Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey have been setting an impressive standard on the Canadian team of late, regularly battling at the front of races, and making frequent podium appearances.
But even the best have off days, and as an indication of the depth of Canadian squad, Dasha Gaiazova and Lenny Valjas picked up the slack when Kershaw and Harvey failed to advance to the heats in the classic sprint in Lahti, Finland.
Gaiazova and Valjas may not have ended up on the podium, but both had personally impressive results.
Gaiazova qualified in a career-best 8th on a challenging course.
She fought hard in her quarterfinal, staying in the hunt to advance until the end.
She placed third in that heat behind Natalia Matveeva (RUS) and Kari Gjeitnes (NOR), but with both lucky losers coming out of a blistering fast first quarter, Gaiazova was done for the day in 13th.
“My goal is always to get into the semis but I came up a little short today,” said Gaiazova after the race. “I really enjoy the classic sprint. There is lots of opportunity to move around and I have good technique. I tried to take advantage of that today.”
Valjas qualified just inside the top-30 in 27th, but ended the day in 19th after being eliminated in the quarterfinals.
The result was the second-best classic performance of his career, and was especially notable given the course did not provide much opportunity for Valjas to take advantage of his classic strength—double poling.
Despite the good spot on the result sheet, Valjas was not thrilled with his race.
“I am happy to get back into the top-30, but it didn’t go as well as I wanted today,” said Valjas. “It was really icy and tough, and I felt kind of flat today. I’m looking forward to getting to Drammen next week.”
Harvey and Kershaw—Quick Day at the Office
Harvey was 44th and Kershaw 51st, but neither man was overly concerned, pointing to a just-completed 12 day altitude training camp in Italy as the primary culprit.
“Yesterday was a surprise and today felt more like I expected,” Harvey wrote in an email to FasterSkier, noting that even wile finishing on the podium in Saturday’s skiathlon, he was missing his top-gear, and had no sprint at the end.
Kershaw described his qualifier as “obviously horrible,” saying that not only was his body feeling the effects of the altitude camp, he was also sore from his efforts in the 30k the day before.
Only a handful of skiers contested both of the weekend’s events, and only Sami Jauhojärvi (FIN) started the 30k and qualified for the heats in today’s sprints.
But Jauhojärvi dropped out of the skiathlon, and Dario Cologna (SUI), Marcus Hellner (SWE) and Martin Jaks (ZE) all were outside the top-30 in the sprint after racing the skiathlon.
“My body was really sore muscularly this morning,” Kershaw wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “The energy felt fine, but I think a tough 30km coupled with a hard two weeks of training above 1900m (in Seisser Alm) just left me too flat out there. I had no snap.”
Kershaw also said he skied the technical Lahti descents “just horrendously,” and all in all, “it was a day to forget.”
Both Canadians are looking to lock up career-best finishes in the overall World Cup standings. Kershaw is currently third, and missed out on a chance to close on Petter Northug (NOR), still within reach in second, while Harvey, in sixth, couldn’t help his cause either.
Harvey is sandwiched between two Russians, Alexander Legkov in 5th, and Maxim Vylegzhanin in 7th, and is looking to hold on to a top-6 for the season.
Both Legkov and Vylegzhanin did not race today, and will be strong in the remaining distance races.
Harvey and Kershaw weren’t the only Canadians to struggle. Perianne Jones, using language similar to Kershaw’s told FasterSkier “I just felt terrible out there today.”
Despite several top-30 distance results this season, Jones’ bread and butter is still sprinting.
She placed an uncharacteristic 58th, almost seven seconds out of the heats.
“I haven’t felt great the last few weeks, and I was hoping I could put together a good race today, but my body didn’t have much snap,” Jones said.
World Cup rookie Alysson Marshall was a solid 37th, 1.83 seconds out of 30th while veteran Chandra Crawford was back in 69th.
Alex Matthews contributed reporting.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.