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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.

Jones Tops Gällivare Women’s Classic Sprint; Harvey Second and Three Canadian Men in Final

Canada's Perianne Jones en route to the 1.2 k classic sprint victory at an opening FIS race in Gallivare, Sweden. (Photo: SportEventGallivare)

Regulars for the last week in Gällivare, the Canadians put themselves in the mix in Saturday’s classic sprints with Perianne Jones winning the women’s final, Alex Harvey taking second to Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov in the men’s final, Lenny Valjas placing fourth and Jess Cockney bringing it home in sixth.

Wednesday Workout: Throwback ‘Freaking Hard’ Rollerski Intervals with Kershaw

Devon Kershaw going "freaking hard" at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.

Good workouts never get old. This week, we bring back a Pro Workout of the past, which Devon Kershaw wrote almost exactly four years ago, just before leaving for Europe in early November. “A great workout this time of year – especially if you are coming off some volume (at altitude or not) and feel your body needs that lactate tolerance work to ‘shock’ the system,” Kershaw writes.

Bouchard-Harvey Duo Prep in Switzerland Before Meeting Canadian Team in Sweden

Alex Harvey training last week in Gällivare, Sweden. (Photo: Louis Bouchard)

Alex Harvey and personal coach Louis Bouchard were the first from the Canadian World Cup Team to arrive in Gällivare, Sweden, last Thursday. They spent the earlier part of the month acclimating to altitude in Davos, Switzerland.

Kershaw, Crawford Earn Victories in Frozen Thunder Distance Races

Scott Perras (l) with Devon Kershaw on his heels in Monday's Frozen Thunder distance race at the Canmore Nordic Centre. (Photo: Noel Rogers/Bow Valley Photography)

While two Americans won Friday’s Frozen Thunder sprints, Canada had its revenge on Monday, taking four of six podium spots. In the men’s 10.8 k skate race, Devon Kershaw bested Kris Freeman by five seconds to take the win. In the Women’s 7.2 k race, biathlete Rosanna Crawford edged Liz Stephen for the win.

Sargent, Newell Climb to Top in Frozen Thunder Classic Sprint (with Photo Gallery)

Ida Sargent (U.S. Ski Team/CGRP) leads Perianne Jones (Canadian NST) in round 2. The two went on to place first and second among women in the Frozen Thunder classic sprint on Friday. (Photo: Angus Cockney)

There are a couple things one can count on in Canmore, including solid tracks and quality snow, even in October. At the first unofficial sprint of the North American season on Friday, more than 120 racers found both for the Frozen Thunder classic sprint, and organizers added what could be a new tradition to the mix: a zero-elimination format.

What a Little Success Can Do: Lunder Boosted by World Cup Debut in Push for 2015

Emma Lunder competing in the World Cup pursuit in Pokljuka, Slovenia, in March. Photo: NordicFocus.com

Emma Lunder placed 30th in her World Cup debut last season. The Canadian biathlete has since gained funding, training partners, and motivation: “Anytime I’m doing a really brutal workout, I just think to myself, if you can get through this, you’re one step closer to racing in Pokljuka again!”

Canadians Head South to Stratton for New Camp, Combine with SMST2 (with Photo Gallery)

Andy Newell (l) and Alex Harvey (r) lead an over-distance rollerski past the Stratton Mountain School on Aug. 15 in Stratton, Vt.

With the help of U.S. Ski Team head coach Chris Grover and Canadian National Team Head Coach Justin Wadsworth, Tor-Arne Hetland and the Canadian World Cup Team ended up in Vermont last month. “Andy Newell can train here for many years … That’s the reason we are here,” Hetland explained.

VIDEO: Canada/SMST2 Combo Workout

Canadians Alex Harvey (r), Devon Kershaw (front left) lead six others, including Ivan Babikov (third from l), Kris Freeman (second from l) and Andy Newell (l), during a combi over-distance rollerski near Stratton, Vt.

FasterSkier tagged along with the Canadian World Cup Team and Stratton Mountain School T2 squad for a morning over-distance rollerski on Aug. 15 in Stratton, Vt.