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Ustiugov Powers Russia to Otepää Team-Sprint Win; Canadian Men Eighth

Alexey Petukhov (r) tags Sergey Ustiugov during 
the men's 6 x 1.5 k freestyle team sprint final on Sunday in Otepää, Estonia. The two went on to win by 0.4 seconds over Norway. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Russia’s Alexey Pethukov and Sergey Ustiugov emerged as a team-sprint force to be reckoned with in the first team sprint of the season and last one before World Championships, and Canada’s Jess Cockney and Lenny Valjas teamed up for eighth.

Marshall Top Canadian in 44th, Valjas 45th in Otepää Classic Sprint

Lenny Valjas placed 45th in the men's 1.5 k classic sprint qualifier on Saturday in Otepää, Estonia. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

In her first World Cup of the season and best result since the 2012 World Cup freestyle sprint at home in Canmore, Alberta, Alysson Marshall launched back into international-racing action on Saturday and placed 44th in the women’s 1.2-kilometer classic sprint in Otepää, Estonia.

Canada’s Babikov, Kershaw Scratching Heads and Moving On After Tour’s Final Climb

Canada's Ivan Babikov placed 57th in the 4 k freestyle prologue to start the 2015 Tour de Ski on Jan. 3 in Oberstdorf, Germany. (Photo: Marcel Hilger)

Ivan Babikov felt faster than 12th on the day up Alpe Cermis, yet that’s where he ended up for 31st overall in the Tour. Canadian teammate Devon Kershaw ended the final stage in 35th — not where he wanted to be, either.

Wax Thwarts Canadians in Tour Stage in Italy; Harvey Pulls Out

FIS world cup cross-country, tour de ski, mass men, Val di Fiemme (ITA)

Canadian star Alex Harvey had been pondering an unorthodox plan to classic ski up the Tour de Ski’s final climb, but he pulled out after a lackluster result Saturday.

Harvey 14th in 10 k Classic Stage, Starting Seventh in Tour’s Toblach Pursuit

Canada's Alex Harvey racing to 14th in the men's 10 k classic individual start on Wednesday at the Tour de Ski's fourth stage in Toblach, Italy. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Three Canadians remain in the Tour de Ski, and in the 10 k classic on Wednesday, Alex Harvey led them in 14th — a result he considered good, not great. Devon Kershaw placed 21st and Ivan Babikov was 32nd.

Harvey Reflects on Tour Pursuit Podium, Why He’s Historically Fast in Stage Races

Alex Harvey racing to 13th in the 4.4 k Tour de Ski prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany on Jan. 3 (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Now in second after the first two stages of the seven-stage Tour de Ski, Alex Harvey spoke with FasterSkier after an easy training day in Switzerland before the first-and-only, full-on sprint of the 2015 Tour.

Harvey Back on the Tour de Ski Podium with Second in Pursuit; Northug Leads the Tour

Norway's Petter Northug (center) won Sunday's Tour de Ski 15 k classic pursuit in Oberstdorf, Germany, over Alex Harvey of Canada (left) and Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden (right). (Photo: Marcel Hilger)

With the pace slowed after 2.5 k, the 15 k classic pursuit in Oberstdorf, Germany, looked more like a mass start. From the huge pack of skiers, Petter Northug threaded his way to a sprint finish win, with Alex Harvey of Canada out-double-poling Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson for second.

Harvey Leads Canadians in Tour Prologue; USA’s Hamilton Scores First Distance Points

Alex Harvey placed 13th in the 4.4 k Tour de Ski prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany, today. Photo: Marcel Hilger.

Last year, Canada’s Alex Harvey won the Tour de Ski prologue. That wasn’t going to happen today: “I haven’t quite found my groove in skating this year,” he said, but he’s still in a great position for tomorrow’s 15 k pursuit. Meanwhile, Simi Hamilton of the U.S. Ski Team scored his first World Cup distance points in 26th.

Weekly Roundup: Good Vibes Before the Holidays

Crawford at the flower ceremony. Photo: Christian Manzoni/NordicFocus.com.

With their eyes on the prize of a holiday break (for biathletes and non-Tour de Ski participants, two weekends off of the World Cup), a number of North American skiers notched competitive results, and for some — even career bests — in the last week.

A Long Road Back, But Finally Valjas Makes It: 13th in Davos Skate Sprint

Lenny Valjas during the Frozen Thunder classic sprint on Oct. 24 in Canmore, Alberta, in which he placed eighth. "I've had a huge training load this fall and was feeling pretty tired in Canmore for the Frozen Thunder races," he wrote in an email after Saturday's FIS classic sprint in Gallivare. "I felt strong today in the race, like my old fast self." (Photo: Angus Cockney)

It has been a year and a half since Lenny Valjas last made an appearance in World Cup sprint heats. Let that sink in. The tall Canadian is thrilled that not only is he back and feeling like himself, but he didn’t just squeak in – he qualified tenth and missed a lucky loser spot in the semifinals by just 0.03 seconds.

Photo Gallery: Women’s 10 k Classic in Davos

Petra Novakova (CZE), 35th place and the Helvetia U23 points leader, and Giulia Stuerz (ITA), 51st place.

Photos from an exciting day of World Cup racing in Davos, Switzerland. Take some lessons in classic technique from the best!

Wednesday Workout: Mini-Tour Recovery with Alex Harvey

Alex Harvey (r) of Canada leads (r-l) Russian Mixim Vylegzhanin, Dario Cologna of Switzerland, and Evgeniy Belov of Russia in Sunday's 15 k classic pursuit in Lillehammer, Norway. He finished in 10th position in the mini tour.  (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

What does a World Cup racer do after, say, a mini tour for recovery? We asked Canada’s Alex Harvey, who placed 10th overall in last weekend’s Lillehammer triple. He opted for an hour-and-15-minute run on Monday in Davos, led by coach Tor-Arne Hetland, who lives in Davos.

Weekly Roundup: Lillehammer Mini Tour, Östersund and Bozeman

A pumped Martin Johnsrud Sundby (Norway) after winning the men's 15 k classic pursuit for the overall Lillehammer mini-tour title on Sunday in Norway. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

The first individual IBU World Cup race took place a week ago in Östersund and wrapped up this past Sunday. Here, we recap everything from biathlon in Sweden and at home in Canmore, to the Lillehammer mini tour and nordic-combined competitions, and second U.S. SuperTour stop in Bozeman, Mont.

Top Canadian, Harvey 33rd in 10 k Skate, Slips to 11th in Lillehammer Mini Tour

Harvey on his way to winning the skiathlon last March at 2014 World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Rock-solid and fast conditions on the second day of the Lillehammer mini tour didn’t work to the Canadians’ favor, with Alex Harvey struggling with his left leg about 3 kilometers into the 10 k freestyle and Ivan Babikov feeling like he couldn’t turn it into high gear.

Golberg Trusts Skis for the Win, Harvey Fifth in Lillehammer Skate Sprint

Canada's Alex Harvey (r) congratulates Norwegian winner Pål Golberg at the finish of Friday's 1.5 k freestyle sprint final. Harvey placed fifth for a season best. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Pål Golberg put every ounce of faith in his boards on Friday in order to overcome Norwegian teammate Finn Hågen Krogh and Russia’s Alexey Petukhov and win the Lillehammer World Cup 1.5 k freestyle sprint. Two-time lucky loser, Canada’s Alex Harvey found himself in contention in the final before finishing fifth on Day 1 of the mini tour.

Seven Canadians Miss Qualifying; Jones & Cockney within Tenths of a Second of Top 30

While Alex Harvey was the only Canadian to make the heats on Friday, at least two of his teammates — Perianne Jones and Jess Cockney — were less than a second off the mark in the World Cup skate sprint in Lillehammer.

Weekend Roundup: Goodbye Ruka and West, Hello Rest of 2014/2015

Ida Sargent racing to a career-best fifth in Saturday's classic sprint at the World Cup opener in Kuusamo, Finland. She placed 51st in the 10 k classic the next day. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

Before the first stop on the IBU World Cup circuit continues in Östersund on Wednesday, we bring you a synopsis of last weekend’s racing action and links to full reports.

Harvey, Kershaw Exceed Expectations in 7th, 14th in Kuusamo 15 k

Alex Harvey (Canadian World Cup Team) racing to 14th in Saturday's classic sprint at the World Cup opener in Kuusamo, Finland. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw always want podiums, that’s a given, but at this point in the season — at the first World Cup weekend in Kuusamo, Finland — they were pleased with top-15 results. Also on Sunday, Emily Nishikawa pulled off a career best in Europe in 38th in the women’s 10 k classic.

Harvey Leads Canada with 14th in Kuusamo Sprint; Rest of Team Feels On Track to Improve

Alex Harvey (CAN) during men's pursuit in Kuusamo, Finland, two years ago. Today he finished 14th in the World Cup sprint. Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus.

Alex Harvey came close to making the semifinals in the classic sprint, but like many in the field he struggled with icing klister over the top of one of the course’s biggest hills. The rest of his team – Lenny Valjas, Devon Kershaw, and Perianne Jones – didn’t make the heats.

Russians Go 1-2 in 15 k Classic; Canadians All Land in Top 8 in Gällivare Distance Race

Russia went 1-2 in the men's 15 k classic FIS race in Gallivare on Sunday with Evgeniy Belov (pictured) taking the win by more than 20 seconds. (Photo: SportEventGallivare)
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Sunday was for the distance racers in Gällivare, Sweden, with five Canadians — four men and one woman — getting a chance to test their form in the 10/15 k classic races. Alex Harvey notched his second-podium performance in third, Emily Nishikawa was fourth, Devon Kershaw fifth, Ivan Babikov sixth, and Graeme Killick eighth.