QUEBEC CITY—Alex Harvey put a silver stamp on a dream season after an World Cup Nordic battle for the ages on Quebec City’s Plains of Abraham on Sunday.
The hometown hero hammered the pace in the men’s 15-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race to win the silver medal in a photo finish at the line after battling two Norwegian skiers up and down the rolling terrain where he grew up racing as a child.
The 28-year-old Harvey lunged at the finish line where he came up second behind World Cup rookie, Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo by the toe of a boot, clocking a time of 32:44.5.
“I was on really good skis and it was a really good day,” said Harvey, who also thrilled the thousands of Canadian Nordic ski fans who lined the trails all weekend with a victory in Friday’s sprint race. “I came into this mini-tour in Quebec wanting to hold onto third overall. I didn’t think I would be able to have a win and finish second and separate myself from the rest. I was just hoping to fight for the top-three in the overall, but I was really focused.”
Starting the pursuit race in third position, 23 seconds behind the leader Klaebo based on the results of the opening two days, Harvey took control of the race from the start making up 10 seconds in his first trip around the 3.75-kilometre loop.
“I did the work on that first lap. I expected it. They didn’t pull at all,” said Harvey. “That is part of the game.”
By the five-kilometre mark, the Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que. native and Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaugh, who started second, caught Klaebo and it was a three-man race until the finish with the rest of the world more than 40 seconds behind.
““It was a good feeling to be able to close 23 seconds on Klaebo so fast,” said Harvey, whose first-lap pace was too much for Norway’s Finn Haagen Krogh, who started fourth. “Anytime you can make one of the best skiers in the world blow up is a great feeling. As soon as I saw Finn Haagen Krogh blew I up I knew I was going to be on the podium.
“It was really fun and exciting because it was all a matter of trying to win. That is the fist time midway through a race I knew the worst I could do is land on the podium and it was great to know it was in the bank.”
After pulling the lead group until the 10 kilometre mark, Harvey jostled for position with Klaebo and Dyrhaug – each taking turns delivering their jabs while skiing past Quebec’s most famous landmarks.
The heavyweight tilt came down to the final lap to determine the race winner. Pushing the pace, attacking and even coming to a near stop, Harvey and the Norwegians knew the final podium of the season would be decided in a sprint finish.
“At then end of the day they played their cards perfectly. I tried to cover the two attacks and shake him a bit on the climb, but the working section here is not the longest so it was hard to get away,” said Harvey, who is one of the strongest tactical skiers on the World Cup circuit.
“I didn’t want to be first because I knew one of them would slingshot on the bump so I wanted to be second up that last hill. I was positioned exactly where I wanted to be.”
Rounding into the finishing stretch, the three Nordic gladiators picked their lane, put their heads down and smashed the pace down the stretch until they lunged across the finish line.
With Klaebo topping Harvey in a photo finish at 32:44.5, Dyrhaug was .1 behind in third at 32:44.6.
“Klaebo is the best sprinter in the world, and in the end, he proved that. He has the crystal globe at home. I lunged with everything I had so there is nothing to be ashamed of,” said Harvey, who finished second in the three-day mini-tour.
It was the 24th World Cup medal for Harvey, and seventh time this year he played his signature air guitar in the finish corral after a podium finish, securing him third overall on the World Cup for the second time in his nine-year career. He also finished third during the 2013-14 season.
Harvey became the first North American to win the prestigious 50-kilometre marathon at the World Championships. He also won three World Cup victories this year to go along with one silver and two bronze medals.
“There is no question this has been my best season all-around. To be third overall and get that World Championship title there is no question this has been the best year of my career,” said Harvey. “For sure the World Championships and the Olympics are huge, but they are still only one day. To be on the podium in the overall World Cup means a lot to not only me, but the whole team. We are on the road all winter and to be on this (overall) podium you can’t miss the skis a lot, or get sick and that is big too.”
Harvey’s longtime teammate and friend, Devon Kershaw, was on the only other Canadian to finish in the top-30. Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., punched the clock in 26th spot at 35:05.9. Kershaw still holds the honour of having the best ever overall result by a Canadian male on the World Cup. The three-time Olympian was second during the 2011-12 season.
Meanwhile, Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse, finished as the top Canadian for the second straight day in the women’s 10-kilometre pursuit race. Nishikawa clocked a time of 27:28.8 for 38th. Cendrine Browne, of Saint-Jérôme, Que., was 40th (27:30.8).
The Norwegians grabbed the top-two spots on the women’s podium. Marit Bjoergen outlasted her teammate Heidi Weng for the gold medal. Bjoergen stopped the clock at 22:36.1, while Weng crossed the finish line with a time of 22:37.3. Sweden’s Stina Nilsson finished in third place at 23:36.1.
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.
Top-5 Men and Top-30 Canadian Results:
1. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, NOR, 32:44.5; 2. Alex Harvey, Saint Ferreol les Neiges, Que., CAN, 32:44.5; 3. Niklas Dyrhaug, NOR, 32:44.6; 4. Sindre Bjoernestad Skar, NOR, 33:10.6; 5. Dario Cologna, SUI, 33:11.0.
Canadian Top-30 Results:
26. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 35:05.5
Top-5 Women Results:
1. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 22:36.1; 2. Heidi Weng, NOR, 22:37.3; 3. Stina Nilsson, SWE, 23:36.1; 4. Ida Ingemarsdotter, SWE, 23:38.0; 5. Krista Parmakoski, FIN, 23:41.7.
Top-40 Canadian Women:
38. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 27:28.8; 40. Cendrine Browne, Saint-Jérôme, Que., 37:30.8.