Kershaw opens seven-race Tour in 86th—
Lenzerheide, Sui—Alex Harvey missed out on having a shot at the podium by a toe-length in what will go down as a steady start to the famed nine-day Tour de Ski. Harvey finished seventh in the cross-country skate-ski sprint race at Lenzerheide, Switzerland on Saturday.
“It’s a really good start. It is always important to get some bonus points in the first stage,” said Harvey. “If I look at the overall there was maybe only a couple of contenders ahead of me. The other guys were all pure sprinters. I got a lot of bonus time on those guys so it was a good start and my best sprint finish of the season.”
In a demonstration of control and fitness, the 29-year-old Harvey won his opening quarter-final heat after clocking the 18th fastest qualifying time to earn a spot in the round of 30 where he battled head-to-head with the world’s best sprinters on the 1.5-kilometre course.
“In the qualifier, I wasn’t feeling the best, but then was feeling better as the day went along. That is important on the first day – to get good feelings because it is a long 10 days of racing. It is good to get back in the groove and find your racing legs,” said Harvey.
Exercising his race tactics to perfection in the quarter-final heat, the St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que. resident skied at the back of the pack for his first of two laps that features a long steady climb out of the gate. Harvey increased the tempo while hammering his way up the face of the hill for the second time where he climbed into second spot. The two-time Olympian took the lead and never looked back while handily winning the heat.
“I’m not the fastest off the start, and was boxed out a bit. It was a two-lap course so I really tried to power through the second lap and get to the front,” said Harvey. “We had really good skis which I used to my advantage on the downhills and was able to slingshot into the lead and carry a lot of speed into that finishing stretch.”
Harvey took the pace on from the gun in his first semifinal of the Olympic season. Leading the pack up the first climb, Harvey drifted towards the back of the group as the pace came to a near standstill at the crest of the hill. Harvey conserved his energy once again for the second climb where the tempo ramped up and the Canuck was in an all-out battle with two French skiers.
Lucas Chanavat skied away from the pack, leaving Harvey and Richard Jouve scrapping it out for the last spot in the finals. Skiing neck-and-neck while powering down the finishing stretch that ended in the two athletes lunging across the line, it was Jouve who edged out the Canuck to claim a ticket to the finals.
“I tried to do the same tactics in the semis. The (fresh) snow made it quite hard to pass. The snow wasn’t the same everywhere so I didn’t want to be in the lead on the first downhill,” added Harvey. “I had a lot of speed coming into the finish stretch and was reeling the French skier in, but it was too little too late.”
“In the Tour sometimes it is okay not to make the final because it is another round where you scorch your legs – that can bite you back a few days down the road so it is okay.”
The top-two athletes in each heat advance to the next round, along with the next two fastest times.
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, who was the top qualifier on the opening day, won the opening stage. Italy’s Federico Pellegrino skied to second place, while Lucas Chanavat, of France, hopped onto the final step of the podium.
Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., was the only other Canadian entered in the field. The distance specialist qualified 86th.
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.
The second stage of the Tour de Ski is set for New Year’s Eve with a 15-kilometre classic-ski race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
“Recovery is the key for sure. I had a good massage and good meal after. The legs are feeling recovered right now and I’m ready for an important stage tomorrow. Tomorrow is very important stage – an individual start on a tough course. You want to set yourself up to be in a good group for Monday’s pursuit race,” said Harvey.
No Canadian women are competing in this year’s event.
CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Mackenzie Investments, Swix and Lanctôt Sports– along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.
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