Along with the rest of the Canadian National Ski Team (CNST), Alex Harvey opened his season this past weekend in Bruksvallarna, Sweden. In two races, the promising youngster with two World Cup medals to his name finished 16th and fifth.
In Harvey’s first competition of the year, a sprint race, he qualified for the rounds in a strong seventh place. “It was a really good day,” Harvey said in a recent phone interview with FasterSkier.
However, despite feeling strong, he ran into some trouble in his quarter-final heat. Skiing in second place for most of the race, Harvey was limited by the narrow course, which he described as “sketchy.” The racer in front of him was aggressively holding onto the lead, and while Harvey made a few attempts to pass, he didn’t try to force his way by the other skier, opting to hang back in second. And when the leader crashed, breaking a pole, three skiers went around while Harvey was stuck, leaving him out of the race in 16th place.
“I should have been more aggressive,” said Harvey. “I didn’t qualify for many heats last year, so I lost a bit of that‘heats aggressiveness, and [Saturday] was a good reminder of that.”
Indeed, Harvey did struggle with sprinting during the 2010 season, making it past the qualification round just twice at the World Cup level – and he said that his result from the early season sprint race was encouraging.
“Last year, I was always a little more tired than I should have been,” he said. “I was a tiny bit slower than I usually am, and it makes a big difference in sprints. It’s that half a second or a second that will help you make the rounds a little more often.”
While Harvey felt he could have gone little further in the sprint, he was happier with his fifth place in the 15 k skate on Sunday.
However, Harvey, who described himself as a traditionally slow starter to the season, called the competition “100 percent a training race,” and cautioned
that people shouldn’t read too much into early season success. “I was still over a minute back of [Marcus] Hellner,” he said.
Since getting off the plane from Canada a week ago, Harvey has done just over 20 hours of training, and Sweden was his first time on skis since the CNST’s trip to the Snow Farm in New Zealand in August.
And Harvey will keep his nose to the grindstone all the way up to the World Cup opener this weekend, in Gallivare, Sweden. He’ll train twice a day all week, and while the first World Cups are important, Harvey maintained that World Championships in Oslo is his primary target. For the early season, he said hopes to maintain his form, get in lots of hours on snow, and prioritize recovery.
As far as results, Harvey is targeting World Cup points in his early-season starts, which go to the top 30 finishers. That’s slightly better than this time last year, when Harvey tended to place just outside the points. He hopes to be in the top 10 by the Tour de Ski in early January, and then be within reach of the podium for World Championships in February, and for the rest of the season.
The other piece of news Harvey offered was that the Canadian men’s relay team may switch up their order this year. The relay has often started with 10 k classic specialist Devon Kershaw, who is known for his opening leg speed. However, this year, it may change, as the team is rethinking their strategy.
“We’ve noticed that the second leg seems to have a lot of heavy hitters – the Czechs went with [Lukas] Bauer at the Olympics and it worked,” said Harvey. “We’re safe on the third leg, because no one is ever going to be able to drop Ivan [Babikov].”
The Canadians will play their relay selections by ear in Gallivare, going with whoever seems to be having the best results. George Grey has typically been the fourth member of the team, but he and Babikov flew into Sweden this week, and their fitness has yet to be tested.